Invisible Standards

“We need your voice,” I said in closing a workshop with about a dozen women on a Saturday in early September.  I was making a connection between an exercise we’d done on developing our own voices and the needs of our national economy.  I view the development & expression of women’s voices as fundamental to our country’s long-term economic well-being.   For me it’s an easy and obvious linkage – although I won’t bore you with the details here.  What surprised me in that Saturday moment was the reaction I got.  The attendees were honestly touched.  My comment seemed to elevate our work.  It connected every one of us to something greater.  Our voice work was instantly relevant.  Meaningful. Continue reading

The shame of should

A grad school classmate of mine and I were at dinner last week with another friend, Tricia, who had an undergraduate degree from UPenn.   Tricia mentioned that she’d recently attended an informal get together for women from her graduating class.  She’s been out of school just over twenty years.  “Shame” she offered in summary of the get together – immediately capturing our full attention.   “Many women weren’t doing anything because they were ashamed that they hadn’t done more since leaving school.”   I understood her remarks to mean that negative self judgment played an enormous role for many of these women.  It impacted their choices and their beliefs about success or failure because they hadn’t done what they ‘should’ have done.   Wow.  This discussion left me wondering, what role shame?   Continue reading

The courage of starting…

“I don’t know if I told you,” shared a friend, “but I left my job.”  It was my son’s first day of school.  Chaos swirled around me.  Kids. Parents.  The occasional dog. A forgotten backpack.  Above the din my friend’s tone was mildly apologetic.  While I saw a little sparkle in the corner of her eye, something weighed heavily on her.  Was it fear that I saw?  Shame? Continue reading

A moment….

I caught it out of the corner of my eye.  It was a flash.  I might have missed it had I looked the other way.  I was multi-tasking –  like so many of us do.  I’d just finished work and was in the process of dropping my twelve-year-old daughter off at a baseball game.  This summer she was a bat kid for the Orleans Firebirds, the season’s leading team in the storied Cape Cod Baseball League.  In this league college athletes are invited to play for one of ten teams while Major League Baseball (MLB) scouts hover on the periphery with offer letters in hand.   In the moment, my daughter got out of the car and skipped her way to the dugout.  Happy.  Energetic.  Anticipating acceptance and success in every facet of the hours that stretched ahead of her. Continue reading

Choice or Compromise?

I’ll never forget an interview I did for my book….. One afternoon a mid-forties woman who had three sons joined me for coffee in an artsy bakery in Pasadena, CA.  She agreed to talk with me about her transition, triggered by an empty nest.  Shortly after we began we unexpectedly turned our focus to an earlier transition, her decision to leave the workforce.  She offered, “there was a lot of pressure on me to buy into the concept of being a full-time mother.” Her husband and her in-laws voiced strong opposition to her continuing to work. Financially she and her husband thought they could get by on one salary. Neither of her own parents were living.   She said of her experience, “I was the guilty party for wanting to pursue my work. It was a particularly difficult time.” Continue reading

The right posture…

Do you lean in or lean out?  It is a question that many of us have thought about thanks to the March 2013 publication of Lean In.   That book asked women to engage themselves more fully – to lean in – albeit in a largely  corporate vein.  While interesting to consider, I’ve found another more important posture that women not only need to be aware of – they need to defy.  I call it the failure posture. Continue reading

A Transition Solstice Celebration…

Who wouldn’t give their right arm for more hours in the day?   When faced with the prospect of newly available time, most of us instantly think about what we could do.   The possibilities are endless.  Think about it.  An important ‘to do’ for work.  A laundry list of actions in support of children, spouses, or dependent elders.  A few minutes for long deferred personal care or even a personal interest.   Maybe even a few moments dedicated to a long overdue job search.  What would you do with ‘found time?’  Would wishing make it to your list?



