Sandberg also noted that a particular hurdle for working moms is the guilt women feel about focusing on work or on motherhood—to the exclusion of the other—and that she hasn’t seen a similar kind of guilt rampant among her male colleagues.
“I think all women feel guilty,” she says. “I don’t know a lot of men who feel guilty for working full time–it’s expected that they’ll work full time … I wonder if there were more shared responsibility, if more men would feel guilty too, and women would feel less of it.”
But maybe it’s not just our partners’ lack of enthusiasm for housework that’s to blame. Sandberg’s observations jibe with the concept of martyrdom, one of five marketing tenets presented by Mary Lou Quinlan, Jen Drexler and Tracy Chapman in their book “What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It.” After personally speaking to hundreds of women, they found that women take pride in their oversized workload, and generally believe that not only can they do it all–they can do it best. Women, the research has found, genuinely believe that things won’t get done well if they don’t do it themselves, and they’re willing to take on the extra pressure and stress that goes along with the burden. In other words, many moms are happy and willing to martyr themselves.
Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting,” said something similar when we interviewed her earlier this year (read our interview here). “The tendency for middle-class American moms is to embrace guilt,” she said. “We self-flagellate a bit. French mothers say guilt is a trap … They see the risk of guilt contaminating all their free time, and they will take pockets of guilt-free alone time.” It appears the notion of guilt isn’t necessarily universal–in fact, it might be unique to American women. French mothers appear to have the same talent that’s lauded in American men: The ability to take guilt-free time to relax.
In fact, letting yourself off the hook might be better for your emotional health: Researchers from the University of Washington found that working mothers who profess that their home and office lives can be seamlessly juggled (“It’s easy!”) are at a greater risk for depression than their more realistic colleagues.
What You Can Do About It
Sandberg’s lament isn’t the only one to take aim at that elusive state of balance as of late. Real estate legend Barbara Corcoran also said this year, “I gave up years ago on the concept that you could actually have balance in your life. I think it’s a phantom chase.”
We say: If you can counter the forces above—in other words, enlist everyone in the house to help you clean (there are ways), live with imperfectly folded socks, and try abandoning guilt and accepting that being in two places at once is truly impossible without superpowers, then perhaps we can eliminate the need to go another 40 years with everyone needing a “wife.”
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