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Time Magazine Asks “Are You Mom Enough?” Every Mom Should Be Offended

13 May

From my post on ForbesWoman:

The latest Time Magazine cover is just too alluring not to write something about it. As a mother of 3 little boys, and a mother who breastfed all 3 of them until they were 18 months old, I can’t help but be drawn to the cover and at the same time be annoyed by it. The article surrounding the cover is all about Dr. Sears and his theories of attachment parenting. What bothers me though is that the mainstream thought is that only women who stay home can practice attachment parenting. Just recently I wrote an article rebutting  Elisabeth Badinter and her book about how modern motherhood undermines the status of women. The Time magazine cover bothers me in the same way.

The staff writer at TIME behind the cover article, Kate Pickert, is interviewed about her article,  and in her opinion the idea that  working moms can practice attachment parenting is not valid. Apparently Dr. Sears himself talks about how attachment parenting can be great for working moms because it allows them to be very physically close to their babies when they do come home from work. Pickert comments that working moms who try to co-sleep and breastfeed all through the night won’t be able to work the next day and won’t be able to actually perform their job duties.

I object. In the same way that I object to Elisabeth Badinter saying that this sort of “liberal” motherhood is anti-feminist  and is working against women seeking equality in their public lives.  For me attachment parenting (in my way of practicing it) has been wonderful. I brought my 3 boys into the office for the first 4 months of their lives. I wore them in a baby sling, and breastfed them on demand.

Read the rest of my article on ForbesWoman


Infographic: What It’s Like To Be A Working Mom

11 May

In celebration of Mother’s Day on May 13th, TheLadders released a new survey today revealing that working mothers care more about having flexible hours than any other benefit an employer can offer. The infographic is below, and I think nicely shows what working mothers want, how they are regarded by co-workers and their biggest challenge: Work/Life Balance.  It would have been interesting though to get an idea of working moms in leadership roles, and whether they feel the same as all working moms.  I would be willing to bet that the question about how co-workers perceive working mothers in leadership positions would have different results than those in the infographic below.

Read the rest of the article, and see the infographic on ForbesWoman

Image vs. Hard Work?

27 Oct

Pretty much everyone has probably read about the McCain campaign using just under $200k to dress the Palins and then put makeup on Sarah Palin herself for a few weeks. $150k towards clothes for her and her family, and almost $23k in fees for a makeup artist for two weeks. The first thing that goes through my head is my goodness, is she really that bad looking that she needs all that to make her look good? My next thought is wow, she really does look good!

Without getting into the political side of things and discussing whether that sort of spending is appropriate in any campaign, let’s discuss the idea of image in the workplace and whether the right clothes, the right accessories, and the right hair and makeup really do lead to better careers. Nataly from Work It Mom has a great post on this topic. She reminds women that, unfortunately, appearance matters. It is not all about hard work and smarts. Unfortunately image plays a big part in your potential success.

I tend to agree – to a point. I think it is important to understand that people judge. They always have and always will. If you don’t look professional, people will judge you. That being said — I think that you also have to embrace who you are, what your company does, and where you come from. Think about Mario Batali and his trademark orange Crocs. If you are running a high-tech company, vs. a financial-services company, your wardrobe will be different. As the CEO of a high-tech company, I know that I can get away with being a little less formal – in certain situations. If I am going to a business meeting in the Silicon Valley I can wear khakis and a nice shirt. But if I am speaking to a partner in Salt Lake City whose focus is education and training in financial services, I need to wear my more formal business suits. When I was younger and in business development at a Silicon Valley start-up, I would ONLY dress up when I had a meeting. And for that meeting I would usually wear one of my white or blue button-down shirts with khakis and not a suit. So I am not saying you must always be very dressed up or wear ultra conservative business clothes. I am just saying that you need to dress appropriately.

So, let’s get back to Sarah Palin. I am sure that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have spent campaign money on their wardrobes. But we have not heard about it because there is probably not much to hear. John and Cindy McCain are ultra wealthy, so they probably already had a lot of nice clothes, and if they needed more it made sense to not use campaign money and buy their own clothes. I think Sarah Palin has looked great (especially considering she gave birth very recently), BUT she has not dressed appropriately for her image. She touts the working woman, hockey mom, regular gal image. Pretty hard to keep touting that when you have just spent more than most families make in three years on your wardrobe.

