Balancing Act

Let me be honest: I am terrible at work-life balance. I'm terrible at work-life merge, that new-fangled, more fluid shifting between public and private roles all day and night. In the choreography of career and family and health and civic engagement and creativity and friends, I am the sweaty dancer in the back, always a half-beat behind.

Now, I'm being hard on myself, maybe too hard. I'm guessing you, as an ambitious woman in tech, hold yourself to sky-high expectations, too, that others wish you'd lower, just a little, for your own happiness.

But I don't think high expectations are a bad thing. Why shouldn't you strive for a richly experienced, meaningful, successful life beyond your front door? That's the great promise of our country, the chance to forge your path to the best of your abilities.

The pain comes when our ambitions crash on reality: limited time, unexpected events, bad habits, lack of talent, isolation and disapproval, forces beyond our control. The pain can sideline us on our quest for achievement and power, sometimes for good.

Women who achieve a great deal publicly aren't radically different from you, and hopefully not from me. They haven't figured out the formula of "balance," or how to stop being bad at something, no matter what. They feel the pain.

I believe they've reckoned with this impossible conflict between what they want and what they can realize — and they figured out how to work with it, in service of the greater vision they have for their lives.

Here are three women doing just that. They aren't in the tech sector, but their example crosses all kinds of lines.