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I have read about a gazillion articles lately about moms who have it all, can’t have it all, want to stay home, want to go to work, want to return to the 50’s, and you get the picture. I’m a working mom and most of these articles resonated with me in some way, be it positive or negative. I have a wonderful employment situation, bosses who are understanding of my needs as a mother, and a fabulous husband with a boss also understanding of his needs as a father.

The Father of My Daughter

The Father of My Daughter

The thing that makes me most frustrated about these articles is that the vast majority of them view working moms as the ones with the struggles. What about working dads? Those articles and the people behind them are one of the reasons we still have a struggle. If the dad is assumed to be working late every night and there is no expectation he’ll help out around the house or with the kids, it is not realistic to expect a mother to work full time and still manage the house and kids on her own and be happy doing it. There must be a partnership, which is not something acknowledged by many of the articles on the subject. I believe that working fathers struggle in the same way that working mothers do. They, too, must choose between taking that last meeting and getting home in time for dinner. Instead of one parent being “primary care giver”, both parents should be primary care givers. If all parents were assumed to have to choose between being with their families and careers, I think the workplace would be better (or at least more equal) for all parents.

But here’s the thing about parents: everyone is different; every mom, every dad, every kid, every family, every employer, and every employment situation. There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to balance what works well for you and your family and your career. An article can tell me what the author or subject or Anne-Marie Slaughter think, but can’t tell me what is right for me and my family. For some families, having a stay-at-home parent is the way to go. Other parents prefer to get out of the house and have a career, or are forced by financial situations to do so. Ideally, each parent does what makes them feel fulfilled while maintaining a household, caring for a family, and having a successful career if they want one. This is what is called “having it all”, and it is subjective. It would be nice if articles would stop telling me what I should want as a mother.

Parenthood can be easily seen as a liability in the workplace. It means having responsibilities outside of work which are a priority over work; sometimes leaving early or taking sick days to be with a child, and less flexibility to work outside of work hours. Yesterday a friend sent me this gem of an article. It talks about how women (but I would venture it’s true of all parents) can be more assertive in getting what they need from their employers to allow them to have a successful career as well as a happy family. The author talks about one woman’s story, and is clear that this woman, who never misses a little-league game but works full time, works hard and extremely diligently at home and in her career, and couldn’t do what she does without a husband with flexible hours. The article was concluded with the following quote, which I found very powerful, if you substitute “mother” with “parent”:

“Ms. Uttech says she thinks — or at least hopes — that someday [parent]hood will be viewed by employers as an asset, as a source of leadership skills and other human capital. Maybe someday managers won’t just tolerate family responsibilities but seek them out in potential hires, she said.

‘Because I’m a [parent] I know how to multitask, and I have all these other skills I didn’t have before like juggling, mentoring, educating, problem-solving, managing,’ she said. ‘And I’m so much more productive now during the hours when I am working. [Parent]hood should be a feather in my cap, not a drawback.’”

September 2020

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