It has been an interesting week. One steeped in discussion on and about moms, whether working or not is better for their kids and/or them, and the choices women may or may not have afforded to them in 2013. Yes, this is a discussion woven into the fabric of what I do and write on, for and about, but this week in particular, it was even more dominating.
With Marissa Mayer’s announcement to cut telecommuting as the CEO of Yahoo, the woman and new mom CEO to boot, and Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In Circles urging women to take accountability for conquering the workplace. (Sandberg may be on to something with her notion of women being responsible for one another?)
Something about Mayer’s decision touched a nerve (or maybe two) in me. I do not pretend to know what a decision like that actually feels like on the receiving end being a freelancer and basically my own boss. What I do know is this: Women, men, moms, and dads continue to scratch and claw for some type of flexibility in the work place to make it all happen.
Mayer’s ruling and potential example to others spells disaster for these women and men. That is a damn shame. I don’t say it lightly. I am a proponent of choices. Mainly choices and opportunities for women to enact the life they want. If that includes working and career fulfillment while raising a family, I have the utmost respect. On the other hand, I do not begrudge staying home and raising a family full-time. I have had a taste of both, and to tell you the truth – both are sweet. What I do dislike is not having a choice or furthermore, the heated ‘mommy wars’ where we do not support one another in our choices.
Taking a look at the years I spent at home with my sons and my current scenario of working from home, one may ask: Why the hell do I really care? How can I be touched by any of this? Well, I most certainly am. Not solely by my daily interactions with Career Moms, WAHM’s, and SAHM’s, but I was raised by a single, working mom until I was 6 years old. My mom remarried when I was six, but from birth until 6 years of age, it was just my mom and me…..AND, I remember.
My earliest memories are visiting my mom’s work, spending the day at my grandparents; house with a sitter, and eventually being the one to give my preschool teacher a ride home at the end of the day because presumably I was the last one there (?). With a non-existent safety net, full-custody of a newborn, and bills to pay, my mom worked and worked hard.
Crap. Can you even imagine? I know now why even when I was home full-time for a number of years, my mom harped constantly on keeping my skills up, getting involved in something part-time, and for the most part, staying on top of things. My mom had a taste of the bottom falling out and having to make difficult choices, which in 1974 included no flexibility or options.
Yesterday, I sat on a planning roundtable for an upcoming event for moms in business. Ironic that I was regaled by more stories of women who also did not take for granted the choices set before them as their moms felt the lack of choices, too? As a generation of women, we have learned from our moms and aunts and grandmas, to not accept limited possibilities, but rather to keep searching for more. One mom reminisced about being discovered working (telecommuting) late at night by her teenage son and the pride he expressed that she was able to achieve so much and fit it all in to 24 hours. Telecommuting.
Yet another working mom who I was talking with had just come from a meeting with a colleague, who was working at home that day, enabling her to keep her job down and her family.
I don’t pretend to think that it is always idyllic or perfect or even that women (or men) can always be home telecommuting and not being a part of their work culture. There are meetings, deadlines, conferences, and missed opportunities at home while these things are happening. I am already in a state of emergency over my upcoming travel schedule and the boys’ plans and arrangements and missing sports tournaments. As I have said before, it s a see-saw. Not a balance, but an up and down of work and family. I do not kid myself for a minute that raising a family full-time does not include these ups and downs either. There are always demands and as moms we makes choices when to get on and off the see-saw.
When I arrived back to my home office yesterday, I was met by a tray of cookies from a friend, a mom who is home full-time and knows that I am hosting a gaggle of kids this weekend and she wanted us to have some goodies.
I am pretty sure it is about supporting each other. NO?