44. Unlearning Self-Sacrifice as Women with Tiffany Dufu

September 20, 2022

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

Have you ever “dropped the ball?”

Women are statistically more likely to take on unpaid labor –– from taking on extra tasks at work to taking on the bulk of childcare and housework. 

Many women report feeling stressed over the additional workload and how it impacts their career and professional lives. Today’s guest is here to help women work through these gender-based expectations to learn how they, too, can drop the ball to help them move forward professionally and personally.

Tiffany Dufu is the author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less and the founder of The Cru, an organization dedicated to helping women reach their professional goals. Tori and Tiffany settle in for a conversation on how and why women often take on more than they need to, and how in the process of letting go, find new freedom to achieve more in their professional and personal lives. 

What you’ll learn: 

  • Why women are more likely to take on unpaid labor (spoiler, it’s the patriarchy again)

  • An exercise to help you work through your fears around dropping the ball and figuring out what really matters to you

  • How to actually go about “dropping the ball” without catastrophe

Tiffany’s links:


The Cru Instagram

Tiffany’s Instagram

Drop the Ball Book


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Meet Tiffany

Tiffany Dufu is founder and CEO of The Cru. Their algorithm matches circles of women who collaborate to meet their personal and professional goals. She’s also the author of the bestselling book Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less. According to foreword contributor Gloria Steinem, Drop the Ball is “important, path-breaking, intimate and brave.”

Named to Entrepreneur’s 100 Powerful Women and Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women, Tiffany has raised nearly $20 million toward the cause of women and girls. She was a launch team member to Lean In and was Chief Leadership Officer to Levo, one of the fastest growing millennial professional networks. Prior to that, Tiffany served as President of The White House Project, as a Major Gifts Officer at Simmons University, and as Associate Director of Development at Seattle Girls’ School.

Tiffany is a member of Women’s Forum New York, Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc. and is a Lifetime Girl Scout. She serves on the board of Girls Who Code and Simmons University and lives in New York City with her husband and two children.


Tori Dunlap (00:01):

Hello, Financial Feminists. Welcome back. Welcome back to another incredible episode. Oh my gosh, this one blew my mind. I was almost like, if I wasn’t recording, I would’ve pulled out a notebook and taken notes. Truly, this is, I think, one of the most valuable episodes that we’ve ever done. And, oh my God, she came out swinging. In September, we’ve been releasing episodes about money at home, which means both literally, buying a home or buying property, but also touching on subjects like managing your finances with your partner or your family. We’ve had some incredible episodes out this month already about real estate and about managing money in your relationships. And this week, we’re really zeroing in on how women in particular feel like they have to keep all of these metaphorical balls in the air at home, whether they have children or not. It’s the good old myth of the quest to have it all.

Tori Dunlap (00:54):

To talk about why women feel so much pressure around managing so much we invited Tiffany Dufu to join us. Tiffany is founder and CEO of The Cru, C-R-U. Their algorithm matches circles of women who collaborate to meet their personal and professional goals, all about accountability, baby. She’s also the author of the bestselling book, Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less. According to Forward Contributor, fucking Gloria Steinem, Drop the Ball is “Important, pathbreaking, intimate and brave.” Named entrepreneurs, a hundred powerful women and fast companies league of extraordinary women, Tiffany has raised nearly $20 million towards the cause of women and girls. She was a launch team member to Lean In and was chief leadership officer to Levo, one of the fastest growing millennial professional networks.

Tori Dunlap (01:41):

Prior to that, Tiffany served as president of the White House project, as a major gifts officer at Simmons University and as associate director of development at Seattle Girls School. That’s a packed resume you all. Tiffany is a member of Women’s Forum New York, Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc, and a lifetime Girl Scout. She serves on the board of Girls Who Code and Simmons University and lives in New York City with their husband and two children. We get into why women feel the need to take on more when it comes to home, work, children and more, what it means to drop the ball and how that’s actually not a bad thing and how we can better self analyze to see where we’re holding too much and where we can let go.

Tori Dunlap (02:20):

This is such an incredible episode. It was so powerful. And for me personally, I took so much away from it and it is important for anybody of any gender identity to listen to. If you’re a woman, this is going to resonate real hard. And if you’re a person who supports women, this is especially important for you to listen to. It’s a great episode to understand the way society places undue pressure on women to have it all. So let’s go ahead and get into it.

Tori Dunlap (03:00):

Yeah, I’ve been staying in Brooklyn for the last six weeks, because I’ve always wanted to live in New York. And so I’ve been in an Airbnb out of Brooklyn for a couple weeks now, or a month a half.

Tiffany Dufu (03:11):

Lovely. Lovely.

Tori Dunlap (03:11):

Yeah. It’s been really fun. Have you seen any shows or do you do Broadway at all? Is that a thing you like to do?

Tiffany Dufu (03:17):

I do. Not as much as I would like, because it’s very expensive. In fact, my kids have seen way more shows, because sometimes I’ll splurge on a ticket for them and then drop them off. Because to buy tickets for our whole family is crazy. But tomorrow we’re going to see for colored girls because it’s won seven Tony awards.

Tori Dunlap (03:40):

It’s supposed to be incredible.

Tiffany Dufu (03:42):

Yeah. I’m sure it’s incredible. And I want my kids to see it. It’s one of those, my mom made us go see.

