Learning to drop the ball

If you’re still trying to figure out how to do it all—to be great mom, a great wife, and a great employee—and you’re starting to realize that it just isn’t possible, it may be time to drop a ball or two.

Tiffany Dufu had a reckoning on her first day back at work from maternity leave. After a hectic day running from meeting to meeting, she realized she had forgotten to stop and pump. And the reality of being a working mom hit her as the milk seeped through her blouse.

Resentment and anger showed up that evening as she listened to her husband come home from work, and she thought through all of the things she had done to make his life easier and more predictable that day, from picking up the dry cleaning to putting a dinner plate in the refrigerator for him. It didn’t take long for Tiffany to realize that she had to renegotiate the terms of her marriage and redefine what it means to be a ‘good’ wife and mother.

Tiffany took the time to get clear on what matters most to her and what she does really well, using that intelligence to decide which items on the to-do list were really necessary and which balls could be dropped. Today she explains the social conditioning that makes women think they have to do it all, what you can do in that moment of overwhelm, and how to determine your mission. I ask her how she initiated conversation about equity with her husband and why she has eliminated to-do lists from her life. Listen in for Tiffany’s insight around the urgency of having women in leadership and the value of investing in community.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #028


Some quotes from the episode

  • “Dropping the ball means letting go of unrealistic expectations of doing it all … and figuring out what really matters most to me so that I can leverage my highest and best use in achieving that and engage other people in my life along the way.”
  • “One of the interesting things about gender is that it’s the one aspect of diversity that having close proximity to someone who’s different from you doesn’t necessarily create an awareness or awakening about their experience.”
  • “I think it’s awesome to aspire to be an extraordinary wife, for example, or an extraordinary mother. I think what we’re got to do is re-curate a different job description for what it means to be an extraordinary mother or an extraordinary wife or an extraordinary worker.”
  • “There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to excellence. It’s just that our current definition for what excellence is is faulty and it’s based on nonsense, on very old school expectations that no person in today’s world could possibly meet.”
  • “It’s about redefining what success even is, what our roles even are, so that we can be gentler on ourselves and so that we can get rid of the G-word.”
  • “I’ve never met with a woman who every day wasn’t just trying to do right by herself, her community, her family, her workplace in order to create positive change and to do something meaningful, and yet in the process of doing that she feels like she’s done something terribly wrong. We need to just obliterate the G-word.”
  • “We were never meant to ‘lean in’ alone.”
  • “What I do is far less important than the difference I make… I don’t want my tombstone to say, ‘She got a lot of stuff done.’”
  • “I figured out very quickly that if you run through a door that somebody opens for you—not skip, not hop, but run through the door—that person will think very highly of you, and they’ll open more doors for you.”
  • “This past year has just reiterated even more the urgency of having women in elective office, having them at the tops of corporations, having them curating the public policies and the workplace practices that impact every single one of our lives.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT TIFFANY DUFU

Tiffany Dufu is the author of Drop the Ball, a memoir and manifesto that seeks to help women cultivate the single skill they really need to thrive—the ability to let go. Tiffany was part of the launch team for Lean In and serves as Chief Leadership Office to Levo, one of the fastest growing millennial professional networks. She was named to Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women, and she serves on the board of Girls Who Code and Simmons College.


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