The tech world has been paying a lot of attention to women like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer lately – moms in high-profile, high-powered careers. Are they “ruining it” for working parents everywhere by not taking maternity leave?  (A notion I find utterly ridiculous.) Can they possibly be good parents while working so hard? (Pretty sure they can.) But these questions neglect a more constructive line of inquiry: how do those moms do it?

Atlassian recently hosted the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner which included a panel discussion about the challenges of navigating a successful tech career while female. Naturally, the question of work/mom balance came up.  The unflappable Sarah Lacy, founder & editor-in-cheif of,was quick to chime in. She integrates her career and her family as much as possible, working from a home office so she can grab snuggle breaks with her son throughout the day. She even brought her newborn along when she was making VC pitches. Wow! She explained that she manages this not because she is hyper-organized, but because her family has “great help”.

That’s a nice spot to be in. And it’s nice that some working women can advance far enough in their career by the time they have children to afford that kind of help.

What About the Rest of Us?

The secret, I think, is tapping into our superpowers. We all have them. And the people who are awesome parents, awesome employees, and retain their personal pre-parenthood awesome-sauce are the ones who really put their superpowers to work.

I’m think I’m doing alright in all three categories: I’m good at my job, my daughter adores me, and I’m better shape than in my 20s. My superpower? The ability to operate on just 6 hours of sleep. And I take full advantage. Up at 5:30 to exercise, a full day in the office, family time until 8pm, and some combination of work, wine & chocolate after my daughter goes to bed. Thanks to my superpower, and logistical help from SuperDad (love you, babe!), this is totally sustainable.

You’re Super Just the Way You Are

One mom I know is a trail marathoner. Armed with that decidedly-super power and her trusty jogging stroller, she can exercise, and spend time with her son in the great outdoors all at once. Another mom I know found herself pregnant at age 19, with a boyfriend who had no interest in being a father at that time. Her superpower was the dogged determination to finish college despite the odds, and she even completed her Master’s. Another mom’s superpower comes in the form of a super sidekick. Her partner has flexible work hours and is able to slot in where she can’t.

Those aren’t skills you can acquire, like being organized or changing a diaper with one hand. The secret to success for these moms is milking (ha!) what’s already available to them.

Create a Super 2013

The winter solstice comes on Friday, which is my preferred time to make resolutions for the new year. I encourage all women – heck, all people – to use this nodal point in our journey around the sun to think about what your superpower might be, and how to make more of it in 2013. As the days open up to let in more light, maybe we can use our superpowers to create a bit more room for the things that are most important to us.

Super Powerful Moms: reflections from the Girl Gee...