Tag Archives: working mom

Undercover Working Mom

Many years ago, a childless friend and I were discussing another friend’s kids.  As childless people are prone to delusions about the realities of parenthood, she said that this friend’s kids were unruly because they didn’t get enough attention from their working mom.  No mention of dad.   My response was a very lame “Really?”  My mom worked and she is great but I didn’t have a strong opinion on the subject at the time; parenthood seemed so far away.  I had no idea that the so-called “Mommy Wars” was a-brewing!

Another time, my husband’s colleague said that his wife had quit her job to stay home and that this was best for all kids.  We were still pre-kids but I’m proud to say that my husband responded by saying that you can’t generalize working mothers.  He had a working mom and also knew I planned to keep working  once we had kids.

Now that I’m a working mom, I think back to those two conversations and have a stronger reaction.  I still believe the “Mommy Wars” (working vs. stay-at-home moms) are more hype than reality.  People just have time or energy to judge others that often.   At the same time, I was curious to find out if working moms are really judged or pitied by those who stay home.

Recently, I took some vacation time to attend a Toddler/Parenting class with my younger one.  He’s shy and needs the social interaction.  It was a weekday morning so I only needed to take a partial work day off.  I enjoyed having that extra bonding time and shortened work week!

A part of me had this crazy idea: I could pretend to be a Stay-at-home mom and find out what other SAH-moms really think of working mothers.  Are you ready to find out…..?

Drumroll please….

Can you handle the truth?

Find out next Wednesday….

This isn't me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

This isn’t me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

No, seriously. I didn’t pretend to be a SAH-mom and I didn’t try to set up attacks by denigrating working moms first to get a reaction.   There were at least 2 other women who were planning to return to work after some years off.  All the other people I spoke with were either full-time stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  Note: I live in a middle-class neighborhood so there weren’t any nannies at the class.

Some observations:

A few of the moms were a bit incredulous that I, a working mom, had taken my vacation time to do this toddler play class.  This probably took me out of the line of fire IF any of them were prone to attacks on working moms.

I was sort of the stereotypical working mom when it came to scrapbooking. It’s not that I don’t cherish memories of my kid(s) but I am not crafty or creative.  I  shamelessly copied other’s mom’s scrapbooking ideas.

I did spend a little more time playing or watching my kid than some other moms. However,  I wanted him to play with other kids so I made sure not to hover too much.  I didn’t judge the other moms at all for using this time for adult conversation. After all they’re home with their kids all day so they didn’t really need this extra time.

I panicked when it was my turn to bring snacks…

My kid was a bit unruly and grabbed food off other kids’ plates.  I wonder if his behavior reflected badly on me.  If it did, I was oblivious to any mean stares.

The good news is that I had an easy time talking with these women.  Many were very nice, smart and interesting.  I didn’t really feel a division at all.

I plan to sign up for more classes in the fall!

By the way, I would love to read a real undercover piece from a journalist who pretends to be a SAH-mom (and vice versa).  Would socio-economic levels make a difference? Would they find out the “Mommy Wars” is merely hype. Or would they discover a big divide?

My Balance Now

Before I moved closer to work, I had an hour drive to and from work.  I re-read my 2012 post that went into depth about how I balanced work/life and thought I’d update it.  Sometimes I can’t believe I endured this commute for so long.

1.  What’s your work schedule?

Before: I got up at 5:15 to 5:45 to get to work on time.  I got home by 5:30-6 pm., usually exhausted with an aching back.

Now: I get up around 6:25 and get to work on time.  I often have time for breakfast and light stretching/exercise!  My drive is 30 minutes tops (usually faster in the mornings when fewer people are on the road).  I get home by 5pm. Sometimes I even hit the gym or go to the park with the kids.  According to co-workers, I’m also less grumpy in the morning!

2. How do you handle childcare?

Before: Part-time nanny, freelancing husband with flexible schedule and more time at home.

Now: Still part-time nanny on occasion who does light housecleaning, plus A LOT of help from my mom.  My husband’s schedule and travel has picked up, which leaves me taking more time off for doctor appointments, illness and such. Pre-school pick-up is a pain to manage.

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

I love my shorter commute which has resulted in more energy and quality time with spouse, self and kids!  I love getting more help from my mom since she is amazingly good and flexible with her schedule.

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

It’s not really about working or not. It’s really about flexiblity. Even within the restraints of a traditional 9 to 5 job, I know I’m fortunate that my boss is understanding about childcare issues as long as I manage to meet deadlines.

I still stand by my love of online shopping: Order as much as you can online.

And I’ve converted to the dark side — smartphone with tons of apps. It’s the only way I can keep track of my emails and shopping lists. My husband and I communicate quickly via text, emails and shared shopping lists, too.

