A Mom Unmasked: Hanging Up the Superhero Cape

The work-life balance: We all try to attain it, but sometimes our efforts fall short. The story of why one mother’s cross country trip made her question her work-life balance and why she’s hanging up her superhero cape.

In the theory of leadership that I teach in my professional life, I often talk about “Hero Stories.” The idea goes like this: Each night, when we lie on our pillows, before we drift into sleep, we tell ourselves a story about our day. We think over what has happened, and we create a narrative arc, a storyline that helps us make sense of what has occurred. Inevitably, we make ourselves the heroes of that story. The problem is: All of the people with whom our paths have crossed are going to bed on that very same night, and they’re telling themselves stories about their days. And it’s highly unlikely that we are the heroes of their stories. If we’re lucky, we’re innocent bystanders. Sometimes, though, we’re the evil queen.

It never occurred to me that I was doing this very thing in my personal life—until a recent trip to New York, that is. On that trip, from beginning until end, my hero status unraveled so thoroughly before my eyes that it made me hang up my cape.

I had such a good plan! I knew way in advance that I was going to have to travel to New York for two work obligations in February. Due to the timing of these events, I was either going to have to fly back and forth from San Francisco to New York within a very short time span, or that I was going to have to be away from my family (and nursing baby) for more than 10 days.

Neither option seemed good. It also happens to be that my entire extended family—my parents, aunts and uncles, grandmother, sister, and brother—all live in the New York metro area, and it is difficult for us to get together. So I hatched a plan: My husband could take his paternity leave, and we would all go east together. I would work at either end of the trip, and during the time in the middle, we would have the rare opportunity to spend time with my family and to enjoy New York City.

What a hero I was! I would be a great professional, flying across the country to work. I would be a wonderful mom, exposing my children to the cultural riches of a great city. I would be a wonderful daughter, granddaughter, sister, and niece, creating the opportunity for our family to be together. I couldn’t have been more excited.

Read the rest of this post by Maya Bernstein on Kveller.