I'm Leah, and in a lucky twist of fate, I've landed my three dream jobs:
book editor, writer, and mother. Since having my son in December 2008, my
work-life has been in constant flux - full-time? part-time? freelance?
working at home or in the office? It depends on the day and which way the
wind is blowing - and figuring out how to keep it all going is a constant
challenge. Heck, I'm still getting used to the idea of being someone's
Check out my profile on Work It, Mom! and my personal blog, A Girl and a Boy.
Working moms sometimes get a bad rap. Other (mostly non-parent) coworkers complain that we get special treatment, that we aren’t as committed to our jobs, that we’re distracted, forgetful, and off our professional game since having kids. So what do we do? We buckle down, try harder, log extra time at night to make up for the hours we missed due to sick babies and/or piano recitals. We try to not just meet deadlines but beat them. In trying to prove that things haven’t changed now that we’re mothers, we try to be model employees in every way we can—attend every meeting, meet every goal, at least attempt to wear clothing not smeared with pureed mystery meat. But then…? The baby gets sick for the fourth time that month and peewee baseball camp gets moved from Thursday evenings to Wednesday afternoons and priorities shift and reshift and deadlines slip and before you know it half your business emails start with the words “I’m sorry.”
Man but it sucks when stereotypes ring true.
Despite my crafty use of the second-person narrative voice up there, you probably figured out that I’m talking about myself as much as I’m addressing the generic, anonymous working mom who’s not quite succeeding at the juggling act these days. And everything I said up there is true: I’m defaulting on promises, pushing back deadlines, and writing more “I’m sorry” emails than I have in my entire career. I keep thinking this is temporary, that we’re still in a major transition period—one that has so far involved sudden unemployment, full-time reemployment, first-time daycare, and extra freelance work on top of a regular job—but the longer the transition period stretches out (I’m even pushing back that deadline!), the more I’m afraid that this is just the new order of things and instead of trying to merely ride it out, I need to get busy inventing coping mechanisms.
And I get that acceptance might be the best first step in dealing with the mess—I do!—but boy do I hate accepting something when it essentially means admitting that yes, becoming a mother has changed the way I work. I certainly don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that working moms are less valuable than other employees, but I think it’s important—at least it is to me—to concede that sometimes yes, my job does suffer in the wake of whatever parenting crisis I’m dealing with that week/day/hour. Even with a flexible schedule and the help of an involved partner and a dynamite childcare provider, I still find myself torn in a dozen directions at any given moment, and that is the exact opposite of being “pulled-together.” (And you know, in some ways sending my kid to daycare is just another place for me to fall short. I didn’t expect that.) So what do you do when you realize that all the negative things working moms are accused of are, well, sort of true, if even only temporarily?
For my part, I am, at the very least, apologetic about it. I’m not entitled, not smug, not combative, and I think that makes a big difference. When my employer is generous enough to offer me more flexibility, I certainly don’t gloat. In return, I hope my attitude toward the situation tempers the attitudes of those looking on from the other side, and if it doesn’t earn me leeway, I hope it at least garners some sympathy. Because I really am trying my best to do it all, even in the face of evidence that it really isn’t possible, at least not all the time. You, my fellow working moms, understand, don’t you?
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