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This blog has been sitting in my blog queue for quite some time now. Multiple versions have been written and many modifications have been made. This is a topic I am willing to discuss, banter about, debate over and come to a very specific, individual and humble opinion that is my own and made with only myself and my family in mind.
I’ve not read many books, or articles for that matter, on the topic of working mom versus stay-at-home-mom and “career driven women making it to the top” mom (IE: Lean In, Why We Lean Back, etc). I’ve always worked, I’ve always been on a path to leadership and I’ve never compared myself to a stay at home mom, compared the differences or compared our ability to “mom”. I’ve never engaged in the arguments about being career focused versus family focused. I’ve never thought I had to make a choice in order to have a successful family.
Lately, however, the topic seems to broach often. The balance and the divide. The focus and the freedom. The guilt and the expectation. And I can’t help but evaluate my position on the topic.
It is simple, I was raised by a working mom. A lady that proved to me that you can be an incredible mom and a working woman. She was a mom that had to work due to divorce, finances and by choice remained working when she could have probably walked away from a career and into the freedom of stay-at-home-ness. The only lifestyle I know is the one I was raised in. We, as children, had the freedom to participate in sports and extra curricular activities. However, it was known that we had to figure out a way to and from said activities (unless it was the 5am swim practice or the 7am pick up and delivery to school) as my folks worked. They worked hard. And as a result I got to participate in the activities I wanted to, I was just never the girl with the parents on the sidelines. And for ME, for me, that was ok. I learned freedom, independence and self esteem. I learned I could take care of myself and that if I wanted something badly enough I would figure out a way. (Thanks to the team of parents that were able to cart me around, I am so much better for the experience you helped me to have, more than you know) I learned what responsibility meant, there were expectations and rules around participation, household chores and homework could not fall by the wayside due to participation. Homework had to be completed before evening practice and a pre-swim team snack had to be eaten. I learned what expectations my parents had of me and I thrived in the freedom to complete them and make my parents proud. My parents were never at weekly meets, they didn’t make it to many games, but when they did, it meant the world to me. Their showing up wasn’t expected and wasn’t often, but when they were there, I swam harder and I played better and I ran faster and I thought I showed them that their trust in me paid off. Never did I feel like my parents were failing me, never did I feel like they let me down, it was my reality. My mom showed me that a mom can be a spectacular mom and have a career, whether it was based on need or want, it could be done. My mom gave her all to her job when she was at her job and she gave her all to her family when she was with her family. It was that simple.
I was raised by a dad who is also an ex-Marine with a full time job and an expectation of my behavior. Chores and homework were done before his arrival home at 4pm. And chores weren’t crazy Cinderella style chores. They were simply clean up after yourself, put your dishes in the dish washer (rinsed), put away your belongings (your bedroom is for your back pack, your shoes, your sweaters, etc), finish your homework (unless you are stumped and have questions), set the dinner table and if mom had a specific request for us to support in making dinner, get dinner started. On the weekends we knew Saturday started with a complete cleaning of our rooms, cleaning of bathrooms and support in yard work. If we didn’t finish these chores, we could kiss the fun good bye. It was well know into high school that anything we got, we earned, good grades were rewarded generously. School was our job and if we weren’t succeeding there, sports, friends, pagers, TVs in our bedroom and phones in our bedrooms could/would be removed. We never failed against the expectations. They were set. We knew what they were. We succeeded. We felt loved, trusted and like we played a key role in our family dynamic.
I don’t remember how my parents taught me what was important, but I always knew what was. I don’t remember how we learned what expectations were of us, but we never failed against them. I knew my parents couldn’t be as involved as other kids, but that was ok. Independence was earned and granted and we were loved unconditionally. My parents were working parents and so, as I made my decision to become one, I knew it could be a successful decision.
