Dare to Bring Your Whole Self to Work

I read an article recently positing that one of the reasons women leave law firms before making partner is that when they look around, they do not see senior women leaders with lives to which they aspire.  


I hope this is less a moral judgment on the life I live and career I’ve chosen and more an issue with women leaders not being comfortable showing vulnerability in a professional setting. When we already face so many challenges in the workplace, why would any woman willingly admit that there are cracks in her veneer?

Getting divorced forced my confession. In the beginning, I shared custody of my kids. I planned client dinners and business trips around my custody schedule. Now I am a full-time single mother. And a full-time partner in a top-50 law firm. There are many days that it feels like my life is held together by duct tape.

But in this age of Facebook-filtered lives, I have accepted Robin Roberts’s invitation to “make my mess my message.” It is an act of bravery to be honest with your coworkers about just how hard it is to juggle. I cop to the balls I drop. I admit that I sometimes yell at my kids. I explain that my “unavailability” for a conference call might mean I cannot miss my daughter’s concert or my son’s baseball game.

Despite my talents, I have finally realized that I simply cannot be in two places at once. Some days my kids win; some days my clients do. I have learned to be candid with both about my commitments to manage upfront frustration and disappointment.

I reject the notion of work-life balance; it is elusive. Your work life and life-life will never exist in perfect equipoise. One morning, your child may throw up on the bathroom floor; the next afternoon, your client may call and say they cannot make payroll. Fingers crossed that, in hindsight, no one feels like they got the short end of the stick.

The advice about leadership that has most resonated with me revolves around the theme of bringing your “whole self” to work. Let’s all dare to do that. As Leonard Cohen wrote:

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Take a deep breath and dare to let the light in.