I’ve been taking some vacation days to do a mommy-and-me class with my kids on weekday mornings. It’s shorten my work hours which is nice on a mental level BUT also forces me to eat at my desk some days to get all my work done.  I love using that time to  learn and play with my kids alongside mostly stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  This alleviates a lot of mommy guilt because I have more hours with my kids overall and don’t have to cram all the fun stuff on weekends.

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than men?

Yes.  I’m actually guilt-free and good at ignoring snippy comments but I do spend more time cleaning the house and thinking/planning kid-friendly activities.

Feel free to chime in with details about how other women (and men) handle the work/life juggling act!

I Had A Post About Working Mom Guilt

I’ve written about working mother guilt countless times.  And I like reading and commenting on posts and articles on that issue, too.  I feel it’s important for women to stop beating themselves over choosing or having to work, as their contributions to the family are just as invaluable as staying home in my not-so-humble opinion.  Finally if you have to work or want to work,  guilt is just a waste of time and people who try to make you feel bad about it are a waste of time.

So in my typical fashion, I felt the urge to dole out advice.  Since my concrete tips for not being bitter at work seems most useful to people, I thought it would be helpful to offer real suggestions for reducing motherhood guilt as well.

After re-reading my own post, I trashed it.  I realized it seemed a bit sanctimonious, as if my way for guilt-free motherhood was the best way.  I also realized that my concrete tips may not work for different personalities, nor should I dictate the best way to spend “quality time” with your kids (and kids all have different preferences and personalities anyway!).

So for now I am giving my best tip, which is not concrete nor necessarily easy to follow, it’s all really mental. If you create a mental image of perfect motherhood or set up some unattainable ideal, or compare yourself to a mom who seems to be doing it “right”, then you’ll feel guilt.  If you truly believe you’re doing your best and your kid is fed, sheltered, loved and happy, then you’ll stop wasting precious time on feeling unnecessary guilt.

My Balance: Oil and Garlic

A Cup of Jo has a great series on working moms. She interviews work-from-home moms, mostly bloggers and those in design-related jobs. It’s a refreshing look at work/life balance and I really enjoy reading about how other moms “do it all.”  I also wished I read this before I had kids.

Since the women spotlighted are freelancers with relatively flexible schedules, I thought it would be helpful to add in my thoughts as a working mom with a long commute and non-flexible schedule! 

 Note: A few hours after posting this, I realized that my situation is still easier than having both parents working traditional 9 to 5 jobs.  For example, for the first 6 months, my husband handled the night shift so I could rest and go to work. If we both had to get to the office, we would have to split the shift, which would have been pretty hellish.  It does seem to get better once babies start sleeping through the night at around 7-8 months.

1. What’s your work schedule?

I get up at the insanely early hour of 5:15-5:45 a.m. depending on the day.  I get up earlier if I have to bring the kids to my parents.  On the days we have a nanny, I get up about half an hour later.   I have a 40 minute to an hour drive to work each morning. 

I start by 7:30 am and it’s often go, go, go.  I do some of my best work in the mornings.   My lunch hour is my “alone” time.  I do run errands sometimes but I also try to just relax and read at least 3 times a week.   If it’s really busy at work, I try to work through lunch rather than stay late.   I get home around 5:30 pm every night. I hop into the shower and try to spend as much time with the kids as possible.  My husband usually makes dinner.  The kids are in bed by 8:30 – 9 pm which is pretty late. I think they should sleep sooner but I admit that I like the extra time with them.  We try to give ourselves an hour or so to wind down but oftentimes I’m lucky to get a half hour of TV.

The only flexibility with my work hours is the start/end time.  Years ago I chose an early start time to avoid traffic.  It has worked out well since I didn’t have to switch my hours after having children.

2. How do you handle childcare?

We have a part-time nanny who also does some light housecleaning, which makes a huge difference!  My parents also help part-time.  My husband has a freelancer’s schedule so he is able to be with the kids the most.  I feel lucky that I have such a wide support system even though there are many days that I wish I was the one at home with them. 

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

I keep reading about people who work 50+ hours a week so I guess I’m glad that I work 40 hours (45 if you count the hour lunch) and that I’m not expected to work on weekends or be on call.   I really value my weekends and try to spend most of that time at home with the kids.   I definitely don’t make enough effort for “me” time or date nights with my husband and I should! 

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

There is so much to say about this!  I’ve written about working mother guilt and the work/life juggle before.  Guilt is so unnecessary and the work/life juggle is harder than you can imagine. 

I think that women in the U.S. don’t have a real choice when it comes to staying home because our maternity leave system is horrible.  You’re asked to make that major decision after 3 months (or less) when you’re sleep-deprived and your baby is so needy. Plus working makes breastfeeding very difficult and I think maternity leave should coincide with breastfeeding needs at the very least. 

My best advice is to NOT equate staying home with being a good mother. You can be a good mom if you work!  My second best advice is to really look at your husband as an equal partner, not the secondary caretaker.  It’s great for the husband to be there for the kids, too, and in many cases, it’s possible because you both work.