Tori Dunlap (03:49):


Tiffany Dufu (03:49):

Girls kind of moments.

Tori Dunlap (03:52):

Yeah. I saw Strange Loop last week and that was also pretty intense, but very important. And, I do a lot of the rush seats and the lottery seats. So I ve
ry rarely pay full price, but it’s also typically just me or one other person as opposed to a whole family. So it’s a little less flexible. I’m so excited to have you. Thank you for coming on the show.

Tiffany Dufu (04:10):

Of course.

Tori Dunlap (04:12):

Can you talk to me about your… I was about to say, can you talk to me about your upbringing, which sounds like we’re in therapy, but can you paint a picture of the view of household dynamics that you grew up with? Did you grow up with very traditional household dynamics? And then how did that lead to you taking on more than your share of household responsibilities?

Tiffany Dufu (04:37):

In some ways I grew up with very traditional household dynamics. And in other ways I grew up with some of those innovative household dynamics that you could imagine. My mom found out that she was pregnant with me when she was almost 19 years old. My parents are originally from Watts, LA neighborhood in Los Angeles. At that time, back in the day, it was a rough place. It was a rough time. And my mom didn’t know that much more than what she saw in her community. But she had an uncle who was an army recruiter. She’d experience him come and go. And she went to her uncle and basically said, I’m pregnant and I want a future. And so as my dad would tell it between the big corporate uncle and my mom, he was encouraged to join the army to marry my mom and I was born at Fort Lewis army base in Tacoma, Washington.

Tori Dunlap (05:40):

I’m from Tacoma, Washington. I was born and raised. Fort Lewis is 10 minutes away from my house. My parents still live there.

Tiffany Dufu (05:47):

I graduated from Foss. I graduated from Foss High School.

Tori Dunlap (05:50):

I graduated from Bellarmine. That’s so funny.

Tiffany Dufu (05:53):

Oh my gosh. It’s so rare that you meet someone or interact with someone who… I know where Bellarmine is. I know when you say that, I know-

Tori Dunlap (06:04):

I went to Cabrini for parochial school. I went to St. Francis Cabrini where a bunch of the base kids went because it’s three minutes away. It’s in Lakewood.

Tiffany Dufu (06:12):

Oh my gosh. I went to McCarver Elementary School. I went to [inaudible 00:06:14] middle school and I graduated from Foss. Okay, well we’re already besties. So either way, that was really a game changer for my family. In fact, I feel like part of that decision that my parents made is why I really believe that if you want something you’ve never had before, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before in order to get it. It was a huge risk. And fortunately that move gave my family access to opportunities that they may not have otherwise had. So my dad went to college on the GI bill. He eventually earned a PhD in theology. This is the same person who had to kick an addiction to be able to pass the exam to fitness, to get into the army. And he was a minister. When I was growing up, I grew up in a nice, lovely house with the white picket fence around it, as my parents ascended.

Tiffany Dufu (07:14):

And they basically broke really vicious cycles of poverty and addiction and violence in one generation. That’s how phenomenal this nation is, despite all of its enormous flaws and imperfections that in one generation that could happen in this country. So in some ways I had a very traditional upbringing and that my mom was what I refer to as a non-paid working mom. Some people call them stay-at-home moms, but I think all moms are working moms. Some of us are compensated for our labor. Some of us are not, because society doesn’t value caregiving in the way that I think it really should. And so in that way, it was a traditional upbringing. My dad worked outside the home, but in some ways it was a completely innovative upbringing in that my parents had to make it up. And I’m pretty convinced now that they must have read some parenting books along the way, because they had specific strategies that they used to raise us.

Tiffany Dufu (08:16):

So one of those strategies was the use of affirmations. In fact, my dad spoke in affirmations. He would wake us up every morning. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Aint nothing to it, but to do it. And every day my mom would look at me in my eyes and tell me as if it was the first time that she had ever told me, as if she was just now discovering this, Tiffany, you are so smart. You’re so beautiful. You are so loved. She would say it just like that. And of course by the time I was 14, it was quite annoying when you know, all you want are-

Tori Dunlap (08:53):

But what an incredible gift.

Tiffany Dufu (08:58):

An incredible gift. The other part of our upbringing that I think was really incredible was this idea of all of us making a contribution to the family and having input and say. So we would have a family meeting every Wednesday. And as strict as our home was, there was this hour and a half during the family meeting, when we could complain about the chores and say we wanted to do some other things, we wanted to switch it up. It was like we had this opportunity to give feedback on our home and on the family and on how we were being raised. And I felt this strong sense of myself and, especially in those family meetings, I always felt like my opinion mattered and that my voice was important. My sister and I used to take turns. My dad had a green booster seat that he would flip upside down and my sister and I would have to take turns, giving a sermon to the family and he would assign us a scripture.

Tiffany Dufu (09:59):

And I’m convinced that this was the catalyst certainly informed my public speaking practice and my communication skills. But of course the irony is that the traditionalness of my background was that we grew up in a church in which women were not allowed to preach from the pulpit. And yet here was this minister in this church, literally instructing his daughters and teaching us how to preach at home in our family meetings. So I would say that it was a home in which I didn’t have gender stereotypes or norms disrupted in the way that I would’ve hoped. And certainly I am intentional about doing it with my own family and my own kids, but it was certainly an upbringing that gave me a level of resiliency and confidence and self-assuredness that I desperately wish everyone in the world had.