So, when you get up to go to work — think about who you are, what you do, and what image you are trying to portray. And then suck it up and buy the appropriate clothes.

My wingspan is not wide enough

23 Oct

I have not posted on my blog in way too long. I never mean to go this long, but lately I have had one trip after another, and more than ever, just way too much to do. So, unfortunately, what falls by the wayside? My blog. My workouts. My sleep. My wingspan is simply not wide enough.

Last night, as I sat in my boys’ room at bedtime, I thought about this idea of my “wingspan.” If you saw me sitting in their room you would know why. In order to transition the 2 of them to go to sleep together at the same time (they share a room) I started sitting in-between their 2 beds and stretching out my arms so that they could each hold my hand as they fell asleep. I know, I know. It’s a bad habit. I shouldn’t have started it. It’s my fault, not theirs. But for now it works, and I haven’t been able to build up the courage to go through the transition needed to wean them off of this bad habit. They are, after all, only 2 and 4 years old, and I am a working mommy with enough mommy guilt to just let it go. So there I sit every night in the dark room, stretching my arms just barely long enough to reach each of their beds and hold their little hands. Some nights both my arms fall asleep, and my circulation seems to be cut off because of where the beds hit my wrists. Last night I sat there, hoping that my 2 boys would fall asleep quickly, and thinking that if my wingspan were just a little bit wider — I would be better off.

As that thought popped into my head (while I tried to scratch my nose with my knee), I thought about how that was a metaphor for my life today. If only my wingspan were just a little wider, how much more could I accomplish every day? If I could only work a little bit faster, or the days were a little bit longer. What would that do for me? I feel right now that every day I make critical time management decisions all day long until I go to sleep:

  1. After showering, do I dry my hair or just run out with wet hair?
  2. Can I grab one load of laundry and stick it in the machine, or maybe transfer the load I managed to get in before I went to bed last night?
  3. Do I stop for coffee on the way into work?
  4. If I stop, do I get coffee and a bagel and wait the time it takes to toast the bagel?
  5. Can I get one more call in, or one more email out before I have to pee?
  6. Can I get through all the new emails before the next meeting?
  7. If I talk to this one last person will I get out of the office in time to get home for our nanny to leave? (I am NEVER late and always home by 4:45 — but I get in as much as possible before I leave.)
  8. When I am home, I wonder whether I can try to get dinner started, while emptying the dishwasher and playing hide and seek with my boys.
  9. Do I finish eating my dinner, or just start cleaning up, since the boys are done and ready to play?
  10. Can I play trains with them, while efficiently darting over to the toy box putting away all those toys that they are not playing with?
  11. When I get them in the bath, can I fold that load of laundry, in the bathroom so that I can still interact and supervise the kids in the tub?
  12. While my husband reads the boys books, can I get all the laundry put away? Maybe put another load in the washer? Or maybe dart downstairs and finish cleaning up the chaos of toys that a 2 year old and 4 year old leave in their wake?
  13. As I sit quietly in the dark while they fall asleep, and stretch my poor arms out between them, I think should I close my eyes? Or should I think through our next email campaign — and really take a few quiet moments to review the strategic direction in my head?
  14. Now the boys are asleep and I think, should I do a workout? Or should I catch up on email? Or should I sit and relax for 30 minutes?
  15. Before I go to bed I always try to deal with one load of laundry.

I am exhausted just writing this all down. But this is my life. I need to manage every moment I have. I usually make phone calls in the car to maximize my time. There seems to be very little of my life that isn’t a constant battle to determine which task is most important to accomplish. But of course as I write everything down I realize that my wingspan will never be wide enough. The wider it might get, the more things I will try to accomplish every day. That is just who I am and how I operate. And I think all those working mommies out there would probably nod in agreement. I can always work more, do more with my kids, organize and clean more, work out more, sleep more, etc. I just have to relax and give in. I will never, ever, get it all done. I will never, ever, be able to really do it all. That is just the life I lead. And I love it. I love my work, I love my boys, I love my husband, I love our house, I love the town we live in. I feel like I am a very lucky, overworked, tired, stretched-too-thin mommy, wife and CEO.

