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Sheryl Sandberg's Radically Realistic 'And' Solution for Working Mothers

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
February 20, 2013


At a wedding this summer, while I was eight months pregnant with twins, an older gentleman sitting next to me asked me whether I still worked in finance.

No, I told him, at the moment I was focused on my next book project, think-tank work, and several magazine pieces.

"Well," he said with a gentle, nearly sympathetic, smile, "in any case, soon you will be pushing three babies in a stroller, right? Won't leave time for much else."

Annoyance swelled up into my already enormous stomach. When our table rose to watch the bride cut the cake I scurried two seats over to my husband and fumed. "I was so irritated I couldn't even come up with a clever answer, other than to say that the kids have a father, too," I said. "No one would ever say something like that to you."

My husband laughed and told me not to pay any attention. "It's just because people think that women can only be one thing."

And therein lies the rub.

Somehow, today—even while women learn and earn in greater numbers than ever before—the idea that women live in an "either/or" world stubbornly hangs on. A woman can either be a mother or a professional. Career-driven or family-oriented. A great wife or a great worker. Not both. In other words, the choices are Donna Reed and Murphy Brown (pre-baby). Precious few Clair Huxtables out there.

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