Tori Dunlap (11:01):

That’s incredible. I see a lot of through lines with the way my parents raised me as well. Is there were certain expectations of being a part of the family, as well as my mom… As you put it, I would normally call her a stay at home mom, but I love the switch of non uncompensated working mom. My mom was that. And very similar where my parents had a lot of, I think trauma from their family they focused a lot on how do we make a better life, not only for ourselves, but really for me, because I’m an only child. And so it was how can we invest in our kid in order to give them the best life possible?

Tori Dunlap (11:51):

Your book is called Dropping the Ball. And when I think of this phrase dropping the ball, we all think of it as a negative, right? You missed out, something didn’t happen. You made a mistake. You’re juggling and you dropped one. But you use it in your book as a positive thing women can do. So can you break down the definition? And can you talk about the shift from something, seeing that as negative to potentially something that’s positive?

Tiffany Dufu (12:18):

Sure. Well, I wrote a book called Drop the Ball because I used to be someone who was terrified of ever dropping a ball. I used to feel that it meant that I was failing, that I wasn’t taking timely action on something, that I was disappointing myself, my family, my community. As dramatic as it might sound, I was disappointing the entire Black race as in, if I mess this up, they’re ever going to hire another black person again. And so I was able to keep a lot of balls juggling in the air for a long time in my life. In one way, because I’m a, A type personality. My parents instilled in me an incredible work ethic. But what happened to me is what happens to a lot of people in life. I had a life changing event in which all the balls came crashing down to the floor.

Tiffany Dufu (13:19):

And when that happened, one of the observations that I made was that Armageddon never hit, meaning all of the things that I was always terrified would happen if I ever dropped a ball, didn’t actually happen in reality. My life changing event was the birth of my first child, but it could be anything. It could be, you finally got the promotion and realize it’s a lot harder to be the boss than you thought it was going to be. It could be a diagnosis. It could be a viral pandemic and economic recession. A lot of things could happen to cause you know to start dropping balls left and right. And nobody called to tell me that they didn’t love me anymore or that they weren’t going to be my friend anymore because I didn’t show up to something. My boss didn’t fire me. I was always paranoid my boss would fire me if I ever dropped a ball.

Tiffany Dufu (14:11):

No one ever came to read me my Miranda Rights, which I always thought would happen because part of my drop the ball fiasco was as a new working mom who was being paid outside of the home in the workforce I would be rushing home at the end of the day to relieve our childcare provider, which meant I wasn’t moving the car back and forth across the street for alternate side parking, which if you don’t live in New York, it’s just this annoying thing where you have to move your car back and forth for street cleaning. And if you don’t get this bright orange citation, I don’t know how many of those things you get before they come and arrest you. But I am living proof that it is a lot of them, no one ever comes.

Tiffany Dufu (14:52):

So I started to really question, why is it that I feel all of this pressure and took myself on a journey. And that’s how I came to appropriate the term, drop the ball. So for me now dropping the ball is really dropping these unrealistic expectations that you’re supposed to have them all beautifully juggling in the air to begin with. And that really you do three things that I think are critical. One is getting clear about
what matters most to you, separate and apart from what matters most to everybody else. Number two, getting clear about your highest and best use and achieving what matters most, instead of just saying yes to everything that comes over the fence. And then finally meaningfully engaging other people in your journey, pretty much getting the help that you need so that you can be successful. And so that the people around you can be successful as well.

Tori Dunlap (15:48):

So if I’m a listener, I hear you say getting clear on these things, how do you get clear on them? How do you determine what actually matters to you? How do you determine how to prioritize if everything seems to be like a fire that needs putting out?

Tiffany Dufu (16:03):

Yes, it’s a journey. So the fastest, quickest way for me to respond to that is, getting clear about what matters most to you really starts with recognizing that you’re not the source of your own expectations of yourself, which is a daunting realization if you’re someone who’s ambitious or you think you’re in the driver’s seat, your own life, you’re actually not. And if you don’t believe me, do an exercise in which you write down all of the roles that you fulfill in your life, because all of us are born into the world, playing certain roles. If you were assigned girl, your first role was probably daughter. If you were assigned boy, your first role was probably son. If you have siblings, you became a brother, sister, you went to the playground, you became a friend, a student, a worker, just husband, wife, whatever it is.

Tiffany Dufu (16:56):

And I want you to write out all of your roles, go ahead and put the word good in front of all of them, because you at least aspire to that. And then pretend that each one of those roles is a job and that you’re drafting a job description for the role. I want you to answer two questions. The first question is. What does a good X do? What does a good mom do? What does a good manager do? The second question is how do I know that, that’s what a good X does? And if you answer those questions honestly, what you’ll conclude is that the answer to that second question is never, well I made it up? If you have enough conversations with people, which you I’m sure do as a podcaster, one of the observations that you make that I find so fascinating is that even though we’re born in different parts of the world to different families, different cultures, somehow we all ended up with very similar job descriptions for what it means to be a good anything.

Tiffany Dufu (18:02):

And part of getting clear about what matters most to you is you rewriting your job description. So first recognizing that you are living somebody else’s job description, and then really getting clear about what you really want to be in yours. If you have no idea what matters most to you after doing this exercise, and you want to start from scratch as Steven Covey in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has one of my favorite exercises, which is this funeral visualization, where you imagine the end of your life and what you would want a family member, a coworker, a friend to say about you at the end of your journey. And it’s so powerful because I used to be someone who was really into my own productivity. But when I did this exercise, I realized at the end of my life, I don’t want people standing up saying, well, Tiffany, she got a lot of things done on her to-do list.

