While this question raises the ‘what ifs’ and ‘could bes’, it also illuminates a set of complex issues that many working mothers confront in the workplace. From problems like discrimination, failing to achieve a work/ life balance, mommy tracked and unrealistic expectations, this question points to the multifaceted realities of what motherhood is like as a working parent.
As one mother asked the PSP Career Networking Group:
“In the past five months since I've returned to work after birthing my daughter, I've been wrestling with many issues that I'm sure all you working moms have faced: job vs baby, what does "flexibility" really mean, getting mommy-tracked, how to even consider having a second child...
As I've spoken to mom-friends, a lot of them have revealed to me that they would look for a better/more interesting job (with potentially more advancement power) were it not for the fact that they a) currently have a baby in the house, and b) had the job since before the baby, and aren't ready to rock the well-known boat.
Don't know why this shocked me--maybe because I figure everyone has a better job than mine? But I'd really be interested in hearing what the community has to say on the matter.”
(Names, employers, some specifics and professions may have been changed or removed to protect the identity of those who shared their thoughts on this sensitive topic)
“What a great question for this group! I can say with complete certainty that I wouldn't be in the job I'm in right now if not for my children and sometimes I feel sad about that but I did it for quality of life and flexibility that allows me to be available when my kids want or need me. I am a therapist who worked my way up to supervisor in the medical field. I was responsible for patients and staff members. My start time was early and my end time could often change on a dime if a patient issue came up.
After my first child, now 6, I was able to negotiate a 4 day work week with longer hours. My husband and I made it work. When I had my second child, now 2, my boss wouldn't allow me to continue that work week and having 2 kids to juggle was just too hard with emergencies coming up at work.
I now work in a separate division and back end of the office. My hours are fixed and I have no actual or mental work to take home at the end of the day. My weekends are completely for my family. I really miss my old job and the reward that I got from it. I still get some reward and I do really enjoy most of the people I work with. Most of all, I enjoy NOT being the boss and NOT having the high level of responsibility that I had for so long.
I have pangs of regret at times, especially as my husband takes on jobs with more responsibility and more respect but I am there when my kids want me to be. That's what it's all about for me. Someday, maybe, I'll be able to get back to what I really loved....
For one mother being a working parent brings up feelings of selfishness:
“It's funny that you bring this up. I have 3 weeks left of my maternity leave for my first child and I've been thinking about going back to work quite a bit. When I left on maternity leave I had been looking at other positions at my company, and going back, my goal is to get to the next level in my department but part of me feels like it’s selfish because what if my hours get longer. In the end I know it's something I have to try for otherwise I won't be happy, and I'm sure I'm better for my child if I'm happy and would be a good role model to push to get to the next level. Also, the increase in salary would be incredibly helpful....but that all being said, I still feel like I'm being selfish. I think it's a balancing act that will never be perfect and each individual just has to figure out what type of balance they are comfortable with. The one thing that I have given up on is a career that I may be more interested in but wouldn't pay me enough. Don't know if this really answers your question, but something I've been struggling with in my head.
Dealing with the “Mommy Track” but not regretting it:
“I have what I tend to refer to as a "mommy job" b/c: 1) no one gives me a hard time for working mostly 9-5 and never weekends, 2) I can cut out whenever necessary for kid-related needs, and 3) I took a pay cut relative to my other options. I am a professional with an advanced degree (in other words, "more interesting" jobs are outside my field - hah!). If I didn't have a kid I'd be in a high stress / long hours job with a higher earnings/advancement path, and I can't tell you with any certainty that I'd be happier or more satisfied. In other words, no regrets. That said, it pisses me off that there has to be a choice.
One mother knows her career path would have been different:
“I have been in my present employment for 18 years! ONLY stayed there b/c the $ was good and the schedule even better, as I could work from home several days a week and could pretty much make my own schedule. The work is dull and I’d have left about 8 years ago when the learning curve ended.
You can’t have it all all the time, but you can most of the time. It’s all about balance the give and the take:
“I think this is a fascinating topic. We should all read up on what Sheryl Sandberg has been saying on the topic.
I feel I have taken an "in-between" path. I won't take a "mommy job" because it would make me mad. But I have turned down possible C-suite level jobs and settled for being a senior executive instead as I could not go "all-in". Yes I work hard. But as I head up my department I feel I have feel I have more freedom than middle management. I do interrogate all potential employers about work life issues, but I also try to grow my career as that is a good thing for my kids in the long run.
There is no easy answer here. I wish things were easier. But I do see too many women stepping out too soon and I don't think it is needed. You can't have it all all the time, but you can most of time. IMHO.”
And while one mother deals with sentiments of selfishness, another battles feeling of guilt:
“I try to keep everything in perspective and look at the big picture. A parent passed away recently and when you look back on your life, I don't think you'll ever regret making the decision to work less and spend more time with your kids and family. If you can "have it all" then by all means do, but I do not think it’s truly possible in most cases and I don't think there's any shame in stepping back and taking a breath.
I have a long hours, high stress job. My boss is AMAZING and has been more than willing to work with me to adjust to my "new normal" (1 baby, 9 months old) but there’s only so much wiggle room. My husband has a very flexible schedule which helps immensely, but the truth is...even with him "there" I still feel the guilt that I'm missing out and really only a mother on the weekends. I'm more of a mother to my job than my child, most of the time.
So yeah, at some point I may choose a different job to better fit a "mommy", but I don't think there will be any regrets.”
One mother wants to go for change rather than maintain a status quo:
“I had a strong urge to stay at my job of 4 years coming back from maternity leave (2 months ago). That would have been an ideal mommy job. But, I was offered a different position in the same company, which came with a promotion. After lots of struggle and guilty thoughts I decided to give the new job a shot. So far I'm really happy with my decision. My boss has 5 kids and he is incredibly understanding of my situation.
Does anyone listen to Freakonomics radio? They had an episode about change and how if you don't know whether to make a change or maintain status quo, you should always go for the change.”
Lead the life you want to lead:
“Reading all these emails makes me smile and reminds me that I did the right thing when I quit my job 6 years ago. I didn't have a high stress job but I did have a 25 year old boss who had no kids and being a single mom at the time with two young kids didn't make it any easier.
I worked for a large company in the city working Monday thru Friday, 9-6. My two kids were in day care until six so in order to leave every day at 5pm, I had to eat lunch at my desk. My boss didn't get the kid thing. She didn't care that I was a single mom and that every minute I picked up my kids late at daycare I had to pay $1 for. The first 15 minutes was $30 and $1 every minute after.
One day I asked her if I could leave early because my son was in a play at daycare and she said no, no reasoning no nothing, just NO! I went in the bathroom and cried. I walked out, cleaned off my desk and told her bye. She looked at me like I was crazy. Six years I have no regrets. Starting my own business was HARD, some weeks I made $100 but I was happy. I used my savings to pay my rent until it took off and didn't go on a vacation for 3 years. My kids are now 9, 7 and 2. I work more now that I am a boss and I run three small businesses but I get my rewards. I take my kids to school every day, and I pick them up three days a week. I have never missed a Family Friday (even 8 days after # 3 was born), never missed a performance at school, I get to hang out and chat with parents at drop off and pick up. Out of all my friends I think I am on the only one who doesn't have a high end important job, but i am happy and I get to eat dinner with my kids every day. I LOVE, LOVE my job and I couldn't see myself doing nothing better.
I have a client who just gave up a bring home salary of $10,000 monthly to be a stay at home mom. Because of that, the family had to move out of park slope. She have regrets somedays, and somedays she is ok. I always tell her look at the bright side, whatever hers may be.”
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