‘I Didn’t Bake the Cupcakes’: How a Fortune 200 COO & Mom Found Balance

Alden Wicker

Teresa-TaylorIt’s the big question that no one seems to have the answer to: How do you raise a happy family, keep your marriage strong and still propel your career forward?

Well, why not ask someone who did it?

Teresa Taylor was the first member of her family to attend college. She rose in record time through the ranks at the Fortune 200 telecommunications company Qwest to become the chief operating officer, where she successfully led her company through a $22 billion merger.

And she did all this while raising two sons with her husband of 25 years.

Fortunately, she’s sharing some of her hard-fought wisdom with us. In her new book, “The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success,” out now, she describes her strategies and advice for balancing excelling at both your career and family life. We had a lot of questions for this Wonderwoman, which she was nice enough to answer.

Why did you decide to write this book?

One issue that holds women back is that women are searching for balance. And it’s not there, so women get frustrated or leave [work], or they step back. They don’t take a promotion or they leave the workforce completely. I was hoping to inspire women to stay in the workforce and to be successful in both their work and home life.

What advice do you have for women who feel guilty that they’re not doing enough?

Stay in the moment. When you’re at work in in a meeting, be there. When you’re at home, be there. If you’re in a business meeting, don’t be wishing to be somewhere else. Be present where you are, and don’t feel guilty.

Why do you say women should make their home life a priority?

When I struggled at work, it was a relief to go home. I looked forward to it. So if there is something wrong at home, you need to work it out. It will always be nagging at you at the office. At the end of the day, work is work. You might change jobs, companies, you may not even work at all. But your cornerstone is your home life. It’s a grounding point you can always come back to.

RELATED: Why I Sometimes Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

So do you talk about your kids at work?

When I was coming up in my career in the early 80s, I thought you should keep work and family separate. You certainly don’t bring up kids in business meetings. When I reached the vice president level, it was a disaster. I was missing deadlines, life at home was a mess and I was missing my kids’ things. I was keeping two different Blackberries and two different calendars—one for home and one for work. So I put them together.

Once I put them together, it caused me to start talking about my family at work and integrating my two lives. It’s one life, one calendar. I wasn’t above asking someone to help me, and I would help them, too. I would even ask my administrative assistant to help pick up the kids after work.

People didn’t think that was odd or unprofessional?

I think people had more respect for me, because I was a human being. Other people have families too, so it opened up a conversation. I started inviting people over for a team meeting to my house instead of meeting at a café. I made work events on Saturday afternoon where everyone could bring their kids. That was a clear turning point. The performance of the teams was stronger and things at were home were better. I shared my work with my kids, too. I was working on some ads, so I would show the story boards to my kids. And when the commercials came on they would say, “Mom, Mom! Your cartoons are on TV!”

RELATED: Are You Really as Busy as You Think?

  • mbplmom

    awesome story…not every mom wants to be home or can be home and no one should make them feel bad for that decision. sometimes being a working mom makes a mom happy and a better mom…I stay home but its not the right decision for everyone its my personal decision for my family

  • bbkiyak

    I think I will definitely read this book. I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of “Lean In” and I think Teresa offers an additional POV. As a young woman (well, I think I’m young), I’m just starting to gain momentum in my career, but not without the outside commentary and questions about when I’ll be getting married, etc. etc. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone in making these decisions and to hear from successful ladies who have already done it!

  • Brenda Moore

    I doubt that her admin assistant was thrilled about picking up her kids after work.

    • katie

      That’s presumptuous – many people really are glad to help when others are in a bind. I bet she had a close relationship with her assistant!