The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood and Work

In one of our Baby Groups, moms talked about “having it all” – or rather, debated the realities and the myths surrounding it. One working mother shared this poignant piece by Anne Marie Slaughter (read the full text over on The Atlantic), sparking an interesting debate in the group. This article summarizes snippets of this thought provoking topic and the hot button issues it presses.

 

 Please Note: Names have been removed to protect the privacy of our members

 

Feeling the pressures to work versus being a Stay At Home Mom:

 

“Yes, thanks so much for sharing the article. I've been thinking about it on and off since I read it. When we decided to move to NY and away from any realistic hope of my farming for a living (at least for now), I decided to give myself at least a year before trying to figure out my next career steps. Now that [my Son] is 3 1/2 months, though, I'm already feeling pressure to get the ball rolling - internal pressure, financial pressure, and oh, maybe a bit from society if that's not too trite to say.

The other day, [my Husband] made a comment about how my caring for [my Son] and our little home reminds him of the women who were prized in some of this favorite novels. In the context of our relationship, I know what he said was meant lovingly. He knows I doubted my motherly instinct going into this child-rearing thing and suspects, as I do, that I will one day be the breadwinner again. To the outsider, though, it could be interpreted as degrading. This isn't 19th century Russia; in the U.S. in 2012 I'm just unemployed.

Don't get me wrong - it's not just about others' perspectives - I am aching for an intellectual challenge. Despite attempts to get out of the house daily, the facts are that I have few friends here and my primary responsibility is to take care of our little one. I feel lucky that I get to spend this quality time with our son but simultaneously wish I didn't have a resume suited for a job that wouldn't cover the cost of childcare. Like others, I would probably feel guilt either way. If back at work, part of me would wish I could be with [my Son]; at home, I feel embarrassed to say out loud that being with him all day isn't enough.

IT sometimes feel like it's lose-lose no matter what, doesn't?

Either we're supposed to be totally okay with ditching years, sometimes decades, of hard work and education and brainpower and expected to find total and complete fulfillment in this new tiny person, or we're supposed to go back to work and do it all.

(Which is not to say staying at home doesn't feel fulfilling, AT ALL, but just an acknowledgement that even for those who choose it, it's not a simple, easy choice).”

 

And what about the point of view from fathers?

 

I wholeheartedly agree with wondering about the male response to this.

[My Husband] and I actually got into one of our common... tussles... about this last night. I have a work from home job with no commute, in a field I love, that uses all my skills/brains, that's contract work but almost full time, where for the 12-18 months of my contract I typically earn as much, if not more, than my last cubicle job (which I hated, although the work was mostly the same). I have a full day off with the baby every week, I still have some time to write (my first passion, and job). And there's some flexibility in the days I work. But [my Husband] sees my erratic work schedule, the Sundays I always work, the lack of paid vacation time (though I took off more time last year than at any previous job, it just wasn't paid), the lack of benefits. I love my job and see it as a very large contributor to our ability to pull off baby, dog, Brooklyn, our lifestyle, and not make us all insane. He is frustrated by the schedule. How do you bridge those gaps when partners see it differently?

The other side of it – [my Husband] switched jobs, in a slightly downward move, to save his sanity and, let's be frank, possibly our family last year -- at his last job, he was out of town the majority of 6 months of the year, so I would have been an almost single parent half the year, and he had a very inflexible boss, to say the least. If he was working that job while I was pregnant, he likely would have been 3 hours away when I went into labor. So he's the one, in this case, who took a lateral move for when his child was young, and he definitely worries about what this could mean for his career in the long-term. And he specifically left his last job, in a field he was really passionate about, because they were so family-unfriendly. So I'll be curious to read the general response to this Atlantic article and hope it includes perspectives from the dads, too.

(And I would say I fit that mold as well. There have been job postings that in years past I would have leaped at, for the potential in greater experience, moving up the job ladder, possibly higher pay... but right now I'm really happy, and I think our schedules - weekends aside -- work so well with the new baby, that for the very first time in my life I'm not actively applying for new positions that interest me as they arise. I would rather continue as-is, hopefully building my freelance journalism and Web content business, and see how it plays out... an odd spot for me to be sure).

I've rambled on enough -- but I would love to hear not only what ya'll think of this piece, but how you all are handling the juggling act.

Who knows -- maybe we'll be writing the next chapter (hmmm.... another Slate pitch, perhaps?)”

 

What roles do the Media and Work Culture play in all this?

 


“I think what would make for an even more interesting article is our media's obsession with depicting different versions of motherhood (breastfeeding mom, working mom, single mom, MILF, high track mom, why women can't have it all). As my colleague at work pointed out, we would also like for men to be pulled into this dialogue and have them respond to how difficult or not difficult it is to have it all.

Ironically as I type this I am multi-tasking (reading this and strategizing for work on my notepad), my lovely husband is sound asleep, and I have come across Fast Company's List of the 100 Most Creative people in business and one of them is a recent mom who grew her company from 15 to 70 while she
was pregnant:  http://www.fastcompany.com/most-creative-people/2012/laura-mather

I would also like to paraphrase one of the Huffington Post readers who was responding to a re-write of the lengthier Atlantic article [the original poster] shared with us. Working moms have spent a lot of time contorting themselves to balance work and family, it's now time for companies to twist and contort themselves to make it work.

There is an interesting debate which continues on the Huff on this topic:
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-belkin/women-having-it-all_b_1611906.html.”

 

Stop feeling guilty:

 

“Probably many of us feel as though being with our wonderful infants, who we love and adore, is not "enough", especially if we had fulfilling careers/work before our babies were born. I stopped feeling bad about surfing the web, reading news, checking email and doing one-handed editing while nursing [my Son] because it's the only way I can get my stuff done and still exclusively breastfeed him, and he still eats at least every 2 hours! And I know it doesn't bother him, he's having a good time sucking away.”