I was also raised in a time where most of my girlfriends moms were stay-at-home moms. When we would have play dates at their homes, snacks would be ready and sitting on the table when we got home from school. Mom’s would check in and chit chat with us about boys, sports and school as if they were our friends. Laundry was done and sitting on their beds, maids cleaned the house and made their beds and on the off chance we wanted to go somewhere, off we went on an adventure. Their houses were always bigger than ours, their rooms (in my eyes at least) were always cooler (but in hind site, by room was awesome, very awesome, I was just used to my room). They had backyard play gyms and the latest and greatest toys and dress up clothes and cool shoes and homemade cookies. Their moms were the ones who drove me to and from my favorite activities and their moms were always on the sidelines, watching, cheering, bringing goodies to celebrate a good swim and a good game. I never saw their dads though. I never wondered why. I just never saw them. In fact, aside from my very inner most circle of friends, dads were never around. And the only reason I knew my closest girlfriends dads was because of the occasional sleep over. I don’t remember my friends having chores, however, I am certain that they did. I don’t remember them caring if their parents were around or not, in fact, they knew no different from their very own perspective. I don’t remember the difference between us as kids. Some days they were begging to come to my house because there were no parents around and some days I was begging to head to theirs because there were parents around.
One thing that is certain, now in a world where social media keeps us all connected, there is no difference in the success of us ladies based on those of us with working moms versus those of us that had stay-at-home moms. Not one single difference. We all have careers now. We all have kiddos too. We all have significant others that support in the money making as well. We may all be at different stages in our careers, but we all have them. My mom working did not change who I was or the success I had nor did it shape me any differently than my peer set that had stay at home moms.
So, here is what I say to the articles and to the books and to any woman giving another woman a piece of advice on how to shape her path…
The secret ladies is in defining what your path looks like. Define your set of rules. Determine what your career path is. Visualize what your family will look like, how they will experience your time. Indentify how you will parallel the life of parent and professional. Then go live that life. The bottom line is our kids will grow up just fine as long as we create balance, they need our time, they need our rules, the need our trust. So when we are giving them our time, let’s give it to them 100%. They will forgive that it wasn’t every moment of their lives, shoot, they may just thank us. When we are setting rules, let’s set rules that prepare them for the real world, make them feel safe and loved and like a valued member of the family unit. Let’s trust our kids, first, let’s ensure they earn it, but let’s teach them what trust is and let’s give them ours.
This is how I view it for me, as shared with a friend just yesterday…
As a woman in management, I often feel that I am lackadaisical in comparison to my peer set, made up of both men and women, some with children, some without. Then I realize that I am not lackadaisical, not even a little bit. The five people I am boss to know they have a mama bear in me, they know I am just as focused on their careers as I am on my kiddo, they know their best interest and that of our client’s is at the top of my priority list and they know that without a shadow of a doubt, my family sits parallel to my career. My peers know my passion for my career and my boss does too, in the same vein and the same focus, they all know my passion for my family and my priority. I can have it all. It can be done with balance and paralleling my family and my career. There will be days Avery knows mommy will be late due to a meeting and there will be days that I will not be in attendance at the meeting because Avery comes FIRST. I choose both, it is a balancing act, it is a path I am paving daily… The concern with all the articles coaching women in business… is that they are not telling her to pave her way with confidence, the “right” career, the “right” company, the “right” balance will present itself once the path is defined. I want my career for my brain, for my self esteem and for my pocket book. I need my family, they are my breath. I’m going to continue to ignore the books, pave my path and put my family first… My company is a-ok with that… and that is why I choose to work here, establish my career and give my brain energy to this group of amazing and intelligent people. I have never added a work email to my phone. I do not bring work home on week nights. And very rarely, but when it is imperative, do I work on weekends. I made that commitment to myself long ago… And it works for me. I give 1million % during the work week. My family gets that 1million % on nights and weekends.
I am doing my best to raise my child as a strong, independent and filed with self-esteem young woman. I choose to have a career. So for me, I am constantly finding the balance. Ladies, I wish you luck on your very own journey. If you choose to forge a career, I will cheer you on. If you choose to be the head lady in charge, way to go cheers to you. If you choose to stay at home, I’ll be asking you to drive Avery places and buying you a lot of coffee for the special love and attention she will get from you and I will cheer you on too. All in all… Decide what is best for you and I will cheer you along the way. Our kids will be just fine.