Tiffany Dufu (18:57):

I want people to talk about the impact that I created in the world. So that’s where I encourage people to start if they just have no idea what matters most. I think another way to get at it is for you to just ask yourself what matters most to me, usually when I ask people that question, they start rattling off different parts of their life. My career matters. My kids matter. The deeper question I want you to try to get at is, what do you hope to achieve in relationship to that area of your life? My career is important to me, but what matters most is that I’m advancing women and girls. That’s pretty much why I’m on the planet. My marriage is important to me, but what matters most is that I’m nurturing a healthy partnership because I know what it’s like to be in a marriage that’s not a healthy partnership.

Tiffany Dufu (19:51):

My kids are important to me, but what matters most is that I’m raising conscious global citizens. I don’t care if they get into Harvard or Yale. I care that there’re people who have empathy and that are equipped to create their own impact in the world. So once you’re clear about what matters most, getting at your highest and best use is really an analysis of what are the things that you do very well with very little effort, not because you were a child prodigy, usually because you’ve just done them over and over, combined with what are the things that only you can do that would be callous or highly irresponsible to delegate to someone else. So if we take my example of raising conscious global citizens, that’s something that really matters to me. One of the things that I do really well with very little effort is helping other people to achieve clarity through guidance and encouragement.

Tiffany Dufu (20:51):

Some people say I should have been a coach. I should have had a coaching practice. One of the things that only I can do in relationship to my kids is instill values in them. You can get somebody to drop them off at school, make them lunch, but I kind of think if you’re a parent, it would be callous or highly irresponsible to delegate the installation of values. So my highest and best use in raising conscious global citizens is engaging my kids in a meaningful conversation each and every day. I’m basically their coach and chief. What kind of data did you create today? Who did you laugh with today? If an alien spaceship came down from outer space and abducted someone from your Fortnight game, who would they have abducted? Why would they have abducted that person? And in that way, hopefully I can h
elp them to develop a positive relationship with themselves, with their peers, with the world around them.

Tiffany Dufu (21:48):

And that conversation every single day is at the top of my job description for what it means to be a good mom. See, once you start curating your new job description, which is about getting clear about what matters most to you, figuring out what you need to be doing. Then when you face society’s expectations about, oh, in order to be a good mom, I need to bake the cookies. I can say bake, cookies, whatever. I just had my meaningful conversation. I can see that my kids are growing and learning and I’m all good. I can drop the ball.

Tori Dunlap (22:23):

Oh, I didn’t drop them off, but that’s not part of the definition for what I believe a good mom is. Or the mom I want to be is.

Tiffany Dufu (22:31):

That’s it. That’s it. And if you can do that and then finally just ask for help, which seems so simple and yet is so hard we could have a whole other podcast episode just on how to effectively ask for help and get it. If you can be vulnerable enough to do it and to do it relentlessly. As in, if anyone even asks you, how can I support you? How can I help you? You should always have an answer to that question. Then those are some of the steps that I encourage people to take to drop the ball.

Tori Dunlap (23:04):

Tiffany, that was… I need everybody listening to rewind about seven minutes and listen to all of that again. Wow. I think about Untamed. Have you read Untamed by Glennon Doyle?

Tiffany Dufu (23:17):

Yes. Glennon Doyle. Yes. We share the same editor.

Tori Dunlap (23:19):

Oh yeah. Book that changed my life. Absolutely incredible. And I think I am not a parent. One of the things that she talks about is this idea I think of being a good mom and sacrificing in order to be that good mom and almost martyring yourself. So she talks a lot about staying in her marriage, even though she knew it wasn’t right, because it was the quote unquote thing she needed to do to be a good mom and how liberating it was when she was like, no, I think being a good mom is allowing my children to see their mom happy and content, even if it’s temporarily uncomfortable. And no, that’s not selfish. That is a better lesson to them and their growth than seeing their mom stay in a relationship they no longer want to be in or she no longer wants to be in. And so I kept thinking about that.

Tiffany Dufu (24:12):

Well, you can turn… You turn it on its head. Right. If it was your daughter, would you want her to do what you are doing? And if the answer is no, that means you should not be doing it.

Tori Dunlap (24:25):

Right. Well, and I think about, I was literally doing, as you’re conducting or walking us through this exercise, I’m doing it in my own head. Okay, what are my role roles? And I’m thinking as CEO or founder of a company, there are certain things that society or the business world expects me to do versus how can I best show up for our audience, for my employees? How can I best do that? And also, what am I good at? What can I delegate to somebody else? And what stuff actually reflects the way I want to show up in my business that might not be the society approved way to show up in my business?

Tori Dunlap (25:12):

I feel like in your work, I see the through line to the… Well women, here’s how to have it all, here’s how to have it all and be able to be all of these things. When I’m thinking about the phrase have it all, men don’t get asked that. Men don’t get asked, how can you have it all? How can you pursue having it all? So just in painting with broad strokes, and then we’ll narrow in a second, what expectations do you see are different when you’re juggling all these balls for women versus men?

