A Working Mom’s Wakeup Call

Back when I was single and childless, I got into a heated discussion with my future brother-in-law (also single and childless) in a cab on the way home from a bar one night. I don’t remember how we got into it, but we were discussing whether mothers should work or stay home to raise their children.

With the self-righteous conviction that only clueless 20-somethings can have, we were both convinced that we were completely right. My BIL was firmly in the SAHM camp; I was staunchly in favor of working moms.

Boy, was it a cruel wakeup call when I found out the issue wasn’t that black-and-white. I suppose I could’ve looked around the global media company where I was working then and noticed not a single person I knew was a mother of young kids.

There was a pregnant woman (what ever happened to her?) and there was one with school-age kids who lasted less than a year. But that’s it. In fact, the 3 most senior women in my department were all childless.

Marriage and kids weren’t even on my radar at that point, so I didn’t give it much thought. Though I do remember thinking that the on-site daycare they bragged about in those “best places to work” articles was kind of a joke. I’d heard ours was pricey and had a year-long waiting list.

That job was a bad fit for me for many reasons, not least of which was that while I ostensibly was hired for my editorial experience, I wrote almost nothing. Just a lot of e-mails and memos. I was essentially a highly-paid meeting attendee.

So when I got married and had a baby, I wasn’t all gung-ho to be that corporate working mom I’d argued so strenuously for in my 20’s. I’d found a nice little niche as a freelance writer and I got to spend time with my baby. And then I encountered another round of wakeup calls. Like how hard it was to work around a baby’s schedule and drum up assignments I could do from home. Also hard? Finding part-time affordable childcare.

Even now, years later, when I’ve finally found some semblance of balance, I am shocked at:

a) how many people think I don’t “really” work because I’m self-employed, don’t go to an office, and have irregular hours;

b) ask when I plan to get a “real job” (as if I could just waltz out and command a lucrative, flexible staff position in my field whenever I felt like it);

c) how many people still think staying home with your children full-time or working outside the home full-time are the only 2 options for moms.

This is all a long wind-up to telling you about an amazing new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood It delves into all these issues and more, backed up by new research and extensive interviews with all sorts of working moms — doctors, lawyers, pretzel entrepreneurs, mom bloggers, web-TV hosts.

I devoured my advance copy in 3 days. In another post, I’ll tell you more about the book. But for now, I’m happy just to report that it assured me I’m not crazy, I’m not alone, and I don’t have to choose between 2 oversimplified options that don’t fit my life.

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: “I don’t believe the world owes me a living, although for the amount I make, an apology would be nice.” — Unknown


Angie Mizzell said…

Sounds like my kind of book! I, too, thought I knew a lot about parenting and the type of working mother I was going to be… before I had kids. I thought I'd be in LA hosting an entertainment show and the kids would have full-time child care. I had no idea I'd be self-employed and keeping the kids home with me (almost) full-time. Back in those days, I also said my kids would never come before my spouse.

Carrie said…

Great post. So true. Can't wait to read your review of the book!

Adrienne Gomer said…

I feel the same way. Before my daughter was born I KNEW I'd be a working mom and she'd be in daycare. I now have been at home for almost 3 years. Although I do watch a friend of mine's daughter during the week (because she's a career mom) and her daughter and mine are the same age and they pay me a much smaller amount than they would a daycare, but enough that it gives us a little extra income so that I can be at home. It's a win-win, but it's still a LOT more work than I ever did in an office. And technically I'm getting paid, so it is a job, right?

It’s Not Like a Cat said…

Yeah, I thought those were the only two options, too. And now I am trying to work part-time from home, with 2 kids (and, thankfully, some childcare). I'm shocked at how everyone thinks it is so easy to work from home–"Oh, how nice for you!" As if my kids nap at the same time or play independently or the older one isn't trying to sit on the baby's head or the baby's not trying to sit on the cat or as if I can actually work at home when I DO have a sitter (I cannot–I have to leave and go work from a cafe b/c I don't have an actual office at home).
*sigh* This mom thing is hard, isn't it?

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said…

I'm SO with you on points A, B, and C!!! It's strange, the things people think of WAHMs. Also, LOVE that quote o' the week! So funny.

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