Taking Another Crack At The Glass Ceiling

Broken window paneRunning my own enterprise has been a tremendous adventure. But it was one that was forced on me by circumstance: I left my job as a journalist and my subsequent position with a big-name media consulting firm because it seemed impossible to excel in those jobs and care for my three babies in the way that I wanted to. I will always feel some sense of personal failure, of having let down our side, about that.

So, I applied for a Real Job. It will probably come as news to most people who know me that I don’t consider my setup to be Real.

My business, after all, makes money. I serve clients, I pay people, I work everyday.

I even get to call myself the president.

And being an entrepreneur affords me the flexibility to take my kids to school in the morning, exercise regularly, and pursue my nascent fiction-writing career. When things are going well, I can structure my work around my life, rather than vice versa, and that’s an incredible privilege.

But this amazingly rich life will always have a certain cobbled-together feel.

When I bought in to the American Dream, I bought in big. I didn’t get an Ivy League education and throw myself into the deep end of the professional pool just to wind up taking my conference calls from the Starbucks parking lot. In many ways, the trappings of corporate life are just trappings – technology could free many, many workers from their offices forever – but work, as a culture, is still defined by them. It’s more than just the Marissa Mayer idea of face-to-face interaction and collaboration: it’s a kind of legitimacy that is conferred on Real jobs by society at large. Our leaders don’t work from home.

As much as I’d like to think this is all just retro, macho nonsense, there is something to it. If women are going to have equal status in this country, if we’re truly going to have access to real economic and political power, we have to be part of the big institutions where that power lies.

I don’t know if I’ll get the Real Job. And there’s a small part of me that worries about what will happen if I do. If I “lean in” to this position and its demands, will my husband step up his participation on the homefront to help make it all happen? Will I have to outsource things, like silly homemade birthday cakes, that are precious to my kids?

In the end, though, I’ve decided I need to go for it.

Running my own enterprise has been a tremendous adventure. But it was one that was forced on me by circumstance: I left my job as a journalist and my subsequent position with a big-name media consulting firm because it seemed impossible to excel in those jobs and care for my three babies in the way that I wanted to. I will always feel some sense of personal failure, of having let down our side, about that.

I think I need another crack at that damn glass ceiling. (Not to mention some employer-subsidized health care, reliable phone service and maybe a few paid vacation days.)

Still, if it doesn’t work out, the entrepreneurial path is one I’ll continue to follow with joy and vigor. Who knows? Maybe a future generation will be clamoring to be hired by the company I’m building today.

If nothing else, I have kept up my skills, learned a ton and created real value for my clients. And there’s no failure in any of that.

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