A working mother’s not-so-great moment

By Rory Cellucci on October 23, 2013

Susan-Brady-Linkage-Leadership-Blog

By Susan MacKenty Brady

I coach executives about managing themselves. I have several direct reports and they know that I expect them to tell me when mistakes happen because I see these as our greatest opportunity for learning. I work with managers of managers and tell them if they aren’t giving “just in time” feedback, then the people on their team can’t possibly be working to full capacity or full engagement. I also believe (as a humble, fellow traveler) that it is my responsibility to hold myself in warm regard despite my (many) imperfections. My mantra–and reminder to myself and those around me–is “I am enough and I matter.” This self-talk is helpful at those moments when I realize I am in a one-up, grandiose, critical-of-others inner dialogue, or when I am going to town on my own imperfections and wallowing in self-criticism.

A morning like this morning challenges me fully. The simplicity of the situation is daunting: I wanted to leave for work by 7:30, get ahead (ya right!) of Boston traffic so that I could be at my desk at or around 8:00 to prepare for my packed day of meetings and calls. At 7:25, dressed and ready to go, with my husband already at work and my two elementary-aged girls getting ready and our nanny about to walk in the door, I had a nutty. The issue? I opened my second grader’s backpack to check her homework folder. I find two forms that must be filled out and returned today, and a sheet of homework–not complete.

I freak. My reaction went something like this (in a punitive, slightly hysterical tone, raised but definitely not calm voice): “I don’t understand why this didn’t get done yesterday. Why didn’t [nanny] see that there was homework? Why didn’t Daddy check the folder before I got home last night? Why didn’t I look in the backpack before this moment?! I can’t always be responsible for making sure these things get done given my work and travel schedule! Why is it up to me to be sure [expletive] gets done around here when it needs to get done? Why is this so hard?”

And then our nanny walked in the door. I continued my freak-out. And then I stopped. Shame washed over me. Was this really a crisis? Was this situation really deserving of bringing my 8-year-old to tears? Who was I and how did I fall into being a tyrant in such a short moment? Ah! I know better! I have friends who are battling cancer, friends who are taking care of children who are hospitalized, Syria is gassing innocent civilians. And I am losing it over unfinished second-grade paperwork?

This is when I get to practice what I teach, and imperfectly practice: breathe. Get down from my victim high horse and come up from “I suck,” and move into repairing with those around me. I look at our nanny (who is a blessing and a rock star in helping us to manage our household and kids and lives) and tell her I am sorry for my rant. I look at my kids and tell them that clearly, Mommy is a bit stressed and I need to chill out. I say out loud, “Susan, you are enough and you matter, and it’s okay that it isn’t all perfect today.”

And then I leave and go to work.

It is my hope to do better next time, that when I get a rush of “Seriously!? How avoidable!” I move quickly into that inner calm and maintain perspective. That is my plan. In the meantime, I will share my imperfect moments for others to enjoy, pray for a not-too-long shame hangover for my bad behavior, and trust that my kids will learn what it is to be human by watching their Mom mess up and then repair as skillfully as she knows how.

About Susan MacKenty Brady:

Brady_SusanSusan MacKenty Brady is the wife of Jamie Brady, the mother of Caroline and Abigail Brady, a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many (too few hear from her often enough), the Executive Vice President of Global Programming and Market Strategy, and Principal Consultant at Linkage, an Executive Coach, and a champion of advancing the acceleration of women leaders. She can be reached at sbrady@linkageinc.com or on Twitter @Susanmbrady1.

Posted in Blog

About Rory Cellucci

Rory Cellucci is passionate about advancing women leaders.
4 comments on “A working mother’s not-so-great moment
  1. Christine Grota says:

    Susan,

    You have no idea how much I needed to read your post this morning. It was like a gift from the universe to get the link to it today. Thank you for writing it.

    Sincerely,

    Chris G.

    • Susan Brady says:

      Chris,

      Thank you for saying so. I’m about to spend 1 hour in front of 600 women at Linkage’s upcoming Women in Leadership Institute, telling stories of my imperfections and how I “bounce back.” Your note leaves me feeling better about the inevitable “vulnerability hangover” (thank you Brene Brown for that phrase!) I anticipate having after I share. If one women in that audience feels connected to, heard, relieved, humored, and/ or not alone as a result of my talk – it will be worth it.

      Susan Brady

  2. As a parent of three teens in three years, I have one observation of my generation. As our mother’s tripped over or fully gave themselves to jumping over the old roles as feminism and by their example we reshaped the expectations of being a women, we all never reached the finished line. This is not negative, this is a relief for all of us at the end of the day who are ragged, over scheduled and over tired as we produce children who are over scheduled and over tired that it’s not just us who struggle, but the entire community of women who attempt to do it all at the same time. We most certainly are “Not Enough”. Regardless if you perfected the art resentfully of making a P and J sandwich or have had a hateful reminder that while you conquered the world you missed an important sporting event, we all can’t be two places in the same moment. So, as the elderly women I had the pleasure to meet at the beginning of my life as a back office medical assistant, she made the point very clear. “Choose what you wish to regret carefully my Dear. Regret is a result of making a deliberate choice in your life to be excellent at something at the cost of being crappy at something else. If you don’t, you stink at everything”. We have seasons in our lives and in that season a singular choice must be made in order to structure our lives and everything in it. Courage is required in order to face the consequences. Trust me, if your foggy about the line up on what was your most dear bullet points your teens will point them out in a screaming clarity. Squaring off with truth in the face of your child when they give you their reality is what we all call raising teens and the trials there. So for the sake of being truthful and not being politically correct, we all were lied to. We are not enough, you never will be able to master two bi polar roles at the same time. Be at peace, our kids are blessed if they can learn this time management at the beginning of their life rather then in the middle of it.

  3. Susan Brady says:

    Victoria,

    I LOVE what you say. While I will continue to disappoint others and practice my version of “perfect imperfection” and live in the reality of not being “enough”, I CAN esteem myself by sharing and laughing and being real about it all. I also believe that I AM (and you ARE) enough – right here, right now, despite our imperfections and despite not being able to do it all. Can I use that quote in an upcoming keynote? I LOVE IT! At the end of the day, it’s all about choice making, isn’t it? (And, managing our “inner critic”…)

    Susan Brady

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