A Sad Day

14 Jul

The Mercury News reported on Friday that there are ZERO female CEOs at “top silicon valley firms.” Diane Greene was ousted from VMWare, the company she co-founded 10 years ago. It’s sad to me that there no women in the US tech world’s hot bed of innovation, the silicon valley. Women have made great strides in the tech world, and I have been feeling like I am in good company as the leader of a technology company.

But that being said, just last weekend I was hanging out with a friend who works for Nike. She has a top position in online strategy and is a super smart woman. She got her MBA for Berkeley as a Rhodes Scholar from Australia and has always been super focused on her career in technology. She also has 2 young children under 3 years old. She says while Nike has been great and very supportive of her pregnancies and being a mom of young children, she still can’t help but feel the mommy track. She has to get home by 6pm and she can’t get into work much before 9 am because of daycare. She no longer works at the office on weekends (although she is always checking in and carries a blackberry), she has a commitment to her young family. Don’t take me wrong – she is not at all upset by her situation. She loves her job and her family. But she says she is definitely aware of the difference in her career opportunities since she had children. She looks at the most successful women at work around her, and lo and behold, they are single and or childless.

One day the working world will recognize the skills and a point of view a working mom can bring to the table. I have never met more focused, more strategic, more able to effectively multi-task and get ridiculous amounts of work done, than my fellow working moms. I know one day the rest of the world will understand the power and knowledge that only a mommy can bring to the business table.


Can’t we all get along?

19 Mar

I am a member of the Work It Mom Community. I subscribe to the blog and as I have time read entries. Some of them are relevant to me, some are not. Some of them are interesting, some are not. Some of them are in my opinion intelligent, some are not. You get the point. Recently Nataly, the founder of Work It Mom had to defend a post titled 10 Reasons Working Moms Should Feel Great About Themselves (Reason number one: Working women are happier). The author of the article is also the author of a book that has been controversial as it pits working moms against stay at home moms (or so the controversy goes). I don’t know the book. I quickly read through the article. What I don’t understand is why there is so much venom between women and their choice as mothers?

A few months back I was feature in an article on USA Today called Mommy Wars. You may have seen my post about it here on Mommy CEO. I felt that the worst comments, the most venom I received was from other mothers. Those mothers who have chosen to stay at home with their children felt the need to say some really ugly, really mean things to me about my choice to work. Let me be clear. In the article I DID NOT claim that I thought working mom’s were happier (Leslie Bennetts does claim that in her article). I simply said I was happy, and I thought i had made the right choice for me, and for my family. So why the venom? Can I not have my choice? Can I not have my opinion? Does the nature of me working offend other mom’s so much that they feel the need to get defensive and attack? I thought that as women we were all working together to make life better for ourselves, and our children.

While I can see why Ms. Bennetts’ article may not sit well with some people. It is not LAW or FACT. It is simply an opinion – hers. And I do have to say that I do believe it is better for every person to be in a position to be self reliant and take care of their children on their own should that terrible situation present itself. So here is a little story I think is appropriate here:

I have a friend, who is helping a very close friend of hers through an very ugly divorce. This couple (I don’t know them) apparently had the dream marriage. Let’s call them Mom and Dad. They lived happily ever after in a mid west city with their 2 young children. Dad was an executive make very good money, Mom was a very happy stay-at-home mom. Before they got married Dad made it very clear to Mom that he had grown up with a mother at home and that is what he wanted for his children. Mom agreed. She gave up her career (although she has a great college degree and had good career opportunities) while she was 5 months pregnant with her first child. Five years later she is in a terrible divorce as Dad has left her for his assistant (seriously). Dad has now told Mom that he is not going to let her “sit around on her butt doing nothing all day” and that he expects her to go out and find a job. He has wiped out all money from their bank account and she is having trouble paying the bills. She has not been employed for over 5 years and she has no day care options for her 2 very young children. Dad is not letting her get any money right now. Sure the courts are not going to let him get away with this – when they finally get there. Sure he sounds like a class A jerk. Sure, we all know that won’t happen to us. But of course that is what Mom said. And now I can’t help but think that she might be regretting giving everything up and staying at home. Maybe not. But there is a little part of me that wants all women to be able to be able to be self sufficient. NOT that I think staying at home is the wrong choice, or a bad choice. I just worry that it can dis-empower a woman and put her at the mercy of someone else. And that is what I don’t like.

