There’s no denying that women have made great strides since the days when Joan Cleaver dominated our stereotype. Today’s women can have it all—a successful and demanding career, a passionate, healthy marriage, and a rewarding home life complete with 2.3 children and a white picket fence. We can be power CEO’s during the day and domestic queens by night. Or can we? Women’s Liberation gave this freedom to women, but as we learned in the late 80’s from Hochschild and Machung and their theory of the Second Shift, this isn’t quite the emancipation we had imagined. In Dropping the Ball, Chief Leadership Officer at Levo and former president of The White House Project, Tiffany Dufu tells her journey from expecting to be the perfect power-house working mother to learning how to do less to achieve more.
Dufu starts her narrative with a heart-wrenching story about her first day back on the job after having her first child, where she had to manually express her milk into the toilet, soiling her silk blouse and shattering her perception that life as a working mom would be easy. Sharing this humiliating experience immediately endears Dufu in any mothers’ eyes. She goes on to tell of her struggles to balance her work life with her ever-increasing family and marital expectations.
Throughout her memoir, Dufu gives numerous strategies and examples of ways modern working mothers can balance these many demands. Chief among her recommendations is sharing the workload, both with one’s partner and also with a village of friends and helpers. I personally found some of her suggestions to be only applicable to those living under extreme circumstances—like being the leader of a national corporation—but I still appreciate her general message. There are sections of the book where I actively disliked Dufu, finding her abrasive or overly demanding, and others where I related all too keenly with her and her way of thinking. But whether you can fully relate to Dufu or not, she encourages everyone to “drop the ball” more often, meaning lower ones expectations of being perfect and doing and having it all. And as contradictory as it seems, this message is profoundly empowering for all who can embrace it.
If you like this book, you might enjoy watching I Don’t Know How She Does It starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Kate Reddy is a CFO and mother of two who after a lifetime of juggling the demands of both work and home life, finally starts to crack. This is a comedic representation of struggles similar to Dufu’s own as well as countless other women today.