My best friend from college and I use a term “the hard professor,” as shorthand for situations where our heroic efforts haven’t felt good enough. It comes from an analogy I created to make a point. It worked like this: If you were in a class with a professor who, in 20 years of teaching, had never given a grade higher than a “B” and you earned a “B+,” would you be mad at yourself for not getting an “A?”
I’ve learned that when you lose perspective about the value of your efforts, it’s always nice to have a friend point out that you are in the hard professor’s class.
I was trying to explain to a male colleague why I was naming my new (at the time) website “Daughterhood.org.” He’s an expert on aging and shares responsibility with his sister for their mother’s care. So, I wanted his advice on creating a resource that helps families care for their parents.
When he heard the name of the website, his first reaction was: “So this isn’t for me?” A couple of other men were confused too.
They thought I was being impractical. Why would I go to the trouble and expense of building an organization to help people manage their parents’ care and then name the website in such an exclusive way – potentially losing half of an audience who would benefit from the information and resources.
The idea of “daughterhood” as a career-disrupter occupies little social media, blogging, and media real estate relative to motherhood. BUT, being a daughter can wreck a woman’s professional plans faster than anyone can say, “lean in,” or “play big.”
Taking care of an aging parent is the furtive, not-talked-about “de-railer” of women’s careers — not to mention their own health and sanity. I write and talk a lot about caring for the frail elderly. It’s what I have been doing for the past 20 years.
Here’s what I know about how this new life challenge takes the motherhood-career dilemma and makes it look like small time problems.