What is the solution? I don’t know. I am not saying everyone should work. I am not saying that working mom’s are happier. I think every woman has a right to decide what works for them and their families. But I do know this – not letting people have an opinion is not the answer. Getting angry and aggressive because someone is saying something you do not agree with is not the answer. I think this is a very complicated situation and one that has not “right” answer. But it does bother me at my core that Ms. Bennett has to feel the ugliness I felt when the USA today article came out. Can’t we all just get along?

ME Time

29 Feb

Yes, I know. We all are too busy. There is just never enough time. We all need more minutes, hours and days to get everything done. Lately I feel like I am struggling more to try and get everything done. Palo Alto Software is in the middle of a very good, very exciting time, about to launch some new products. But this means that I am swamped at work and not only am I not getting through my daily To Do list, I don’t even seem to even be able to get through my inbox. This much to do at work naturally then overflows into my time at home. I don’t want it to affect the time I spend with my kids, so it has basically eaten away at the very little precious ME time I have.

I have found unfortunately what has gone out the window during these extremely busy times is my daily workout. I know – I shouldn’t let my health be what suffers. And I do at least workout out 2-3 times a week. But these days, when I am running like crazy it ME time that seems to suffer. I am lucky enough to have workout equipment in my basement so that I can work out after the kids have gone to bed. But these days I am trying to get everything I didn’t get to done after the kids go to bed, and still attempting to go to bed by 11pm in order to not be exhausted. So last night for instance was TAX night. My husband and I dug through our mess of papers in the “to file” pile to get everything we needed together for our CPA. Try as I may to still get my workout in, the idea of working out at 10pm is just exhausting. If I don’t get on the StairMaster by 9pm all my resolve goes out the window.

That being said, there are some things I have found help me get “me” time:

  1. Buying good used workout equipment for my house. I also have an old TV set up in the basement and attached to our cable so that I can watch trashy TV while I work out. It makes this time seem luxurious to me.
  2. I try and go to the grocery store BY MYSELF. Yes I know it sounds pathetic that I consider this ME time. But those of you who have shopped with 2 kids under 3 years old know what I mean. My time alone in the store feels luxurious.
  3. On weekends I have stopped trying to do household chores while the kids nap. Instead I use that as “me” time. If I am ultra exhausted I nap with them. If I am still standing and have the energy I work out. I DO NOT do laundry, clean, or organize during this time. This is my “ME” time
  4. I do employ a weekly house cleaner. As I see it, one of the upsides of having both parents work is that you should be able to allocate 30-60 per week to have someone come help you do the really deep cleaning. the last thing my husband and i want to do on a weekend is argue about who needs to clean the toilets this week. We decided we would reduce our “entertainment” budget and allocate it to cleaning instead. We go out to dinner less and we buy fewer new things for ourselves. But our house stays relatively clean, we get our weekends off, and we have one less thing to argue about.
  5. When my parents offer to take the kids for a day, or a night. We say yes! Our kids are finally getting old enough to spend the night at their grandparents house. My parents have been nice enough to offer to take them every 8 weeks or so. When they offer, we say yes. No matter what else we had planned for that weekend – we change things, adjust them, and take the time for the 2 of us.
  6. The very few times I have the business reason to go somewhere overnight by myself – I try not to feel guilty and take the opportunity. This has only happened once the last 4 years, and will happen for the second time this weekend. I do feel guilty. I do feel like I should not go by myself. BUT I know that it is good for me to have a little bit of time to myself. I am going to San Francisco for a conference (Women in Leadership at The Haas School in Berkeley), where I know a lot of people, and where all my girlfriends have set up an adult, “girls night out.’ Guilty as I feel right now – I know I will have a blast tomorrow night!

To be honest – I don’t always follow my own guidelines. BUT at least I have some, and at least I try! I know that I can’t DO IT ALL. But if I play my cards right, I give the appearance that I can do it all, while still having a successful career, and spending lots of time with my kids!

