'Good Enough is the New Perfect' Author Hollee Temple

As co-author of Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, Hollee Temple found she had to re-evaluate her career in law to gain order in her life.

Hollee Temple was a hard-working, straight-A student who had success on the brain from the start. She held herself to the highest standards, so no one was surprised when she landed a challenging job at a prominent Pittsburgh law firm.
However, after having her dream job for four years, Temple reached an unexpected turning point: Her vision of success was changing.

At the time, she was spending hours away from her husband and precocious, redheaded baby boy, wondering if it was worth it. “With law, time is the commodity,” Temple says. “And I knew I didn’t want to be a timekeeper.

“I looked around [the] law firm and saw that there were only a handful of women who had made it to the highest rung of partnership—and even fewer of them were mothers.”

To the shock of friends and colleagues, Temple quit her job and began teaching law at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va. In comparison, the job pays far less money and brings considerably less prestige. But the work is fulfilling, and her son—who now has an equally precocious younger brother—is thriving.

It was a hard transition, Temple says, but one she doesn’t regret. “It was a conscious decision on our part that we wanted to slow down.”

The biggest challenge was building a new life without a blueprint to follow. “Defining your own success,” she says, “that’s so hard for the Type As. We always got gold stars and the ‘A’ while in school.”

With all of the career and childcare options now available for women, we’re each charting a completely different course, and it’s difficult to figure out whether we’re succeeding, she says.

“We have to be the ones evaluating ourselves and saying we’re doing a good job,” she says, and women tend to be hard on themselves about that.

As she experienced all of this, Temple decided to collaborate with friend Becky Beaupre Gillespie on a book, Good Enough is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, that’s set to be released this month by Harlequin.

Interviewing women for the book helped Temple “make peace with [her] choices,” and it also showed her that women across the country are struggling to define what defines success in motherhood and in career life.

“There is all this mother guilt that so many women need to find a way to make peace with,” she says. “It’s a major reason I wanted to write the book: to see what was out there and to talk to moms who had successfully navigated this.”
What connection do you have to Pittsburgh?

I was born at Magee [-Womens Hospital of UPMC]. I went to Upper St. Clair High School [and] graduated in 1992. I went away to college then law school and moved back to Pittsburgh in 1999.

PM: Tell us about your job at WVU.
HT: I’m a professor at the law school, so I interact with students a lot. I’m there to be their champion, their mentor.

How has your career change impacted your family?

I drive a 2003 Honda, and we don’t go on a lot of fancy vacations. But we have a great life here, and our kids are thriving. We sit down to eat dinner together almost every night and talk about what the best parts of the day were and what our challenges were.

Was it hard to change your view of success?
It’s been a process for me. It’s not easy for me to modify or to deviate from that linear path I had always followed—straight and narrow to the top.

In the book, you talk about the new “mommy wars.” How have things changed?
For our moms, the choice was that they worked or they didn’t work; they didn’t have all these possibilities. For many of us, we’re so overwhelmed by the choice, and so many women [she interviewed for the book] said, “I feel so alone because my path isn’t like my friend’s path or her friend’s path.” With the new “mommy war,” each woman is fighting it in her own head because she doesn’t have a camp she can join—women are creatures of affinity.

What impact do you hope this book will have?
I hope women read it and say, “Phew, it’s not just me” because we do fight this war in our heads. It’s not good for kids to see us roiling in this storm of guilt and constantly overanalyzing.

What is your advice for women who are struggling to balance family and a career?
I think women are slowly waking up to the idea that we don’t have to have an all-or-nothing life where we work or don’t work. You have to [set] your priorities … .

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