I was listening to a radio interview the other day. I can’t even remember now who the celebrity was. All I remember is the female announcer asking the female celebrity about her “growing brood” and how she manages to “juggle work and family”. Her answer was she has a lot of help, but that’s not the point. You hear the term ‘juggle’ a whole lot, in relation to women and careers, and frankly, I’m over it.
Juggling suggests that it takes some skill to keep all the ‘balls’ in the air – great – but it also implies that you could drop any one (or all) of said balls at anytime. Meaning that you are only marginally in control. Someone could throw you a new ball that you aren’t prepared for and they all come crashing down.
I think this metaphor, whenever it started being used, has had its day. It’s part of the rhetoric that is keeping female leaders from reaching their full potential. Language is extremely powerful and if we continue to talk about our lives in terms of juggling all the aspects of it, we’ll continue to believe our lives are about this balancing act and not about living our fullest and most rewarding life – all important elements of it included.
I prefer to think of myself as a ringmaster. I manage all the different aspects of my life with (practiced) control. Organised chaos. Like a juggler, the ringmaster has to learn these skills, and it’s not without the help of partners, family and friends. My husband and I are both ringmasters. I’m just changing the metaphor for my life, so I’m not limiting myself to ‘juggling’ imaginary balls. I’m ‘ringmastering’. Yes, it’s a word. I looked it up.
The work of a ringmaster; the action of directing or managing something as, or in the manner of, a ringmaster.
I’m directing and managing and enjoying the thrill of the circus as I go. Let’s not limit female leaders to the role of a juggler. Women are capable of directing the multiple aspects of their lives with skill, agility, flexibility and flair. If we continue to talk about balancing and juggling we will continue to make women feel like the different aspects of their lives are somehow precarious, uncertain, insecure, and risky.
I want women to feel like every part of their full lives is meaningful, rewarding and completely manageable. In the circus of life, let’s not denigrate women to the role of the juggler, let’s recognise and celebrate them in their rightful role of the ringmaster.