Has success spoiled Sheryl Sandberg?

"There's no such thing as work-life balance." -- Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

I get the feeling that Sheryl Sandberg is a little conflicted. (Aren't we all!) She's written a book, coming out next month, entitled Lean In, which reportedly is a "call to action" to women to rise to the top of corporate ranks.

Among other things, Sandberg recommends marrying a supportive man, or, better yet, a woman -- she said it, I didn't! -- who will do half of the chores around the house and take care of the kids so that you, assuming you are the woman, can devote yourself to being the big enchilada in the corporate world. She also has said that women don't get a fair break when it comes to leadership roles.

On the other hand, she's also been recently, and famously, quoted as saying that employers should be allowed to ask women applicants in job interviews about their childbearing plans.

With a "smoking gun" comment like this, I'm sure the plaintiffs' bar is rubbing its hands.

And, on the third hand, Ms. Sandberg has been quoted as saying she leaves the office at 5:30 p.m. most nights so she can be with her kids. (Good for you, Sheryl!)

On the fourth hand, she says that she feels guilty when her kids ask her to please get off the Blackberry and pay them a little attention. (That's because you should get off the Blackberry and pay your kids some attention, Sheryl! And, anyway -- a Blackberry?)

I am not making fun of Sheryl Sandberg. As the COO of a major social media company with two Harvard degrees, who was the mentee of Lawrence Summers, with a supportive husband who is also successful in his own right and shares equally in the household responsibilities, and two (no doubt) perfectly beautiful children who are both well above average, and who reportedly earned more than $30 million in 2011, she's pretty much a regular everyday slob, like us all.

"Unghhhh! I can totally relate to what poor Sheryl Sandberg is going through!"

As Meghan Casserly said in the Forbes article linked above, "[F]or many women, taking workplace advice from Sheryl Sandberg is a little like taking 'basic' fashion advice from Gwyneth Paltrow, whose website . . . tells me a [designer tank dress], at $471, is a budget-conscious pick."

Some, including Ms. Casserly, have criticized Ms. Sandberg for failing to recognize the structural barriers that many women face, such as single parenthood or "old-fashioned" husbands, low incomes, and the normal pressures of everyday life, which make "leadership" and success at the top levels difficult.

I agree, but I'd add one more thing that Ms. Sandberg, at least as she's been quoted in the media, fails to recognize -- that children are a "good" in and of themselves, and even (dare I say it?) deserving of some sacrifices from their parents. And that loved and well-reared children are a benefit to society and (pardon the cliché) an investment in our future. Maybe even worth turning down that top-level corporate position, if it requires so much of your time and energy that you can't be truly "present" to your kids.

Lest I be accused of being a self-loathing female, please be assured that I direct the above comment to men as well as women. How many times has Donald Trump been married now? How do you think his kids are doing? (Link should not be considered a political endorsement of Donald Trump or President Obama.)

The Donald's third soul mate. She has a really good personality.

No one can have it all. To that extent I agree with Ms. Sandberg. We all make tradeoffs. Just ask another ridiculously successful woman who walked away from a top government post because she felt it was putting too much of a strain on her family life. If you are going to be a good mom or dad, you are going to have to give your kids some time and attention, which may mean that not every single possible career opportunity is going to be open to you. (Many will, because many higher-level positions do allow a good deal of flexibility -- but at the highest levels, maybe not.)

And if you choose the other route, then so be it, and more power to you (literally!). But, super-successful ladies, please don't complain about how unfair the system is. You'd never hear Donald Trump doing that sort of thing.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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