Tiffany Dufu (25:48):

Well, of course in today’s world, it depends on the family. It depends on, in short form, the job descriptions are very different for what it means to be a good mom, a woman. There are so many stereotypes and expectations. One is that if you are a female, you are to be physically present in order to demonstrate that you care pretty much about anything. And your physical presence is part of the litmus test for you being a good… Almost anything is you showing up and being physically present. Whereas if you looked at the job description for a good husband, good father, there’s literally an insidious line that says you must aspire to be a breadwinner at all cost. Even the cost of meaningfully, engaging with your family. That’s the price that society expects men to play, which is why them being not physically present is completely acceptable to society, but he provided for us.

Tiffany Dufu (26:58):

And so that plays a role in terms of the psyche. And what I find mind blowing is that for men, it’s very much tie
d to their masculinity. They don’t have as much aperture for their roles and what it means around their identity. You see, I can be feminine and be the CEO of a company. I can be feminine and I can be a non-paid working mom. I have a huge bandwidth of the things that I can do in the world and still be considered a woman and still be considered feminine. So that’s where some of that comes from, and those are some of the stereotypes. It’s very frustrating, but of course, we’re here to disrupt them.

Tori Dunlap (27:37):

How has our socialization as women led us to taking on more than our male counterparts, especially when it comes to housework, raising children? And then beyond that, how does that affect us in the workplace?

Tiffany Dufu (27:50):

Well, there’s this dynamic that happens with anything in life, which is that if you are the person who does something over and over and over again, you get really good at that thing. And then somewhere along the way-

Tori Dunlap (28:04):

And you’re the person, the deemed person who does that thing.

Tiffany Dufu (28:07):

Yeah. But it’s very much a psychological, catch 22 chicken and egg because you are only really good at that thing, because you happen to have done that thing over and over and over again. It’s not actually because you really are better at that thing. And I think one of the most powerful experiences of my drop the ball journey was understanding how gendered expectations really inhibit innovation in our homes. Because we should be executing on tasks and projects and everything required to manage a home and raise a family in a way that takes into consideration people’s talents, people’s gifts, people’s personalities in the way that we do in the workplace, but we don’t do at home. So part of it is habitual, and then you set up expectations, not just for yourself, but for other people. And then you become really tied to it. And it just becomes this vicious cycle. T.

Tiffany Dufu (29:12):

Here are two other things though, one has to do with women’s socialization around being high performers and the connection with pleasing other people, which translates into not wanting to disappoint other people. And so a lot of our worthiness and our sense of value is tied to the way other people are perceiving our performance. So because of that, we think, well, we don’t want to disappoint the other people. We don’t want to let anybody down, and this sense of responsibility, but I really believe that we often are really abusing virtues to say it in that way. We’re socialized to be humble and then we become humble at our own expense. We’re socialized to be sacrificial in the way that Glennon was writing about, but then we become sacrificial at our own expense. It’s like, we take it too far.

Tori Dunlap (30:16):

I literally wrote about this. My book’s coming out in December this year. And I talked about how altruism is weaponized against women at a certain point. So it’s like, you are literally raised if you are women identifying, if you were raised as a girl to be altruistic and giving, and then suddenly if you have built some sort of wealth, that altruism is weaponized against you with the expectation that you should be constantly donating or giving it all away or sacrificing any sort of luxury in order to literally tax yourself. So no, that’s so interesting.

Tiffany Dufu (30:49):

Yes. And it happens too with the other very popular question around women supporting other women. One of the popular questions that I get is why don’t women support other women? Should women support other women? And that really is seeded in that dynamic that you just spoke about, of this expectation that women should be particularly generous, particularly nurturing the expectation that women should then just naturally support all women. My life’s work is advancing women and girls. If I’m not supporting as many women as possible, that’s just a travesty, not every woman is required to do that. We don’t expect men to support every man.

Tori Dunlap (31:32):

And we’ve been told there’s one seat at the table. And so society has made us all fight each other for it. And so it’s like, no, let’s go build our own table. I’d rather go build our own table. Again there’s all these questions that are asked of women, but not men, right? How are you supporting other men in your life? I don’t know. I’ve never heard a man get asked that question.

Tiffany Dufu (31:54):

No, no, not at all. What’s interesting though is, the question around, how do you manage at all? How do you do it all? Was a question that for a long time, I didn’t respect. I was quite dismissive of that question in part, because I was a feminist, it was like, why don’t I get asked that question? But I did have an experience in 2012 that shifted my mindset around the question and also ended up being a bit of a catalyst for Drop the Ball, which is that Tiffany women are not asking you, how do you manage it all, because they care that much about the details of your personal life. The women that keep asking that question are asking you that question, because they’re sitting there in their seat, wondering how am I going to manage it all? How am I going to do it all?

Tiffany Dufu (32:42):

And if your life sport is advancing woman and girls, you got to honor that question and you better provide an answer. You owe them an answer. And that’s why I wrote the book. So it turns out that even the questions that we are quite annoyed by can be questions that lead to really incredible outcomes and solutions.

Tori Dunlap (33:07):

Yeah, no, that’s a great reframe because, I think it’s seeking advice or seeking counsel. Because if I’m looking at, let’s say an entrepreneur and going, how are they getting that much done? I’m trying to figure out how do I get on their level. Or what sort of things can I learn from that person to hopefully better my life and better my business. In the same way that I think other women are going and asking, how are you doing all of this? And maybe it’s not an anti-feminist question. It’s just like, I need some advice. I need some help. How do you do this? How does it work for you? And maybe glean some information and apply that to my own life. When did you realize in your life that you were just doing too much and that especially your life was out of balance with your partner?

