Friday, May 24th, 2013
Check out blog posts by multitalented mompreneur Rosie Pope every week at Parents.com!
I met a woman today who was beginning her last day of work. Her son had just turned 11 months old, and she had decided that her job just wasn’t flexible enough for the work-life balance she wanted with her child. So after almost a year of angst, she decided to take the leap and put her successful career on hold.
I know a lot of women, and increasingly more men, who have made this decision, often to their surprise, after going back to work once their babies were born. I thought for a moment about what it would be like to decide not to work any more and to stay home with my three babies.
And that’s when it hit me, surprisingly for the first time! I realized just how impossible that would be for me and, I imagine, for so many of you. I can just imagine walking into our HQ and into my husband’s office (yes, we work together), sitting on the couch, and saying, “Honey, today is my last day.” Aside from immediately pouring himself a stiff drink, he would also have to find my doppelganger—not an easy feat considering I may be the palest person to have ever walked the planet!
But in all seriousness, our company is still very much at the point where I need to continue working at it, and my kids rely on it for their livelihoods. If I am completely honest with myself, though, the lack of choice made me panic, and, in that moment, I felt more trapped than I have ever before. Until I remembered… I actually enjoy my job and feel so blessed to be able to do what I do. (Not to mention the look of complete panic on my husband’s face when I threw the idea around the office in jest!)
But what about all the men and women who don’t enjoy their jobs and can’t make the choice to stay home for financial or other reasons? I started to feel trapped and panicked for all of them. It is not that either staying at home or working is better; it is simply that we’d all hope to be able to make that choice for ourselves and our families freely and not because of reasons like dollars and cents.
I meet many moms and dads who struggle with this; yet, I am often humbled by the businesses these individuals have started that allow them to work from home, or the ingenious ways they have structured their schedules to try to fit everything in. It is important, though, to know this goes both ways: There are stay-at-home moms who want to go back to work, just as there are working moms who want to stay home. The sad truth is that the choice is just not always there.
While I’m not in the position to choose not to work, it is my goal that all my hard work will mean that my daughter and sons will be able to have the choice to work or not when they get to be parents themselves one day. Working in part for “choice” (because I love what I do) and in part for my children relieves my panic. Being able to make a change for the better and for those that you love is empowering, and so, perhaps for a moment, I’ll stop freaking out!
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Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Today, one of my best friends embarks on a new adventure. After spending nearly two decades in a high-powered Wall Street career, she’s starting her own business. She’s hoping to achieve a new kind of success, one that includes plenty of quality time with her kids.
She was the last holdout among our group of friends—the last one with traditional, benefits and 401K kind of career. Every single one of the seven women who started our book club nearly a decade ago has dropped out of the corporate life to forge a new, more flexible career.
I left my fancy-office and expense-account editorial job six months after I became a mom, tired of the political intrigue of the office and too many nights where I didn’t get to kiss my baby good night. And as kids came into the picture, more and more of us grew tired of a dictated 9 to 6 (or in my friend’s case, often 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.) schedule, of missing out on preschool parties and arguing with our mates over who was taking the day off to tend to a croupy kid. And so, one by one, we bought into the 21st-century version of having it all—sacrificing job stability and benefits for the greater flexibility and autonomy that freelancing provides. We are now all guns for hire—a TV producer, a writer/editor, a personal chef/caterer, a grants writer, a content strategist, an instructor and now, a corporate communications consultant. (By the way, this isn’t just a “mom” thing—even our childless-by-choice member ditched the corporate career a few years back.)
I think we all finally realized that all that time we were sacrificing in pursuit of our ambitions wasn’t necessarily going to pay off the way we hoped. In fact, Forbes columnist Meghan Casserly pointed out that women are often are viewed as workers who value their home lives more than their work. “To prove this notion wrong, women often feel compelled to demonstrate their commitment to the extreme.” And what comes of that extra time we were putting in, to the detriment of our families? Often, nothing more than exhaustion and burnout. It’s no wonder that Forbes reports that nearly a third of women who graduate from the Harvard MBA program drop out of corporate work within 15 years of graduation. (Most of them, because of the inability to get a good work-life balance during their kids’ formative years.)
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had an interesting post last week, about the work-life balance we lost in the decades as women entered the workforce. While in countries like France, more women in the workforce has meant that everyone’s working fewer hours and enjoying more vacation and time with the family, here in the U.S., it’s just meant that everyone’s working more hours outside the home. And more hours of work means fewer hours for living—less time for the day-to-day drudgery of cleaning and cooking and caring for our families, and much less time to squeeze in something fun with our kids, as fellow Parents.com blogger Nick Shell pointed out yesterday. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the previous generation of feminists was aiming for when they wanted us to have it all.
I’m thankful that I have a supportive spouse (with some excellent health insurance), a person who believed in me and my talent enough to gamble our financial security on a dream of greater flexibility. And it paid off in spades—as I’ve been even more successful as a freelancer than I was as a full-time editor, and I still get to slip away on occasion to read to my daughter’s kindergarten class. But sometimes I wish I had simply pushed for greater flexibility and kept the stability of that full-time gig. Because if so many of us simply drop out instead of pushing for the changes that will make work-life balance better for everyone, it isn’t going to happen.
So today, I’m celebrating with my friend. But I’m keeping an eye on what our choices may mean for our sons and daughters tomorrow.
Photo: Working mom by Vikulin / Shutterstock.com
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