On a practical level, take advantage of online services like Amazon Mom. They have great prices on diapers and wipes plus free shipping.  Update: Amazon Mom sometimes changes its program and benefits so I can’t say it’s always the best for diapers and wipes anymore.  I miss it though for its convenience but don’t want to pay for a Prime membership and no longer qualify for the Amazon Mom membership. 

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than for men?
Yes.  Women are just judged more harshly for being away from their children.  I supposed we’re also wired differently in some respects.  Women are also expected to be the family event coordinator, and the one who buys all the gifts and writes thank you notes etc…  If you and your husband both forget a birthday, even if it’s his side of the family, the wife will probably get judged for the lapse while the man gets a free pass.

It’s not that men are off the hook in terms of guilt.  Society guilts men the other way. If they’re not “supporting the family”, they can feel bad. They don’t have the playgroups and support groups that SAHMs have.

An End To Working Mom Guilt

In honor of Mother’s Day and my hard-working mom, I thought I would share my “wisdom” for all working mothers out there in hopes of ending any guilt they may feel about not staying at home.

I am not writing this from the perspective of a working mother, which I am, but from the perspective of a daughter whose mother went back to work while I was very young.  She did not have the luxury of staying home and when our family needed more money, she simply went back to work.  I don’t think she wanted to work but she did so without complaint.   After several years out of the work force, she could not get a good-paying job; in fact, she toiled for many years with little financial reward.  After many years, she found a better paying job and got several promotions at that company before retirement.

Luckily my mom worked mostly during the pre-Internet era; otherwise she might have hopped on parenting forums and blogs where there are endless working moms vs. SAHMs discussions with a lot of guilt-inducing arguments against working moms.    For those women who do work, or are thinking of having kids and working, I hope my thoughts will obliterate any sense of guilt about working motherhood:

  1. I don’t want someone else raising my kids.  This statement makes zero sense.  If this were true, that would mean that most fathers don’t raise their kids because most of them work.   While my parents worked, my grandmother took care of me during the day.  I love my grandmother but I never doubted that my mother (and father) raised me.  Her influence in my life was not diminished because she wasn’t physically with me all day.
  2. Staying at home does not automatically make you a good mother.  Oftentimes there is an implication that the SAHM is a better mom. While I do agree that if you’re less frazzled and stressed, parenting is easier, I don’t agree that it makes you a better mother.  If you are normally impatient or critical, you will still be so whether you stay home or not.  If you’re naturally generous and giving, you will still be so if you work.  I know many people who have difficult relationships with their SAHM because their mother was overbearing, cold, critical or impatient.  I was fortunate that my mother is naturally loving, patient and kind and those are the qualities that make you a great parent. 
  3. Kids are more resilient than you think (and don’t need to be the center of the world).  Yes, infants are needy and should be held even if you have to keep them in a Bjorn 24/7 and you can’t shower or eat (oops…sorry for the sidetracking due to my recent experiences).  However, once kids are a little older, it’s fine to show them a larger world with other caretakers.  I think my grandmother generally followed the guidelines set by my parents; however, I’m sure she may have indulged us more or done things differently sometimes.  In the end, it just makes you see the world through different perspectives vs. the isolated world of  “Mommy and Me” times. 
  4. It’s OK to want retirement savings (and vacations).  Many women justify the cost of staying home by saying that they would make about the same as daycare costs.  However, I know many who quit because they would only make $5,000 more per year after taxes, gas, drycleaning etc.  While this amount may be true, $5,000 more per year can be critical upon retirement.  $5,000 more per year can mean a well-deserved vacation.  Most people also conveniently forget to factor in raises or promotions during those working years.  More importantly, many forget that if/when they return to work, they’ve missed out on their prime earning years and may not be able to find a job at all.  Sadly, I know several women in bad financial situations because they are afraid or unable to find work after years out of the workforce.   
  5. You’re A Role Model. I read once that women who have daughters are more likely to work and that men with daughters are more likely to promote women. It makes sense to me.  If you have a daughter, you want her to reach her full potential, and that may not only mean motherhood.
  6. Grandmothers are great!  If after reading reasons #1 through #5, you still feel guilty, think about how much you can help your grown child when you retire from work and offer to help with grandchildren.  That’s really all you have to do to alleviate any guilt from your absence during your child’s early years.  I am fortunate that my mom is a very willing babysitter.  While I think a child is fine at a good daycare center or with a good nanny, nothing is better than a loving grandparent!

I admit that I have mixed feelings about working, but I don’t want anyone to make me feel guilty or feel sorry for me because I work.  Everyone needs to do what is best for their families.  In this day and age, two incomes does not necessarily mean cable TV or fancy vacations, it can mean the difference between a stable financial environment and retirement.  And if it does mean allowing for extra indulgences, that’s fine, too.  Life is too short for guiltHappy Mother’s Day!

For a hilarious take on working mother guilt, or anything related to motherhood, check out Rants from Mommyland.