Tiffany Dufu (33:59):

As I mentioned before, definitely for me, being a mom was just a total wrench in my life plan because I had never reconciled and was never really forced to reconcile that I had all of these ambitions professionally, but that children in particular require caring and feeding and that my early childhood experience in terms of how you care for a family and how you care for children, especially was modeled after a person who was a non-paid working mom, who had no smartphone, because there were no smartphones back then. She had no email and she had a community that supported her and that embraced her, largely the church community that we were around. I was raised by not just my parents, but by all the brothers and sisters in church as well. And so to expect that I would work outside of the home and that my kitchen would always be spotless and that I would always prepare a meal from scratch for dinner every night. And it was just completely unrealistic in hindsight. But hell I had not really thought that through. So that’s why being a mom just really threw me for a loop.

Tori Dunlap (35:45):

Yeah. My mentor tells this story. Her mom was a non compensated… I’m trying to hold on, non compensated working mom. Correct? Okay. Non compensated working mom and my mentor was a compensated working mom. And one of the things that would happen was her mother would come over and be like, you haven’t polished the silverware. She would set the table for dinner or something and be like, the silverware is not polished. And she’s like, mom, in what world do I have time to fucking polish the silverware? I don’t have time to do that. I don’t have time to do that. I have a million other things I also have to do. So, I think of that example a lot of the difference between the expectation and the generations of what was expected or what happened one generation to the next, in terms of raising children and managing that with work.

Tiffany Dufu (36:41):

Yes. While also the parenting pressure expectation. Because what I find fascinating also about my upbringing is that for all of my mom being a non-paid working mom, she wasn’t on the floor playing with us. During the summer she’d be like go outside and play so I could watch my soaps. It wasn’t we were not scheduled. I was a Girl Scout and she would help out with the Girl Scout troop, but it was nothing like the hyper engagement that parents are expected to have today, which I actually think probably led to some of my self sufficiency and that my mom was not knee deep in my upbringing and my life and way. So I think it’s really fascinating that not only did we often we might have had a mom that was shining the silver war, but if she was shining the silverware, she probably wasn’t building Legos with us.

Tori Dunlap (37:43):

She said, go out and play. And then you wouldn’t see her for four hours. You have this gut wrenching story in the book where you talk about going back to work after your first child. And I think it highlights just how little help there is for new mothers who are trying to balance parenthood with their work. Can you share that story with us and how that brought you to the work you currently do?

Tiffany Dufu (38:04):

Yes. So I think we’re talking about just the opening of the book and Drop the Ball. It was so interesting because the editor that I just mentioned that Glennon and I share her name is Whitney Frick. And I had written that story, but not to open the book with. And she insisted that, that be the beginning of the book. And I felt that it was just too much for those of you who haven’t read Drop the Ball, which is most of you out there. It’s basically the story of my first day back to work. I was nursing my baby after three months of being at home and I had, so I thought arranged for a place to pump milk. On my first day back to the office, I was quite preoccupied with trying to prove myself. It was actually a new job. So I wasn’t going back to a previous role.

Tiffany Dufu (38:59):

It was a new organization and I was trying to get up to speed. And in the wake of going from meeting to meeting, I neglected to pump milk for longer than what I had done while I was on maternity leave and basically turned into a huge disaster. I mean, milk started coming through my beautiful silk blouse and into my suit. And then I tried to figure out where I was going to pump. It turns out where I was supposed to pump was not a real place. I ended up having to pump milk in the bathroom, but I wasn’t experienced with pumping milk when your breasts were really, really, really large and engorged. And it was just a big mess. I ended up having to express the milk into the toilet in the bathroom in order to just relieve myself. It was horrible. It was really, really b

Tiffany Dufu (39:51):

By the way that is illegal now. Employers are required to provide a clean and reasonable place for women to pump. I truly hope that women today do not have… I’m sounding like I’m so old, but that more women have a place to pump their milk. But it was the most daunting experience for me as somebody who thought I was going to be going back to work and it was going to be so picture perfect. And really that was the beginning of the disaster for me of trying to manage everything and not quite being prepared for what that meant.

Tori Dunlap (40:31):

That had to feel so isolating too, because not only are all of these things happening that are a first for you, right? First time parent trying to figure out how to go back to work. But you’re also going back to work to a place where you don’t know anybody. So it’s not like you’re going to your best friend at work, and your favorite coworker and being like, hi, I have an emergency in the bathroom. I need you. You can’t do that. You don’t have that relationship. You don’t have that rapport yet. Oh man. I’m sorry.

Tiffany Dufu (40:56):

No, no. That’s exactly right. In fact, every time somebody came into the bathroom, I would be looking under the door whose shoes are those? Who is that person? And do they know that it’s me in here? It’s my first day on this new job.

Tori Dunlap (41:11):

And I think our work at Financial Feminist is committed to not just like, how do we give you resources to better your money personally. But of course, how do we change the systems that exist? And this is the two part issue, a very minor of you personally, trying to figure out how am I going to manage both? But the larger issue being, how do we build a society and a system that helps you manage both? And that you’re not having to worry about where you’re pumping. You’re not having to worry about being judged for lactating. You’re not having to worry about being judged for figuring out this new environment, coming back from work, paid leave all of these things. So it’s, oh man, that’s a hell of a story.

