Where Paul Tudor Jones Got It Wrong

Last month at a University of Virginia symposium on investing at the McIntire School of Commerce, Paul Tudor Jones commented on why there are currently too few great female traders. He described how, once a woman has a baby, she loses all competitive drive to invest well, and that this lack of focus begins “as soon as that baby’s lips touch that girl’s bosom.” He went on to explain that all initiative to understand markets and investment strategy becomes subsumed by “that mode of connection between that mother and that baby.” While it’s hard to imagine that Mr. Jones thought it would be a good idea to make such comments, he is right on one front: mother and child do share an unshakable bond.


I have been privy to this beautiful connection with both of my children. It is something I know well. Mr. Jones seemed to indicate that fathers and their babies are not capable of reaching the same level of intimacy with their children, that this was something reserved exclusively for mothers. I surmise that fathers share a similar connection with their children, but not being a father, I cannot attest to that. What I can attest to is that my children are my greatest joys. And it is interesting that Mr. Jones framed his comments around breastfeeding, because in breastfeeding my two children, I have found some of the most tender, serene, and peaceful moments of my life. 


The trouble with Mr. Jones’ remarks is that he assumes that the connection a mother has with her child prevents her from doing something else well, in this case trading. This is erroneous, dangerous thinking. The all-consuming pressure that society puts on mothers, and that mothers can be all too guilty of putting on themselves, that we have to be everything to our children and that our children have to be everything to us, is just not good for us. It isn’t even good for our children. By making the mother-child bond so sacred, so perfect, so outside the realm of what real relationships are, we set ourselves up for failure. Many of us expect to find complete fulfillment and perfection in all things motherhood, and when we don’t find these things in every nook and cranny, we feel like failures. Motherhood is beautiful. It is also hard. It is also tedious. And it is just plain wrong to think that because someone becomes a mother, she can’t do something else like trading really well, that she can’t hold her own anymore in a field that she once excelled in before she had a baby because now she is beholden to someone else. It is this kind of thinking that holds women back. It holds us back when powerful men make such comments, and it holds us back when we think these thoughts in our own heads.


I say all this from experience. I have been down the road of thinking, even hoping, that becoming a mother was going to be the pinnacle of my life, and that once I had children,   I was duty-bound to revolve my life around them. Every mother has to find her own way, but it was this kind of thinking that brought me to moments of quiet desperation, and I have only recently found my way out of them. Yes, motherhood is beautiful and amazing, and so is breastfeeding. I’m being completely honest when I say that I have found in breastfeeding moments of pure bliss, but I’ve also found in it two bouts of full-blown mastitis, months of tandem yeast, countless plugged ducts, and one cracked and bleeding nipple, the scar of which is never going to go away. I didn’t enjoy that cracked and bleeding nipple so much, and I didn’t quite achieve the connection I was looking for when my newborn daughter clamped down on it searching for milk. I laugh now, but that is the reality of breastfeeding for many women. 


The reality of motherhood has its own ups and downs. My daughter and my son are the lights of my life, but I also enjoy some time to myself. I love dancing around the living room with my kids, but I also love when they are at grandma’s and grandpa’s and I can sit down at the kitchen table in a quiet house and write without interruption. I used to worry that after years of being a stay-at-home-mother who didn’t tap into her intellectual reserves on a daily basis, I would forget how to write and think, that I would not remember how to compose an essay. Now I realize that my salvation lies in reclaiming the parts of myself that gave me great satisfaction before I became a mother, that writing and thinking will make me a better mother because I will be a happier person. 


Mr. Jones issued an apology for his remarks and I’m glad he did. He is a talented trader and a dedicated philanthropist, and it’s a shame that his good works are currently being overshadowed by the comments he made at last month’s symposium. But there is danger in promulgating the erroneous belief that when you become a mother, you lose your focus to do something well, because every ounce of your being is or should be devoted to taking care of your child. Yes, we are mothers. We are also women. We are also people. And the same drives and ambitions and talents that we possessed before we had children are there postpartum. It’s when we ignore those talents, when we expect motherhood to fill up every bit of our needs and desires that we run into trouble. When we hold onto our strengths and put them to good use, when we remain true to the people we are, even as we soak up the beauty that is motherhood, then we can become the best people and mothers we can be. Teacher, writer, stay-at-home-mother, or trader, we make sure our songs are sung.





