Dr. Barbara Cox

Recently, I had an interesting experience that made me pause and reflect on something important to me. I was meeting a friend for coffee and we started discussing my book proposal about women, work, and the balance of relationships. 

After listening to me describe my book, my friend drew a funny little diagram (hers is the one that is circled). Here’s the actual drawing of the diagram to the right. It’s a little wonky because it was just scribbled on a piece of scratch paper, but the concept is absolutely spot on.

The diagram, she said, shows how we as women structure our subconscious in such a way that we don’t consciously realize we’re putting our partner and children above ourselves, and our work or career becomes a distant third.

It absolutely amazed me that my friend spontaneously came up with this diagram because she herself is divorced and hasn’t had kids, but she saw this pattern as an observer of other friends in relationships. 

The Problem & The Solution

We called her diagram “the problem set” and then I drew a “solution set” with the woman in the center of her universe and 3 spokes, each equi-distant from the woman – her kids, her partner, and her career – in a dynamic equilibrium.

Now I myself have a kid and a spouse and work, so when I wrote this, even I felt my subconscious knee-jerk reaction say, “Oh, that’s so controversial.” But think about it… is it really?

Even in an emergency 32,000 feet in the air, the experts tell us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. They understand that we have to care for ourselves before we care for our kids or our partners (or even our pets). So why do we struggle to understand that?

As I sat and looked at our “problem set” and “solution set”, I heard the nagging voice in my head berate the idea… You can’t put yourself first… that’s so selfish… what will people think?!? 

The Controversy…?

I realized at that moment that we hit upon an important issue, one that needs to be addressed in a conscious aware manner. 

My friend and I both agreed that the healthiest and happiest women we knew that had partners and children that were healthy and happy as well, had reached some sort of dynamic equilibrium and balance. These women did put themselves first in their own internal universe.

It does sound controversial, but I’d like to hear from you… what do you think about this idea? And if you agree with it, how do you practice it in your own life?

*Originally published as Women and Work – Are You In the Center of Your Universe? on www.drcoxconsulting.com.


  • Barbara Cox, PhD

    Holistic Psychologist, Leadership Coach, and Business Consultant. Author of The Muse Process.

    Dr. Barbara Cox is a holistic psychologist, leadership coach, and business consultant. She started her career as a scientist, having earned a BA in Biology from the University of California, San Diego and working for the Department of Defense and top environmental consulting firms. Barbara went on to receive a PhD in Health Psychology from Alliant International University (AIU), with further training in hypnosis and peak performance coaching. Eventually, she ventured forth to study more transcendent subjects and to look at the larger meaning of life, beyond left-brained science. Barbara is on a mission to transform corporate cultures by helping leaders activate their intuition and establish a balance of the masculine energy (competition, individualism, and productivity) and feminine energy (collaboration, creativity, and vulnerability) within organizations. Barbara is the author of the forthcoming book, The Muse Process: Unleashing the Power of the Feminine for Success and FulfillmentLearn more about Barbara’s work at www.drcoxconsulting.com.