Tori Dunlap (41:56):

And what do you feel? Were there little moments of that kind of story or feeling that panic throughout raising your first kid or especially in the early days? Because I imagine that had to be obviously something that you remember, and it was so significant for you of course, that you started your book with it. But I imagine there were tiny moments too that, that was not just a siloed experience.

Tiffany Dufu (42:20):

Well, sure. First of all, I did not want to start the book with that. I didn’t want to start it with that story. I’ll tell you why, because it felt too particular to me, it felt too specific. Yes. Because it’s a very specific experience to be expressing your breast milk into a toilet. And I just thought there’s a small group of people who will really understand the drama and then the feeling of that. But it turns out that specificity is really important when you’re storytelling, and when you want to make a point, and when you’re trying to create change in the world. So I would say, there were several moments where I felt a sense of anxiety where my relationship with my partner was really challenged because I felt a sense of resentment, but I’m one of those, someone described it.

Tiffany Dufu (43:17):

I’m recording a podcast a few weeks ago. And at the end it was a psychologist, he says that I had, what did he call it? Pronoia. He said, you have pronoia. I was like, what is that? He was like, well, do you know what paranoia is? And I’m like, yeah, it’s this belief that people are out to get you, that the universe is conspiring to destroy you or something. And he was like, yeah, you have the opposite. You actually believe deep down inside that the universe is conspiring to support you and to help you win. And I said, it’s not? And he was like, exactly, that’s exactly what I mean. So I will spiral downward. But I also have, remember because my mother used to look at me in my eyes every day and tell me you’re so smart. You’re so beautiful. You’re so loved. I have this gift of also being able to pull myself out of that or more importantly, go to other people who I can talk to and who can help pull me out of it.

Tiffany Dufu (44:28):

One of the most important conversations I had when I was having such a difficult time was with a mentor who was talking to me about resentment. And I was talking to her about what was happening with my husband and me feeling this sense of resentment. And she said to me, something I’ll never forget. She said, Tiffany resentment is like you drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. That, oh my gosh, I had never heard that before. And she said, you are eating yourself up alive. And you’re casting a lot of blame when you’ve really got to turn your energy toward figuring out what is the solution and how you’re going to move forward in a productive way. If you intend on being a good mom. And if you intend on having a healthy partnership, and if you intend on fulfilling your potential in the world.

Tori Dunlap (45:23):

I think about the same thing of forgiveness is not for the person you’re forgiving, it’s for you. It’s the release of the anger and the frustration and the resentment around that. It’s like, all right, you know what? I’m moving on. Regardless of if this person deserves forgiveness or not, or wants it or ac
cepts it or is going to do anything with it. It’s more for you than for them. Oh, I love that. The poison resentment quote. We talked about this experiment of course, of dropping the ball. Where do you see it failing? Where do you see people not able to do that? Is it a lack of communication? Is it giving up to you soon? Is it something else? Where do you see this experiment not being able to be used to its full potential?

Tiffany Dufu (46:10):

In one way, I see it failing when people don’t have the first step of what matters most to them. So if you don’t have clarity about what you should be doing, then it’s really hard to drop the ball on anything anywhere else, because otherwise you will just continuously feel a sense of guilt for not having moved yourself forward. And what happens to us is that we have our roles, we have values and performance that we assign to the role. If I want to be a good mom, I want to nurture my child. And then we have all of these behaviors associated with those values, associated with that role. One of the ones that I mentioned was physical presence being a behavior that’s often associated with this value of being a nurturing mom, a good mom. And what curating your own job description does is it allows you to associate a new set of behaviors to the values that you hold dear.

Tiffany Dufu (47:19):

For me being a good mom, the behavior that I associate with the nurturing is having that meaningful conversation, which doesn’t take me more than sometimes 10 minutes and I can do it on FaceTime from wherever I am in the world. If I’m traveling. It doesn’t require my physical presence. For me, a behavior that I associate with being a nurturing mom is being a breadwinner, is working outside of the home, is providing financial security for my family and for my children. I associate that with being a good mom. And so one of the failings is not doing the work to reassign the behaviors and then constantly feeling this sense of guilt because we’re out of alignment with our own integrity. That is just a death nail to dropping the ball. The other is putting the cart before the horse and focusing on other people picking up the ball more than you dropping the ball. So we’ll do a fake delegation. We’ll say, oh, can you do this?

Tiffany Dufu (48:29):

And sometimes we don’t even really do it. We do what I call imaginary delegation. Imaginary delegation is when you assign someone a task, you fully expect them to complete this task, but you don’t actually tell them. But when they do it off spec where they don’t know what at all, you’re really upset. You’re furious. And then sometimes common sense will prevail. And you’ll say to yourself, well, Tiffany, you never told him to take out the recycling. You never asked him to do that. You never asked her to take notes in the meeting, but then we snap back at common sense. Well, can’t he see the recycling needs to be taken out? I mean, it’s just, am I the only person who can see that? When I was an associate, I knew that it was my job to take notes in the meeting. Why do I have to tell her to take notes in the meeting? And that can often be a barrier to you dropping the ball is not effectively communicating to other people what it is that you need from them. Those are just two.

