Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlantic has been posted by my career minded friends on Facebook and Twitter. In a nugget: “It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here’s what has to change.”
I read the article on my iPhone next to my 6 year old as he fell asleep, as a true multitasking working mom who thinks about her career when she is with her kids and her kids when she is working. Then I scanned my Twitter feed and saw a tweet by Working Mother, inviting working moms to a Twitter chat on how they balance everything. The editor references their best places to work for working moms list, which I know is horseshit because I am a PR person that got my former company on the list two years in a row. My former company laid me off when I was on maternity leave with my first child.
In a way, they did me a huge favor. After the layoff, one freelance project led to the next and I realized I had a niche- handling PR for marketing and media companies. Working for myself has not afforded us a family vacation or an addition on our house, but it has afforded me control over my own schedule, which Slaughter deems a necessity for having it all.
Here’s what I’ve learned and Slaughter touched upon:
Just like women don’t ask for raises as much as men do, women apologize for having to leave work for their kids. When a dad has to leave work to coach a game, it is what it is (and he’s a hero). Women feel guilty for leaving work early to make daycare pickup, even though they were the first in the office. I apologize if there is “background noise” if it is my day with the baby and my client calls. My client doesn’t care, they just want me to do the job, I am the one worried about being professional. I see my neighbor, who is in sales, take calls with his kids fighting in the background and he is not rattled in the least. So, I need to think more like a guy.
Kids need their mothers over their dad or their babysitters sometimes. If my prime earning years or career advancement years suffers, I can’t dwell on it (even though I do). A family of five can share one full bathroom. I’ll work on that big client again eventually.
Being a successful in your career when you are a mom means giving up control- of how the house looks, how the kids are dressed, what’s for dinner. Most of us are still organizing play dates and scheduling pediatrician appointments and trying to work.
We are trying to be it all, and a lot has to change in terms of workplace hours and maternity leaves and technology making us work when we shouldn’t be working, but we also have to take charge and set our own boundaries and lower our own standards. Sometimes, we are the hardest on ourselves.