Time was on my mind this week as we enjoyed the Summer Solstice. Celebrated on June 21st, the day marks the true start of summer for me.  It is our ‘longest’ day of the year in the Northeast, offering six more hours of daylight than its astronomical opposite on December 21st.   It makes me think about time and how I choose to spend it.  A concept, I might add, that I rarely thought of pre-transition.

Solstice derives from two Latin words; sol, or sun, and stare, to stand or stop.   Early astronomical observers believed that on the solstice the sun stopped its progression in the sky.  Its literal translation is the day when the sun stands still.

The solstice’s definition caught my attention this week because I’ve been noodling a presentation I gave earlier this month.    On June 9th I hosted a luncheon ‘dry run’ of the key messages from my upcoming book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life (Macmillan Nov 2015).   The outset of the conversation was standard fare: transition’s definition, its anatomy, and an overview of a process that I created to help women navigate transition.

What really caught my audience’s eye was a list at the end of my remarks about what surprised me most in my research.   For those unfamiliar with my research, I spoke with two hundred women in various forums about transition over an eighteen month period.

Before I share the surprise, let me give you some background.  It’s a bit of an  oversimplification so please bear with me.

Thanks to my research and my own circuitous path, I found that transition requires us to navigate an iterative two-stage process.  The first stage is ‘envision,’ during which we develop a hypothesis of what ‘might be’ possible for us.  It goes by many names.  A dream.  A wish.  A personal strategy.  You can choose the vocabulary most comfortable for you.  This stage asks us to think beyond our assumptions about what we could or should do – staring down boundaries set by ourselves and by other’s expectations of us.

The second stage is ‘validate,’ a stage during which we test and retest and learn about our ‘envision’ hypothesis.  This stage is experimental and flexible – progressing in increments designed to fit our own circumstances.  At the end of all this you get a refined wish and real life experiences to give you the confidence to move in that direction.   I referred to the transition process’s cycle at the June 9th lunch as the dream/do loop.

The surprise I shared on June 9th?  I’ve witnessed again and again that women shortchange the work in the dream stage, preferring instead to do.  The work of thinking – wishing – is difficult, non-linear and uncertain.   Let’s face it most of us would rather clean the refrigerator on a sunny day than undertake such a task.

Wishing seems fanciful.  This is only partly true.   Here’s what I’ve learned:  Dreaming requires us to trust our instincts – and most importantly to dignify what we hear.   There is a competency we build up in the process – we learn to quell the negative internal voices that instantly pop up to extinguish whatever those instincts may be telling us.

In the summer weeks ahead be aware of the shortening days as we begin the long cycle towards the Winter Solstice.  If you find yourself with a moment or two, dream.  I’ve found it’s the most useful do you can do.

Copyright © 2015  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from


A simple step: reframe

Last week my ten-year old son and I watched the replay of the first game of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.    We were rooting for the Golden State Warriors, his stand-in team given that his beloved Celtics will sit this one out.  Thanks to his interest, I stumbled onto a terrific example of one of my favorite transition tools  – reframing.

Continue reading


There it was.  That phrase.  “…since you’ve been a stay at home mom.”  An  acquaintance used it in conversation with me over the weekend.  It always stops me in my tracks.  I get a physical reaction.  The hair stands up on the back of my neck.  Let me be clear.  There is nothing wrong with the phrase – nor the choice that it represents.  Many women and men make the choice to stay home.   If it is your choice, I applaud it.  My problem?  It isn’t my choice.  So, when I hear it, I immediately conclude that the speaker can’t or won’t see the value in what I’ve chosen.    That’s where the disconnect comes in for me.  I can’t help but wonder where the problem is?  Is it them or me? Continue reading

The Courage of No

When was the last time you said, no?  I’m not asking about passing up a calorie laden dessert or skipping an indulgence at your favorite retail escape.   I am asking about turning down something meaningful because you knew deep down that it wasn’t right.   A job offer?  A proposal?  A move?   Someone else’s expectations? Continue reading