Gig Tip: Do not reveal? Hmmmm.


I had a lunch today with a woman in my industry who is extremely well-known and successful.  She climbed through the ranks within her company and wound up running a subsidiary for many years, innovating and taking the company to new places based upon her vision.   She is now retired from that organization but still busy at work doing “her own thing”.   I had a meeting with her in our offices and it was following this meeting when we went to lunch together, just me and her.  This gave me an opportunity to move beyond the topics we were discussing and ask her thoughts and advice on what worked for her during her career, juggling the roles of a mother and extremely successful businesswoman.

As you can imagine, her situation is unique and unlike many of ours. Her first response was “live-in help who we continued to employ even after the kids went to college.” Uugghhh. That does not apply to me/you very well.

She quickly recognized this and her next piece of advice was something more relevant to me at least. However, I’m not certain if the advice has kept up with the times. Her thoughts were that you separate the kids from work. You don’t reveal too much information. Your co-workers don’t need to know the details. You don’t mention “sick kid” or “soccer practice” but you rather talk about “a needed change in plans” or “a conflict”.

Shush!

I have mixed reactions on her piece of advice of “do not reveal”.

  • I can see her point.  Some people just do not feel comfortable hearing to much information so you may have to be careful with what information you choose to share and with whom (e.g., who really wants to hear about gas movements of your baby or hear you say the same stories over and over??!??!).  Obviously, it is difficult enough to do your job, do your job exceptionally well, and do your job exceptionally well compared to your peers.   Let alone stand out even farther from the pack and exceed all expectations.   Packaging is important.   Perceptions are important.   You do not want to be perceived as not being able to achieve super-stardom because of potential dependability or predictability situations due to children (e.g., sick children).
  • However, she also is in her 60’s and likely made her climb in the 70’s and 80’s, a very different time than today.  There are more women in the workforce these days, with more choices on how to care for children while at work (nannies, daycare, nanny-shares, etc.).  With technology, work is bleeding more and more into the home, therefore isn’t it reasonable that home bleed into work? Are there situations when is it OK?  How private does one need to be to be successful?

I think it depends on the office culture, the dynamics between you and your boss, the kind of work that you do, the industry that you are in, your own personality, the personalities of others in your office, the portfolio of back-up childcare providers you have at your fingertips if/when your kids get sick, and a whole host of other reasons.

But her tone, her packaging, her poise as she gave me the “do not reveal” advice stopped me in my tracks.   I do not think I will ever be a closed-book in the workplace (that just isn’t me, right?), but maybe I should stop and think before I disclose too much of the block and tackling required on the kid-front.   And maybe save the good stories for when the stories are meaningful to those that want to hear them.

I never wanted to be in a job where I felt like my children were liabilities.   Maybe that is why I was so unhappy as a management consultant for so long.  Where I felt like I could not do the basic requirements of the job because of my kids.   Like having a child was analogous to having an illness.  I never wanted to put my children in that kind of position within my own mind or within the minds of others.   I want to CELEBRATE them — BUT if I am NOT working in an industry that celebrates children, or with a company that celebrates children, or with people that celebrate children, then I guess it may be worth thinking about how much information (e.g., limitations because of the kids) I share with my coworkers.

I have not figured this out yet obviously and I am still thinking through the application of this advice in my own situation — in an industry that is typically dominated by men where work is intense and expectations high.    My company has already created hybrid roles and work schedules to better fit my needs.  So the cards are out there.   I guess going forward I will think before I offer up too much information about my hand or the cards that I hold.

Thoughts ladies?  How much do you share?  Do you feel comfortable talking about the kids in your workplace?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

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