In the Mom World there is a long standing polarity between Working Moms (WM) and Stay at Home Moms (SAHM). While on the playground, sprinting from child to child to cover whichever twin is at the greatest risk of serious injury I occasionally have the opportunity to squeeze a side conversation in here or there with a fellow adult. Inevitably the topic will come up, “Are you home with the kids?” The question here is whether I identify as a SAHM or WM. As a twin mom there seems to be a common assumption that we stay home to provide childcare. I would guess those with 2 under 2 are also grouped in the same camp. Sure, if I take the kiddos to the park at 10am on a Wednesday the question never comes up as my presence basically speaks for itself. It’s only the after-hours or weekend outings where this comes up.
My question is, why does it have to be one or the other? As professionals and moms, what are our other options? I’ve personally struggled with this question since having my littles and am getting creative with my testing. Have I cracked the code? No, but do I wish to connect with likeminded women and band together to share resources and support one another? ABSOLUTELY!
Before having children I was a proud professional. I assumed that after my maternity leave I would gladly leap back into my exciting career and feel secure with our daycare provider. Cut and dried. Fast forward to once my sweet babies were in my arms, I never wanted to leave them and my concept of self was rocked.
I tried to return to work full time, I really did but I was miserable. I couldn’t stand the idea of missing out on my children discovering the world and supporting building the foundational blocks of their self-identities. I desperately wanted to be there through the precious youngest years and felt it was critical to avoid my own regrets, for their development and for the health of our family. I loved being a professional but I knew to my core that I needed to be a present mom, both physically and mentally.
Considering the path of Stay At Home Moms (SAHM) also felt daunting. In my mind these women have the hardest yet most valuable jobs which often tend to be undervalued by our society. They are dedicating themselves to raising the next generation of hopefully grounded, well-rounded, moral and caring beings. Historically I’d obtained so much of my confidence from being a professional rockstar that I worried about the impact on my emotional well-being and my career if I focused on becoming a primary caregiver. Would I just become another statistic of the wage gap? Happy wife happy life and if mom isn’t happy then no one is.
Next, I tried Having It All. I negotiated a flexible work schedule with some remote time. My schedule looked like strategically divided voting districts. I was scheduled up the wazoo in order to accomplish what was necessary at work and then to try spend enough time with my children. Having It All resulted in misery. In between working and “mom-ing” I had no time for myself or my husband. When you try to do everything you end up not doing anything well. I didn’t have the headspace to dedicate myself to my demanding role at work. I also felt guilty that the demands of work invaded my home life. Leaning in professionally while trying to balance a young family is like being on the front line when the rubber meets the road, feeling the pain of road rash. Yes, it is driving change for future generations to benefit from but is oh-so painful for those moms in the now.
“We tell women to lean in. Because of course, it’s our fault for not taking initiative. Fuck you. I’m leaning so far in I’m falling flat on my face.”Having It All Kinda Sucks
I am not trying to write another article about the struggles of trying to maintain a full-time professional career while also being a present mom. These exceptional women have it well covered:
- Having It All- And Hating It – The Atlantic
- Having It All Kinda Sucks – Huffington Post
- Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – The Atlantic
“Stop telling women they can have everything without sacrificing anything. Here’s the truth: You want to have a career and kids? You totally can, but both will suffer. You will never feel like are you devoting enough time to either. You will never feel like you are good enough at either. You will never get time off (at least for the first several years). You will always be choosing between things that need your attention, and you will almost never choose yourself. You will be judged for nearly every move you make and you will never measure up to anyone else’s expectations.”Having It All Kinda Sucks
My question is, is there another option? Is there a way of Walking the Line in order to be a present and dedicated mother but not to press pause on a rewarding career? I know we all want to have our cake and eat it too but think about it. If roughly half our population is female and the majority of women have children, this same challenge will affect a significant portion of our workforce as some point in time. In addition, childhood is roughly defined as the first 18 years of life. 18 YEARS, or even half that, is a long time to potentially remove that mom from the workforce.
My thoughts are this: I may not want to work full time for the next few years but I definitely want to work part time and to be available and present for my family. With raising children you either put the work and time in parenting while they’re young or you’ll definitely pay for it later. I have a specialized skillset and modesty aside, I am really great at what I do AND I love doing it. I’m a partial resource amongst many other incredibly skilled partial resources which means there is a lot of skilled power waiting to be harnessed. Unfortunately, unless you are a server or an Uber driver the part-time job market is woefully unequipped to do anything about it.
37% of women with children prefer to work full-time and 62% percent prefer to work part-timePew Research Center, “Fewer Mothers Prefer Full-Time Work”
“In her book Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter pointed out that a country without maternity leave and flexible work hours for mothers pushes many women either to abandon their children to the care of others when they rather would not do so or to abandon their work.
The corporate and professional worlds are missing an opportunity to retain talented women who, if given the choice, would remain involved in their careers, even if they lowered their intensity in the early years of raising their children.”
Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters
I don’t have the answer yet whether Walking the Line can work but I intend to find out. I’d love to hear the thoughts and progress of my comrades in arms. We’re moms, we’re incredibly efficient and we get sh*t done! Where there’s a will there’s a way. Let’s figure this out together. How can our job market harness the power of partial resources or “Parent Resources” for an equally beneficial arrangement?
Jackie Semmens writes a great article in Motherly, Is Part-Time Employment the Ideal Situation for Working Parents? where she gives a frank assessment of the pro’s and con’s of the part-time market which correlate with my own findings. Is there an opportunity to look at the Supply & Demand equation in our current job market. There is a surplus of highly skilled employees looking for less than full-time work. Is there a demand? With the unemployment rate hovering around 4% my gut says yes but that there’s not enough of an established vehicle to harness it.
As a test case myself, I see my professional specialty being remarkably suited to part-time, contract roles: I am project manager by trade. By definition a project is a unique and temporary endeavor with a beginning and an end, making project management an ideal career for exactly this case. If I am having challenges identifying opportunities for skilled part-time work with this incredibly suited skillset I would be interested to hear about the progress my fellow comrades have made.