Finding Fulfillment at Home and in the Workplace
Liz O'Donnell

What I Want My Daughter to Learn Series Featuring Liz O’Donnell

Women today are inundated with messages and societal pressure to “have it all.” From the homemaker, wife and mother to the driven and focused workplace leader, the modern woman now works to successfully embrace all of these roles.

But having it all can be difficult to juggle. “I think right now we’re struggling with the idea that this ‘having it all thing’ maybe didn’t mean having it all at the same time,” says Liz O’Donnell, public relations executive, wife and mother of two, founder of Working Daughter blog and community leader.

O’Donnell’s hope for her 11-year-old daughter is that instead of pursuing what she “should” do that she finds fulfillment in whatever she does — be it at home, in the workplace, or both.

“I think that it’s very important that my daughter understands that she has her own financial independence. I also want her to be able to embrace what she wants to do in the home,” O’Donnell says.

‘Should’ Is Never the Answer

“One of the things I find women struggle with today is they have a whole lot of ‘should’ in their heads, and it’s hard to find what you really want to do when your head is so full of ‘should,’” she says.

O’Donnell exemplifies this in her own life, showing her daughter that it’s not about what society or family says you should do, but what brings you fulfillment and joy.

O’Donnell wants her daughter to pursue what she wants to do. “Not what I think she should do or her father thinks she should do or her partner thinks she should do,” she says.

This carries over to the way O’Donnell refers to work. “I’m very careful to not say ‘I have to go to work’; I say ‘I choose to go to work’ because I don’t want her to grow up thinking that work is something you have to do,” she says.

Crushing Stereotypes

Getting rid of “should” means doing away with stereotypes. Early on O’Donnell started talking to her children about typical gender roles and depictions.

“I talk to them about societal norms and the stereotypes and the norm of how women are valued based on appearance,” says O’Donnell. “If they are aware of it, then they can process it.”

When she was 10, O’Donnell’s daughter came home from school and told her mother that a boy told her she ran like a girl. O’Donnell asked her daughter how she responded, to which she answered, “I challenged him to a race and won and said, ‘That’s what a girl runs like.’” It was a moment of validation for O’Donnell — her message had been heard.

Don’t Focus on Perfection

O’Donnell hopes that the choices she has made in her own life will inspire her daughter to help other women and also make her aware of the challenges that come with juggling a family and a career.

“My absolute hope for my daughter is that she has a wonderful family or personal life and a wonderful career that she’s excited to get up for every day, but, to do that, she can’t be too focused on perfection,” says O’Donnell.

It comes back to the idea of “should” — the next generation needs to learn that it doesn’t have to look perfect and that a little mess is fine.

“I’d be thrilled if she had a pile of laundry and dirty dishes if it meant she was spending more time with her kids or training for a marathon,” says O’Donnell.