Before I read the article, Women With Big Jobs and Big Families: Balancing Really Isn't That Hard on Fortune.com, I thought it might be the perfect ammunition to convince me to go for a third baby. Hell, maybe a fourth.
I'm sure Fortune intended to inspire me with the tales of high-ranking women with large broods achieving the elusive work-life balance. Like Lisa Lacasse who is a big-wig at the American Cancer Society and a mother of four. Or the indomitable Helena Morrissey, a British CEO, who is a mother of nine. Yes, you read that correctly. Nine children and a job in the C-suite.
The article "helpfully" outlines survival tips from these executive-mothers who swear that having a bigger job and more kids is not harder to balance that having a medium job and half the children (or in the case of Ms. Morrissey, one third the children).
Their tips are not terribly novel. Hell, as a measly mother of two kids with a mid-level legal job, I actually already employ most of these. They include such wisdom as making all of your children do the same extracurricular activities, so you're not running from ballet to the ice rink and back to violin lessons.
I guess if you are a CEO you have the management skills to convince your children to all take judo. Me? I could hardly convince my children to take activities in the same building, much less the same class. Maybe that's why I'm not a hot-shot CEO. I lack the people skills.
"I just do everything all the time." Hmmm. Sounds relaxing. The sad fact is every mother I know already feels this way.
Another tip is to "enlist the village." I get the logic here: Have your extended family help with childcare while you are blazing professional trails. Our nearest relatives live three states away. We Skype with our village. While it's a sensible suggestion to get the tribe to assist, it's not one I can employ without a cross-country move. And I do not have the skills, energy or money for that.
These high-powered and highly fertile women also tout what the article calls "work/life integration." The inspiring quote from Ms. Lacasse is, "I just do everything all the time." Hmmm. Sounds relaxing. The sad fact is every mother I know already feels this way.
Part of this integration includes "structuring your work schedule for flexibility." Again, a great suggestion, and I'm sure it works if you are the top dog. But when you're just a mid-level bitch like me (and the majority of women in the work force), you're not in a position to structure your work environment. I don't know about you, but my work place does not allow for me to create a "flex day—an open day where things go when life intervenes." Well, they do, but it's called "annual leave" and I only get 10 of those per year.
My favorite "tip" was to "prioritize self care." It sounds great doesn't it? Imagine: I could have spent my lunch hour getting a facial instead of running to Target to get wipes and wrapping paper. I wish, but then I'd end up with a dewy face and no wipes or wrapping paper. One of the article's titans explained her scheme for self-care: She hits the gym at 10 p.m. Wow. The only thing I can imagine doing at 10 is drooling on my pillow while Netflix streams on the computer beside me. I don't know what they put in CEO-juice, but my OJ doesn't come with speed or uppers such that I am about to hit the treadmill until midnight.
The reason why these women are able to balance their lives is because they can pay for it. It's that simple.
Naturally, these executives are also big on team work. That's probably a big part of how they got where they are today. And when you have mad dollars that come from a big job, you get a bigger team. You get a cook, for instance. Or a full-time nanny who has one of your credit cards and the authority to sign your kids up for summer camp. Maybe you invest in a personal trainer who makes house calls because that's "more efficient than going to a gym." Again, these perks are only possible if you have that big job that allows you to hire team members.
The article concludes by noting that "when framed the right way, having a big family alongside a big career is actually liberating." Those women know they can't be everywhere at one time so they give themselves permission to be where they need to be in the moment: work or home.
Needless to say, I'm not getting out the ovulation kit any time soon. There are plenty of take-aways from this article, but having more babies on our current household income isn't one of them. The reason why these women are able to balance their lives is because they can pay for it. It's that simple. So while I could certainly have more babies, I don't have the money to pay for all the help that would make balance possible.
I don't begrudge these women their positions of power, their money or their house full of children. Good for them. But their lives are not a blueprint for mine; they remain just a fantasy that will forever be out of reach.