-Sabrina Parsons

Having a Life and a High Tech Career

18 Jan

On Wednesday I had the privilege of going over to the university and talking to some computer science majors about “Having a Life and a High Tech Career.” Unfortunately due to some other class conflicts there were no women in attendance at my talk, but I did have a room of students. As I went through my history, and how I ended up in high tech, despite the fact that I studied history and eduction, the students had some interesting questions. It was fun to be able to put myself back in their shoes, back at a time when your “career” is just a foggy idea in your head, and you are more concerned about how many more papers and projects you have to get done that week before you can go out and party.

I wanted to really hit on the idea that there is no PERFECT path, and that each student needs to think  about what really makes them happy as they choose a career post college. I discussed some of the choices I had made which ultimately brought me to Palo Alto Software, and Eugene, Oregon, and why those choices had been perfect for me, and my situation.

As I talked, and answered questions, one student seemed bothered, or anxious, about my path. He wanted to know how I dealt with the fact that being a woman might mean that other companies didn’t want to do business with me. When he first asked the question, I stood there for a few moments – probably with a perplexed look on my face. I just didn’t quite know what an appropriate answer was (probably telling him to get off his high horse and stop discriminating against women… was not the way to go! ). I also knew that he wasn’t trying to be insulting — that he was simply perplexed.

I regained my composure and just told him that I was fully aware that as a woman I faced challenge. But I told him that because I had confidence in myself, because I am well educated in my field, because I work hard, I don’t feel like my company or my career has suffered because of my gender. I am well aware that discrimination exists – and I definitely understand that going to a business meeting dressed dark ultra conservative and professional does much more for me then dressing in “girl” colors and wearing girly business clothes. But at the end of the day my company does well because it puts out high quality products, markets them well, and is (if I do say so myself) run well. If we had crappy products, or bad customer service, or a shoddy marketing strategy – then perhaps I might try and blame our failure on discrimination.

At the end of the day though – if I am a good business person, running a successful business, people will want to do deals with me because its good for their business — and a good business person won’t care of I am a girl, or a purple monster.

Cute AND Smart?

8 Oct

This weekend I spoke at a conference on the topic of The “5 most ridiculous myths about working women.” One of the myths was:

You can’t be cute and smart

I just read a great post on the by Marie Wilson about “Valuing Female Brains as Highly as Female Beauty” that discusses how today females in the workplace still trade on their beauty. I strongly agree with Marie, and wish all working women would read her post.

While I understand that many women (particularly younger ones) will use their beauty to help get ahead in their career (and I am sure it works) I strongly believe that as women we are better off doing the opposite. Dressing more professional, and less “sexy” so that the men around us judge us for our business skills and talent, and not for what we look like. What we as woman should strive for is to break through the barrier that prevents women from joining the business “boys club.” The more that we can prove our business savvy through pure talent, intelligence, and hard work, the less we will ever need to rely on our looks to get us by.

3 nice letters for your resume?

4 Oct

I often wonder whether I should return to school to get an MBA. I work in technology, work with entrepreneurs, and I run a company that deals with business planning, marketing planning and business strategy — all big topics in MBA programs. Brazen Careerist, Penelope,  writes today in her post about whether MBA’s are becoming obsolete. It’s interesting to see that perhaps other people may begin to see the MBA as superfluous as I have struggled with whether an MBA would be worth it to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I would love to go back to school for 2 years, and spend some time studying. I would love to do an Executive MBA, but there are no good ones in my area. I have looked into programs like Duke and UT which have Executive MBA’s that you can do from far away, but they still require about 3 weeks per semester on campus.  While running a company, and being a mommy to 2 young children all those options are just close to impossible. I have thought about perhaps getting an MBA once my kids are a little older, but even so its a tough proposition for me at this point in my career.

The other problem is that I feel that I would be getting the MBA just for the 3 letters. Not that I wouldn’t learn anything, but that after 12 years in the business world, many of those years focusing on entrepreneurship and business management, I look at many of the class offerings and feel like I would not get as much as I would like to from them. I feel like being in class with people with only 2-5 years of business experience would not do as much for me. Obviously an Executive MBA program would put me in a more “equal” footing with my classmates, but as I mentioned, even those programs seem almost impossible for me to manage at this point in my life and career.

It would be interesting to hear more from people further on in their careers — who have or have not done MBA’s and hear their thoughts. For someone who did one later in their career – was it worth it? Did you learn a lot? Do those 3 letters mean more then just the prestige and potential salary increase?