Awash in Self-Reflection

There’s something about washing dishes that makes me reevaluate my life. Every night I stand there at the sink after dinner, up to my elbows in soapsuds and greasy pots, and my mind spins and tumbles and relaxes. For some reason, I find clarity in that basin. I don’t know if it’s the running water, or the birds chirping at me from my backyard, or maybe it’s just the alone time, but I’ve achieved more serenity than you would think standing there scrubbing pots. 


Tonight I am awash in self-reflection. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had what can only be described as a collection of contradictions swimming inside my head, and I’m desperately trying to disentangle them one from another. Tonight my mind wanders back to a conversation I had with my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter earlier in the day. She has seen me doing a lot of writing lately, and after her nap, she comes bounding up to me and asks what my ideas are. I tell her, “I’m writing about how I want you to do anything you want to do in this world, to find something you love, work hard at it, and be unafraid to follow your dreams.” “Thank you,” is her reply, and I smile. She really means it. She knows that her mommy is her biggest supporter. When I talk to my daughter, I always know the right things to say. And I mean what I tell her. 


It’s really easy to be good to my kids. It’s not always so easy to be good to myself. What comes all too naturally to me is to beat myself up for this, that, or the other thing, to feel guilty for not living up to whatever impossible standards I’ve laid out for myself, and generally to sell myself short. 


I know with every ounce of my being that I need to make some changes in my life. Ever since I submitted my personal essay, Thank You Sheryl Sandberg, to CNN and proclaimed how happy I was being a stay-at-home mother, I have been feeling less and less happy. In truth, I’ve been feeling this way for a while now, and a combination of being unable to ignore Sheryl’s call to lean in, alongside the exhilaration I have found again in declaring myself a writer, has brought me to the realization that fulfilling my longtime dream of writing a book would bring me immense happiness.


But I’m finding myself stuck. I’ve written every day for the last three weeks, and while the words are flowing I feel great, until I wake up the next morning, reread what I’ve written, and deem it not smart enough, not good enough, stupid. At my weakest moments, it doesn’t matter that I feel so alive when I’m writing, that the worst thing for me to do would be to stand still and give in to the status quo of my life, because in these moments I feel vulnerable, exposed, and small. In these moments, I want to close my notebook and lay aside my pen.


If my daughter came to me as an adult and told me that she aches to be a writer, that she wrote a blog that made it to the front page of CNN, I’d tell her to go for it with all her might. “Go follow your dreams,” I’d say. “Move forward and don’t look back. Don’t listen to the naysayers who detract from your accomplishment, the critics who call you uninspiring and weak, and worse still, the voice in your own head that tells you you’re not good enough. Just go for it. Grab that golden ring. To do anything less would be a waste of your precious gift. It would be living a leaned back life. You’re so much better than that.” I know that’s what I would tell my daughter. So why don’t I tell this to myself? And why am I in tears as I write this? 


I am finally unlocking the truth. I am trying to release myself from my small life of hiding in shadows, doing as I’m told, and living in fear. I’ve had enough of living that way. I’m tired of it. And yet at the same time, I’m afraid to let it go because that is the only life I know.


That’s why reading Lean In has quite simply been changing my life. It has given me the courage to stare myself in the face and realize that I can do and be more. Though a modern feminist manifesto, no doubt, and one that will undeniably guide a new generation of women to leadership positions, it is also a framework for living a more engaged, confident, and fulfilling life. No one, woman or man, CEO or stay-at-home mother, should feel small, or not good enough, or think her place is at the side of the room. We all need to hold our heads high, believe in ourselves for the gifts we possess, and be kind to ourselves as we go about the messy business of achieving our dreams.


I’m coming to realize that beating myself up will get me nowhere. It will do nothing but hold me in the same stuck place I’ve been in for years. So I’m putting myself out there, even though it’s hard, especially because it’s hard, because I know in the end that sitting at the table will make me a happier person. Bit by bit, I’ll get there. Thank you, again, Sheryl Sandberg, for all you have done for me.