Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Suit Up

Yesterday after work I dropped off some items for a charity fundraiser for my kids' school to a mom whose daughter is in Ned and Penny's pre-K class.

We chitchatted a few minutes and since I was dropping off items that are branded the company I work at I mentioned that I was in-house counsel at said company. "Oh!" she said enthusiastically, "I used to be a lawyer too!"

She asked me what I did for childcare.  I made a joke about being able to have a cup of coffee uninterrupted at work. She mentioned not being able to have an important phone call while schlepping the kids in her minivan.

After a few more minutes of parenting jokes/comments I clicked away in my heels to my car and drove off to get home in time for bedtime antics.

I wondered what that woman thought about me that night. Did she think about her life choices? Did I feel a little too smug about my work challenges I spent the day on instead of mediating constant sibling fighting?

People who are friends with me on Facebook know I am a huge proponent of women in the workforce and how to fit in it on existing terms (less about how to "change" the system). I think a lot about disadvantages/advantages of being a working parent vs. a stay at home parent. I make my choice to work evaluating all those ups and downs because I think deep down I recognize that if I *had* to (or wanted to) I could stay home (does my husband think that about himself too?). Some women don't have that choice so when I "suit up" for work I often feel like I have to be sure every day that the positives outweigh the negatives. Really being focused on my job and career is a choice I make, a check in the "Yes" I work box every day.

What choice are you making? Or do you feel like you have no choice? If you want my full view on working parent see this blog post - it is one I often reread to see if I still believe it. I do.


ElizabethEK said...

I also think about this topic ALL the time, and ask myself -- "Is this the right thing for me, and for my family?". (As you know, I work full time, with very very long hours.) I believe that women and men should be held to the same standard -- because in my opinion, both women and men are "giving up" time with their family when they work long hours. In the end, I don't believe that children are a woman's responsibility -- they are a family's responsibility.

I love these discussions!!!

LauraC said...

No surprise that I also love these discussions like Elizabeth! Um, since we were nerds together in high school.

We're still in a place where the positives of working far outweigh the negatives. I am also truly lucky in having a flexible enough schedule to be able to get the kids on the bus each morning and also be in their classrooms. When I think about not working, I think about the fact that I've got only 11 years left with them and then what?

At the same time, stay tuned as we have some big changes coming down the pipe in terms of Jon's job. He's reaching the point in a rising executive's career where he will have to decide whether to keep going up, which impacts our daily life. Any more travel than he currently has and I'm not sure the positives outweigh the benefits for our situation.

Anonymous said...

EEF here: Literally just had a conversation with D about how our quality of life would suffer significantly if I were not a SAHM. I understand it is isn't this way for everyone, but we are far happier, healthier and less stressed family with a parent home full time. I also make a concerted effort to talk openly about the positives of my decision to stay home, not just because I really love what I do and work very hard to succeed in my 'job', and not just because I know how lucky I am to even have a choice, but also because I think that in our demographic of highly-educated, highly motivated women, mothers who decide to stay at home rarely receive the same support and "mentorship" (for lack of a better word) as those who decide to reenter the workforce.

In terms of changing the system vs fitting in with the status quo: I do think we need a sea change so that the "choice" debate isn't just for a privileged few.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I am tired of all of the recent media coverage of work-life balance issues. As you indicated in your piece, each mother who has an option of staying at home has to weigh the pros and cons of her choices. I think the decision to stay-at-home, work a reduced schedule, or work a full schedule is a personal choice for every woman who has it. I know on the days I don't work and I see mothers running off to work, I typically count my blessings that I don't have to rush off to a meeting and miss out on snuggles with my child. On the days I work, I typically count my blessings that I get some time to myself, even if it is by the coffee machine at my office (where I enjoy more peace and quiet than I ever can at home).
So no matter what choice you are making about work, there are pros and cons to it. Focus on the pros! :-) I do know that my decision to spend more time with my family has affected my professional career, but I know I will never regret it. I will find a way to advance in the future, but my son will only be little for a short period of time.

Susan said...

Interesting topic. I didn't have a choice. Well, I guess I did in that having kids is a choice. My employment when my kids were born was not close, long hours and a lot of responsibility. Did I enjoy it? I certainly thought so prior to having kids. However, due to our circumstances at the time, even cutting every corner possible, I needed to work and not enjoying it. I, certainly didn't understand it completely while pregnant, but if given a choice, I would have stayed home at least until school. Our children are young once. And even though I hated hearing mom say this while I was in the trenches, it really does good lightening speed. With that said, I agree with some above, it is such a personal choice (if you have a choice). Some moms are better parents if they are working while others prefer the work of home. As I have gotten older, I so appreciate that what is good for one home is not for the other. I really do agree with anon above that whether you have a choice or not, for the sake of your sanity and that of your family, focus on the good and make sure you are in a job you love.