Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Working Mom's Dilemma

I had an interesting lunch today.  I'm part of a moms multiples group and the subset of us that work downtown meet up a couple times a year to have lunch and swap survival stories.  Six of us had such a lunch today.  These are all very successful women.  Most work in the energy industry, are in their 30s, and have young twins (I'm an anomaly with three).  They, we, are in demanding career fields and nevermore so than now with the down economy and cutbacks, a glut of professionals, and all present technology.  One of the women was recounting a story of her friend with twins.  She's a high powered professional with a big company and has to travel despite having young children at home.  This past Thanksgiving she was on another continent for two weeks.  She didn't see her family over the whole of the holiday.  And the comment after the story was, "but what are you going to do?"  My response, instinctively, was "you get another job." 

There are a handful of topics I tend NOT to write about because they're replete with landmines.  Marriages is one such topic as I've mentioned before.  For every one post I have about something related to marriage, I have six or more posts about something else.  But an even more taboo topic is the working mom.  I'm sure you understand why.  There are roughly four camps of believers: 
**Christians who believe working mothers are evil and the downfall of society and women should all stay at home;
**Christians who believe that working mothers are a necessity in today's society and it's fine as long as they're listening to God's will for their life and their families;
**Nonbelievers who think that mothers should at least stay at home while the kids are young because it's critical to have the mother home and involved in the child's development;
**Nonbelievers who think that mothers should not only work but they can take over the world and hold any job that any non parent or male can hold and it's silly to question the ability of moms to do it all. 

Okay, now granted, there are gradations in these camps, more extreme and far less extreme, but these are the stereotypical categories.  So now matter how I approach this issue (I roughly fall into the second category), I automatically offend people because someone reading is going to disagree with my take on this issue. 

So let me say up front, it's MY take.  I'm not suggesting that this is God's take on the issue.  Or feminists' take on the issue.  Or my family's and friends' take on the issue (in fact, they are divided themselves).

I've been practicing law for nearly 14 years.  Only two of those years have I been a mom.  However, my perspective has radically changed on what's important in a job.  Because it is no longer about how quickly I can climb the ladder of success or how much money I can make or how prestigious the title of the position is, but instead whether or not the position will allow me time to spend with my family.  I was offered an interesting opportunity last year that involved 20% travel.  That was a no brainer to me.  I didn't have to look at the perks or the reduced commute or the fancy title, I just looked at the travel.  And no matter what accommodations they were willing to make, it wouldn't make sense for either party if one needed travel and one couldn't travel much. 

I had a mentor of mine once tell me that she went back to work six weeks after she'd had her daughter and she was glad she had become so successful and had discretionary income because she could afford the therapy her daughter would need from having an absent mom.  She said it with a completely straight face.  I truly admire what she's accomplished, but at what cost?  If that really truly was her priority in life, which is fine, why did she have children? 

I'm torn on this issue.  I have three two year olds and the fact that I get to go to my office five days a week keeps me sane.  I'm blessed to have an amazing woman with the kids during the day and I get kid time on nights and weekends.  I try to guard that time so it's the children's, and I try to demonstrate how much I love my children during the hours we have.  I have immense respect for my friends that have triplets and stay at home with them.  They are stronger than I am.  I might go insane.  But simultaneously, my driving ambition isn't what it was.  The end goal is different now.  I need to have a job where I'm not miserable, but it's important I have flexibility.  That key factor outweighs a lot of other shiny factors that used to be so appealing.  My goal now is to raise healthy happy kids that really know their mommy and fully appreciate how much I love them and how much we wanted to have them in our family.  I want them to know God and understand our faith.  I want to teach them how to read and write and dance and draw and count and sing and play kindly and be polite.  And hopefully they won't need all the therapy that money can buy because they will grow up secure and confident.  Hopefully they'll know that I was there any time they needed me and they'll remember all the things we did together as they grew.

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