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Excuse me, but your job is showing.

February 16, 2009

According to the  sage insights of Desperate Housewives, which I’m sure we all regard as a pure source of domestic wisdom, it’s “not hard to spot a mother who works outside the home.” The show opened last night with some fun facts about the go-to-work mother, who

  1. ” dresses in a hurry,
  2. eats her breakfast while rushing out to the car and
  3. applies her makeup as she drives away.”

Well, I can easily set the record straight about yours truly, point by point. First off, I am too vain to let my wardrobe slide any further down the priorities chart, thank you very much.  But PuhLease: breakfast and makeup? I skip steps two and three entirely. (I should admit here that I have never been a breakfast OR makeup champion, so it’s great to have a new excuse.)

The surest way to recognize the working mom, the narrator said at close of the show, is to look for the woman wearing guilt. (It’s all fun and games until someone throws out the G word.)

Every day that I leave for work – and leave Jack behind – is a little hard and a little sad. But more than feel guilty, I just miss the little guy and look forward to being home again. What probably helps protect me from guilt is my hope that one day, in a few or several years, I can work out of my home rather than outside it. And in the meantime, I’m doing my part — a big part — to make our life a little easier and a lot more comfortable. When I  imagine the life (I really mean house) we will someday have – one with closets, and separate bedrooms for kids and adults, and just enough space that we might be able to walk out of a room and into another without remaining within view or reach – I am ready to go to work (anything to get that show on the road). Of course, it helps that I love the kids I meet through my job, and work for my alma mater, and leave my child in the overqualified hands of my mother, a beacon of child rearing.

This Desperate Housewives episode provoked me to Google, as so many things do, and the results make me sure that those final words on motherhood and guilt struck a chord with many a viewer last night. This balancing act is a Big Deal. Four women tackle it daily at Working Moms Against Guilt; Betty Holcome wrote about it in Not Guilty! The Good News About Working Mothers; journalists use it as a hook on Mother’s Day; countless women, like me, take it up with the blogosphere. And our new First Lady has taken us working mothers up as a pet issue.

Plenty of mothers want to work  (The online magazine Accenture surveyed 700 working moms and found that most were happy that way.). I have friends who are excited to balance career and family. I know working women who look forward to the weekday morning, who won’t look for a way out before retirement – enthusiastic, doting mothers who prefer to dote elsewhere from 8 to 5.  Some days, the thought of the 40 hours I spend each week in my office makes me crazy, but I have friends who’d feel the same way about spending all week at home with the kids. And I have stay-at-home-mom friends who feel guilty for not working!

I wonder if any of us has managed to overcome these obstacles of guilt and wistfulness. Can our needs or ambitions protect us, or do we then feel guilty for not feeling guilty? What about you?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    February 16, 2009 10:25 pm

    (raising hand) Totally feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I’ve never really had the desire to stay-at-home and occasionally the big G bites me because surely something is wrong with me for not feeling guilty. Funny how we never, ever cut ourselves some slack…we’re always making ourselves feel guilty about something!

  2. February 17, 2009 3:06 pm

    I almost never feel guilty. I’m not sure if it’s confidence, denial, or the fact that I was raised by a very busy working mom myself. I know that I am not good at being with my kids 24/7 …and I refuse to feel bad about that.

  3. February 17, 2009 3:06 pm

    PS Betty Holcomb (the author you mentioned) is a former coworker of mine!

  4. February 25, 2009 3:32 pm

    Hey, thanks for the link to Working Moms Against Guilt! I really enjoyed this post (didn’t see the DH episode, but the sentiments sound familiar). I think it’s important to recognize that guilt is not required and should become extinct as working parents become the majority. (There are more working women in the workplace than men now, you know.) Hope we’ll see you around at WMAG!

  5. February 26, 2009 9:28 pm

    I get to stay home with our two little ones, but only because I also watch two other children during the week. I think respect needs to be paid to mothers on both sides of this fence… Whether you’re working outside the home or not, I think we all know you can be a fantastic mother either way. There’s definitely something to be said for doing what you have to do to make ends meet. However, beyond that, I think that some women are better suited to be go-to-work moms and that time at work energizes them to be a better mother when they are at home. Others, like me, would prefer to be home. I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here.

    What does frustrate me, though, is that it seems that some workplaces are not necessarily ‘parent friendly’. Before I had our second child I was doing some job hunting, and it was really hard to put the pieces together in a way in which I felt like I was going to be able to be good at a job and also making sure my child came first. Also, we currently don’t live near family that can help (but will be moving back closer to family soon… yay!) and I found that child care was so costly that by the time I worked all week, paid for child care and gas, I was going to go home with about $50!

    Now I’m happy to stay home and watch other’s children here… I don’t gauge them on the price and I like providing a nurturing place where parents that do have to work outside the home can bring their children and know they are well taken care of.

    Sorry… Didn’t mean to ramble on!

    http://www.farmergalsmarket.com

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