Beyond the Balancing Act with Susan MacKenty Brady

By Kristin Schepici on May 11, 2012

In preparation for Mother’s Day, we are recognizing the working mom. Our own Susan MacKenty Brady, Senior Vice President, Global Programs and working mother of two, is a contributing author in Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership. In this excerpt from the book, Susan, along with contributing author Gabriella Salvatore, identified the common concerns, experiences, and motivations—as well as a range of success strategies for women in search of work/home life “balance.”

The working woman is often faced with the paradox of her desire to lead at work and her choice/desire to start and grow her family. For the women who are already mothers, they experience the complexities of managing their professional self and their mothering self, all the while “trying to make it work.” In Susan and Gabriella’s chapter, they note the act of “balancing”; balancing one’s time in the office and at home. They state: “not only did the notion of ‘balance’ seem empty, but the very thought of trying to equalize our work lives and our home and mothering lives seemed unrealistic. We don’t lead two lives; we lead one. We don’t have two selves; we have one. We can’t (as of yet) figure out how to check our professional desires at the door nor our personal desires at the office such that we can experience this thing called ‘balance.’ In fact, compartmentalizing our lives into discrete parts only leads us to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. It seems a rare moment when we are doing any one thing well.”

Susan and Gabriella asked: “Is this all there is? Is the notion of ‘seeking a balanced life’ the only language we have for working mothers?” And with that, they determined this discussion of working mothers deserved a new paradigm. They coined the term continual integration to replace “balance”—opening the doors for more complex conversations on this matter facing so many women today.

“Continual integration is an alternative to what is too often (and unfairly) seen as a binary choice between work and family. Indeed, it is not enough to offer women the right to their career at the expense of their children and families. Nor is it enough to offer women the gift of their families for the price of their ambition and drive for achievement. If we are to acknowledge the tension in our hearts as we manage life between work and home, we need a vision that moves us beyond the notion of ‘balance.’ We cannot in fact strive for balance because there is no such perfectly equalized state to which we can arrive. The concept of continual integration assumes that there are challenges; it assumes that the rewards make those challenges worthwhile; and it assumes you can’t get it wrong because there is no one right way. There is only constant evaluation and innovation in the face of the current needs of your family and job. Continual integration is about giving women a window to understand better why they might have chosen what they chose—and the challenges, rewards, and further choices they have as they seek a fulfilling life. With such understanding, we can embark on a journey of integration that breathes new life into the concept of ‘having it all.’”

About Susan MacKenty Brady:
Susan MacKenty Brady, Senior Vice President, Global Programs is an expert in driving revenue for organizations through the implementation and execution of strategic business development and marketing activities. She is an engaging speaker, coach and teacher, and has deep experience working with executives in a variety of contexts. Prior to re-joining Linkage as Senior Vice President, Susan worked with Mobius Executive Leadership, a premier leadership development consultancy and spin-off of the Harvard Negotiation Project, where she coached executives, and led strategic marketing and business development activities. Formally, Susan served as the CEO of the Relational Life Institute, an educational services organization, where during her tenure she led the growth of the customer base by 50%, oversaw the development of 5 new products, and ultimately increased revenues by 250%.

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