We all know it’s not easy being a working mom. All too often, mothers who work outside the home feel conflicted and apologetic about their choice, even when it’s dictated by financial necessity. All too rarely do they receive the kind of validation and support they deserve. Between the stress, the guilt and the sheer physical demands of juggling family and job, most of us have days when we wonder why our lives have to be so complicated.
Well, it’s time to take heart! As The Feminine Mistake
makes clear, working mothers are, in most cases, doing the best possible thing for their children by contributing to the family income and maintaining their own financial viability. This series will highlight some of the surprising research I uncovered when writing the book.
REASON NUMBER FIVE: The 15-Year Paradigm
Every working mother suffers from too much stress and too little time, and most of us have days when we feel as if we just can't take it any more. Some women respond by quitting work to become stay-at-home mothers -- a choice that may seem sensible in the short run, but that is likely to result in serious problems as time goes on.
A more constructive approach might be to put that period in perspective by considering it in the context of the whole adult lifetime. When my children were small, I wish an older friend had impressed upon me that this phase simply doesn't last that long, relatively speaking. As one of the experts I interviewed for my book put it, "Motherhood is a temp job."
If you have two children who are two or three years apart in age, which is the norm in a typical American nuclear family, the intensive period of hands-on mothering lasts for 15 years or less. Children grow up fast, and by the time they hit adolescence, they're asserting their independence and leading busy lives of their own. You're still the mom, but teenagers certainly don't want you hovering over them 24/7, eager to meet their every need.
For women who view motherhood as their identity and occupation, this transition can be very painful. Many stay-at-home mothers don't realize how quickly their role will become obsolete, and they fail to plan effectively for the many years that still lie ahead, after the kids grow up.
More than a third of American women today are expected to live into their 90s. If you graduate from college at 22, and you live to the age of 92, that's an adult lifespan of 70 years. Fifteen years doesn't seem like that much out of 70 years, does it? And yet too many women are making irrevocable life choices based on the stresses of the moment, rather than taking a longer view.