I’ve read several articles recently that have stuck in my brain, and the more I think about them, the more they irritate me. I’m not in the habit of tearing down anyone’s opinion, so I will not link out to these articles, but I would like to offer my own perspective.
Ladies, let’s consider this: “all” is defined by each individual person. If you think “women can’t have it all,” it’s time you redefined what “all” is.
For some, it’s a career at home.
For others, it’s a career at a company.
You can’t work for 20 hours, spend 2 hours doing housework, take an hour and forty-five minutes to cook a gourmet meal, play with your family for 4 hours, work out for 90 minutes, sleep for 8 hours and cram it all into one day. The math doesn’t add up. So if your work requires that much time, no, you can’t have free time outside of work (or get the proper amount of sleep). That does NOT mean you can’t have work and a home life, that means you need to adjust your current position to work less hours or find a job that doesn’t require that many hours.
This does not solely apply to working moms, this applies to anyone trying to achieve a work/life balance. It comes down to time management. You have 24 hours per day. How do you want to spend those hours? Set your priorities, then adjust your schedule.
Some women’s version of success is spending 90% of their waking hours working at a job, and being at the top. Still others’ version is keeping an immaculate home, and they spend time and money decorating and creating amazing DIY projects. Some moms are focused on health and fitness, and take their time to exercise and learn to cook healthy meals. It’s all in our priorities and making choices to spend the time on those priorities.
As women, and mothers, we have the freedom to make the decisions that are best for us and our families. With the right support system and career choices, women can strike a balance between work and home if they wish, and many do. And with the right support system and career choices, women can strike a balance and stay at home if they wish, and many do.
I have it “all”: a happy marriage, a house I love, a happy and well-adjusted child, another baby on the way and fulfilling career. That’s my definition of “all.” So, reading from women who say that having a career and being a mom is impossible without making major sacrifices really ticks me off, because I completely disagree. Also, I’m not saying this is the right choice for everyone. I’m saying it’s the right choice for me. When I started feeling mom-guilt about taking my baby to day care, my mother, whom I obviously love and admire said to me, “Your generation overthinks too much. We just went to work, and then we came home. No one thought twice about it.” I guess in the pre-Facebook, pre-blog, pre-media-mommy-wars-hype, pre-Pinterest age, there was no vicious cycle of comparison to make women question every choice. That must have been nice to use dial-up phones connected to a wall, read articles printed on paper, and type up documents on computers that could little more than word processing.
Here are the reasons why working is the right choice for me – and if you’re a working mom who gets that twinge of mom guilt about being away from home, especially if you’re a new mom, let me add a positive perspective:
Things to be happy about if you’re a working mom
Please note that this list does not advocate being a working mom, nor am I trying to get in on the “mommy wars” debate which I think is odd. I’m not saying these are the right choices for every mom. This is a list of things that make me confident in my personal choice to work and have children. Offline, with the people that I comment to verbally, face to face, rather than in writing – no one cares if I work or if I stay at home or judges me harshly for my decisions. Being a working mom is NOT abnormal anymore. It’s just not. Neither is opting to stay at home. I think the stay-at-home v. working mom debate may just be an online war. Again: each mom makes their own choices, and if they have confidence in those choices, they’ll be the best mom they can be.
1. Enjoying the work. I love my job. Seriously. I am happy. Are there times that I feel stressed out? Sure. Are there times I feel like I could be a better mom? Sure. Of course. (Sidenote: If you don’t love your job, perhaps the positives of having a job are outweighed by daily stresses at your job – it’s time to find a new one. Been there, done that. When I did not love my job, I started to think that I wanted to stay at home. Really, I just wanted to escape a toxic work environment.)
2. Having access to excellent child care & school. We love his school. When I get off on the track of looking at Pinterest sensory activities and science experiments I’m not doing, I think, “he’s got a wonderful school for those activities.” And rather than spend my time going to Michael’s trying to get 12 craft ingredients, I could take him to the park or do a puzzle on the floor and he’ll be just as happy. It’s all about the time we spend together.
3. Our children’s active schedules are spent with different, loving caretakers. Every morning, my son knows I’m going to work and it’s time for him to go to school. He doesn’t think I’m abandoning him for the day and he doesn’t sit around contemplating, ‘Why did my mother choose to be a working mom?” He has school to go to, and learn and play Ninja Turtles with his friends on the playground. Building a network of caretakers for our children when we’re working is essential to overall sanity and happiness. Mine involves my husband (obviously), my amazing in-laws, my parents, and his school. My in-laws pick him up early every single day from school in the afternoon so they can play with him, so he spends afternoons eating apple slices, playing on the beach, and playing with them. My parents visit frequently and take him for visits to WV. As a result, our child is extremely adaptable and goes with the flow because he’s always around people that want to play with him (he has a loyal legion of adoring fans). And believe me, I know we are very, very blessed. I love this post from Pepper Design Blog about her network of helpers, Village.
4. Our time with our children is spent doing fun activities. Having balance by heading off to work each day means I am very excited to see my son each evening. This does not mean I’m fresh-faced and ful of exuberant energy at the end of each work day… but I love our evenings of dinner time, play time, and night night time. (Talk to me in 6 months when I have a newborn, and I’m sure I won’t be able to speak a coherent sentence… haha) And the weekends are so much fun, even though my husband says I try to cram too much into our time.
5. We have a sense of accomplishment from meeting goals and learning. As I said, I love my career. I like that I have my own tasks, goals, and network. I like being involved in the community, and I like working on creative projects. I like the sense of accomplishment I get from a challenging job: meeting deadlines, writing articles, working on new projects, and constantly learning. Yes, I have a paycheck that supports my family, but that’s not the sole reason I make the decision to continue to work, and will continue to work when Mary Chase arrives in March.
6. We are role models for our children and other women. Having a positive and confident attitude about work and a career is important to instill the value of hard work in our children – and showing our children that they can make the choices that make the most sense for them, too. As the daughter of an attorney mother with a solid political career, my mom was able to strike the balance in me that hard work, a good education, and being a good employee were important. She taught me the basics – and never pushed me to follow her career path (although she really wanted me to go to law school… probably should have taken her up on furthering my education, but I knew it ALL at the age of 22…) She taught me the importance of dressing professionally, being at work on time, being honest, doing the best job I can do and not being a slacker. She never belittled my musings on being a stay at home mom, just spoke with me pragmatically about it while I concluded that I wanted to continue to work, and then has been a cheerleader of those related choices since then. I hope to be the same sounding board for my own children – especially now that I will have my own daughter! (!)
So, take a deep breath, mamas, and remember: yes, you can have it “all,” as long as your all is attainable and realistic. Adjust your expectations for yourself. Know your strengths and talents. Have confidence in your choices. And for the sake of your sanity, don’t compare yourself to other people’s best that they post on Facebook.