Tori Dunlap (49:36):

I thought when you said fake delegating, you were going to go to, because I am guilty of this sometimes. And I’m trying to be better at it as somebody who runs a company is saying, okay, you’ve got it. And then I go in and I micromanage it or I go in because I feel like I can’t let it go yet. And so I go in and I’m like, I sneak in and I’m like, hello, this is happening. And they’re like, yeah, I got it. And I’m like, okay. Do you have it? I don’t know if you have it right. I do that shit a lot.

Tiffany Dufu (50:02):

Yes. So that’s where our ego really has got to be managed. It’s not the person that needs to be managed. It’s really our ego. When I say that with all generousness to all of us who care about excellence, is that there are so many different ways to do things. And we only know our way and we get so caught up in it being done our way. But you would be so surprised at how innovation and new things can really take hold when you really do let it go, when you really do drop a ball. And the challenge is that it’s never going to happen in the beginning. So when you first do it’s going to be all messed up, but you got to give it some time.

Tori Dunlap (50:54):

If I’m a listener and I’m sitting here and I’m going all of this sounds great. However, I have control issues or I am terrified of letting all of these things go or giving them to somebody else, what do you have to say to them?

Tiffany Dufu (51:08):

I would say, if that’s serving you, keep at it, if that’s serving you. But if you feel it’s not serving you, if you are not getting enough sleep at night, because you’re up with your to-do list, going through your head. If you’re feeling a sense of anxiety, if you’re constantly feeling like I’m so overwhelmed and I can’t do it all, and that’s having a negative impact on your own personal wellbeing, or it’s having a negative impact on your relationships with other people, because you’re snapping at them and it’s causing tension or problems. At some point the stakes will become so high and the consequences of not letting go will become so high, that you will be forced to do something. And so I think there’s a level of self-awareness that we all have to have around how long we can manage before we’re going to have to step in and do something differently.

Tiffany Dufu (52:16):

So it’s really about how bad do you want something new? Remember if you want something that you’ve never had
before, you’re going to have to do something that you’ve never done before in order to get it. So I would say to the person, if that’s working for you, if there’s not anything that you’re trying to realize or achieve, for which that is a barrier or blocker, keep at it. I was all that for a long time in my life, even juggling all those balls, but then I hit a breaking point. And what’s most important for me is that when somebody hits that breaking point, that they don’t bottom out.

Tori Dunlap (52:56):

Tell us about The Cru and tell us about your work. I’m so excited to hear about it.

Tiffany Dufu (53:02):

The Cru. The Cru is my company. We match women in accountability circles to help them realize their life goals. So literally we’ll match you with a group of seven other women who are peers. You decide what you want to realize in your life. Whether it’s a promotion, whether it’s I want to start a meditation practice, I want to build a financial plan for myself. I want to run a 5k, whatever it is for you, you upload those goals we call them intentions into our digital tracking tool with actions against them. And you meet with your crew once a month and you all support one another in moving those intentions forward. We are 90% more likely to realize a goal if we have one, written it down or recorded it somewhere. And number two, if we have regular check-ins with one or more people in our lives in order to hold our feet to the fire.

Tiffany Dufu (54:02):

And what often happens with a lot of what I call women in the middle, who are probably listening right now is that we spend quite a bit of our time caregiving, and not just caregiving for children, caregiving for parents, caregiving, for dogs, caregiving and cats and teens and bosses. And once you hit a certain threshold, you get so busy caring for others that sometimes our own ambitions and our dreams get put on the back burner. So for me, The Cru was just that whisper in a woman’s ear, that what you want to accomplish, what you want to realize, I want to support you in doing that. You’re so smart. You’re so loved. You’re so beautiful. You can do this.

Tori Dunlap (54:47):

Tiffany, thank you for being here. This episode is so valuable. I am going to go do some homework after this conversation. Where can folks find you and connect with you?

Tiffany Dufu (54:57):

Absolutely. They should definitely go to thecru.com and it’s spelled C-R-U. You can also find me, my Insta is tdufu. You can find me on LinkedIn at Tiffany Dufu thanks to my husband. I think I’m the only Tiffany Dufu in the world. I’m pretty easy to find.

Tori Dunlap (55:18):

I love it. Thank you for being here.

Tiffany Dufu (55:20):

Thank you for having me.

Tori Dunlap (55:24):

Thank you again to Tiffany for joining us for this episode. You can learn more about Tiffany and her incredible organization. The Cru, spelled C-R-U in our episode, show notes. As always thank you for listening and please subscribe, rate and review the show. It is so important to us and it helps us continue to bring on amazing guests like Tiffany. And we are getting closer and closer to the book launch for Financial Feminist. In case you missed it, I wrote a book also called Financial Feminist that is available for pre-order wherever you get your books. Not only in a hard cover edition, but also ebook and audiobook read by yours truly. And I’m just dreaming about the day where y’all get to have your hands on it. I’m so excited. Thank you for your support of the show. Thank you for your support of Her First $100K. And we’ll catch you later finance feminists.

Tori Dunlap (56:08):

Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, a Her First $100K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap produced by Kristen Fields. Marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Alena Helzer, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Conning and Ana Alexandra. Research by Ariel Johnson, audio engineering by Austin Fields, promotional graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolfe and theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests, episode show notes and our upcoming book also titled Financial Feminist visit herfirst100k.com.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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