Looking back, I never had that defining moment when I had to choose whether or not I would return to work after my children were born. I just kept working because it made sense for our family.
It was more a matter of choosing how I was going to make it work.
And for many, that’s about all there is to choose. In the most recent issue of Working Mother magazine, mothers shared their feelings around their choices and what they are seeking as far as work-life balance in What Moms Choose: The Working Mother Report, a study conducted by the Working Mother Research Institute. (And these weren’t just working mothers who participated in the study. It includes moms who are staying at home, others who off-ramped and on-ramped, and some who are blending their days as work-at-home moms, like Amanda.)
Basically all moms struggle with their choices, no matter which path they are taking or how they are going about it. We either feel like we’re not using our degrees to the fullest potential if we’ve scaled back or opted out of the workforce, or we feel like we’re not keeping up with the housework or giving the children our full attention if we’re not home all day.
It’s time that we all went a little easier on each other and ourselves. I try to remind myself when I get into a funk that my kids are the only ones I let be my judge when it comes to how good or bad of a job I am doing. (The rest of the time, when I’m not feeling so zen, you can find me whimpering to my husband about how exhausted I am.)
It still really irks me though when a fellow mom feels the need to tell me (nine years into my career as a working mom) that there’s no way you can do both, that it never makes sense financially and that no way would she have a stranger watching her children. I almost never get into it, but I do wonder how you can tell someone who’s already doing something that it’s impossible.
Once we get past all these hang-ups, the news is that we’re full of ideas about how to create a workforce culture that supports real work-life balance. Not the stuff that companies say they do, but the mindset of managers who understand that everyone needs some flexibility in life and work.
You don’t have to be a mom (or a dad) with a newborn at home to crave flexible work options. Most anyone has obligations outside work, and it makes sense to be able to flex and bend to meet those needs — just as we’re expected to when a business need comes up.
That’s the type of manager I am. If the work gets done, I don’t care if you did it at midnight or six o’clock in the morning. You could have brainstormed the idea on your commute into work or spent the entire last week banging out ideas on your keyboard.
Still, even with the best manager and most progressive company policies, the reality is that there’s no situation which is perfect every day of the week. (Except maybe getting to stay home while receiving a check in the mail for doing nothing in return, but I haven’t come across that want ad yet.)
Inevitably, there’s going to be some degree of worry about finding and maintaining the best arrangement for child care. There are days when none of the pieces seem to fit together. Or you feel guilty for pushing your kids too hard because there’s a tight schedule to keep. Or you feel like you’re pushing your luck at work (no matter how flexible they may be), because there are endless family obligations to be met.
With choice comes compromise. And in my case, even when you don’t have a choice, you have to compromise.
So we need to learn to accept.
And then we can choose to be happy moms, meeting our challenges — whatever they may be and whenever they may change.
How have you learned to live with your choices? Amanda thinks I’ve perfected my role, but the truth is that I have just learned to be OK with winging it. What’s imbalanced one day seems to even out the next. And so it goes…