Mommy's Office

6 a.m. Kids asleep (two in our bed). Husband in guest room. I'm in the kitchen stealing an hour of work before the morning tumult of breakfast, teeth brushing, shoe-tying and homework-finding.

To some, the kitchen might seem an insane place for a home office. Especially given that my work, like most work, requires concentration.

To me, as a mom, the kitchen is the only practical place where I can actually expect to get work done on a regular basis, aside from my real office, that oasis of peace, tranquility and civilization far from chocolate-dipped fingers and Sponge Bob background music. Imagine trying to run to an upstairs office, only to have to run back down when the howling over "He pinched me first!" or "Could I have another glass of milk?" begins.

My mother cannot fathom how (or why) I serve my kids dinner and then frantically demolish 20 e-mail messages at my desk 10 feet from their fish sticks. My dad cannot understand how I can work in a kitchen when he hustled off to his law firm every day for 10 hours of peaceful concentration.

But working in the kitchen is one of the main reasons I can be a mom who works. I need to integrate work and family -- it would be a farce to separate work and my kids, to pretend I am only mom, or only a worker. I am both -- I am a working mom -- no matter whether I'm in my kitchen or the boardroom.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 10, 2006; 6:30 AM ET  | Category:  Workplaces
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Space is important. I work on the floor next to my son during his tummy time. Typing on the laptop with kids music playing. Hopefully he'll learn to sit up soon and I can move to the kitchen table too.

Posted by: New Mom | March 10, 2006 8:59 AM

Working in the kitchen is a great idea, but I can see how it would seem alien to an older generation. While I don't work at home, I do balance work and family life by popping off to answer work e-mails while the pasta is boiling for dinner, etc. This blog is a great idea! I'm glad to see it get started. I would have more to post, but it's time to take the kids to school....

Connie

Posted by: lamia_borgheza | March 10, 2006 9:03 AM

Maybe I live in some sort of protective bubble, but I have not experienced the "mommy wars", and have always suspected the concept was invented by people who want to sell books. Since having children, I tried staying at home for a while, hated it, and then went back to work four days a week. In that time, I have been friends with moms who are at home and moms who work for a paycheck. Whether its moms in my neighborhood, at my childrens' schools, our church, or other organizations, my experience has been mutual respect and consideration for the trials and blessings of being a mother. I do not doubt that there are some people who are insecure about their choices or envious of other people's situations, but if there are truly mommy wars raging out there, I intend never to enlist for either side.

Posted by: Tricia Long | March 10, 2006 9:12 AM

I used to work in an office where I had a cell phone and dial in access. Left that when the environment created by the new CEO became unbearable (he liked people to kiss his a$$ and had a habit of lying to people). I work for less money but am much happier. I do not bring work home or my home to work. If I leave work mad, I'm mad at home. Now I get to work at 7:30 (my husband gets the kids off to school) and leave at 4:30. No more hours than that.

Posted by: jenniferm | March 10, 2006 9:28 AM

For me, working from home doesn't work. I enjoy the separation of my home life and work life and prefer to leave my work at the office. If I have a project that requires extra hours, I've been known to go back to the office after the kids are in bed (work is only a 10 minute drive - by choice and design) or go in for a few hours over the weekend.

I've changed jobs as my life has changed to accomodate this preference. I moved from a high pressure job requiring lots of hours and travel for a large corporation to a much smaller company with very flexible "just get your work done and we're happy" mentality.

I think the key is that everyone has different needs. Some people (men and women) need to feel pushed and driven to be happy. Others need space and downtime to feel fulfilled.

There is no right solution and the trick is working out your families specific formula for success. At the end of the day, we all want what is best for our kids. Having happy fullfilled parents - from whatever choices they make - will help develop happy and fullfilled children.

Who are we to judge other people's choices?

Furthermore, as a working mom I find it very important to carve out time to do those activities that make me happy. Whether it means getting up early for a run or making a movie date with girlfriends. And I do this guilt-free because I know it makes me a more patient and effective parent, spouse and professional.

And to the stay at home moms - thanks for your help. I count on my stay at home mom friends to be there when school let's out early for snow and to help out in school during special events and field trips. I volunteer a couple days a year - but I can't put in the time that I might if I didn't work outside the home. I rely on my friends who are in the schools to fill me in on what is going on - any problems I should be aware of, and to be there in an emergency - and they always come through!

Posted by: Chris | March 10, 2006 9:35 AM

I'm the type of person that has to seperate work and home as well. I come to work early and concentrate on just work, but when I walk out that door at 4:30, I stop thinking about work and am mom/wife. This keeps me sane. I can do this of course because I have that kind of job.

Posted by: N. | March 10, 2006 9:50 AM

I think the key thing is to remember that what works this year (or month or day...) might not work the next; to keep trying different ways of balancing and to not be hesitant to ditch things that don't work. I have lots of evening responsibilities (some of which our kids participate in); we have found home schooling with me doing most of my office stuff at home to work best for us. It is much harder to get work done at home, but I like being available (and I like working in my sweats). However, I do have kids in and out of the open door to the study; their books and assignments are in here, as well as their computer.

The kitchen would be tricky; how do you keeep the peanut butter off of your keyboard?

Posted by: Kathy | March 10, 2006 10:38 AM

In putting together the 26 essays for my book Mommy Wars, I did come across a few women like Tricia Long, who don't feel hostility between working and stay-at-home moms. My observation was that these moms had unusually solid self-confidence and a pragmatic approach (ie, less emotional, less guilty)to the work-kids conundrum.

Even those who do believe the tension is real don't consider it a traditional "war" where one side wants to defeat the others. Victory instead is feeling good about your own choices as a mom. And when you can't feel good about yourself (because no one in America is in the business of making moms feel GOOD), the next best thing is feeling better than someone else. (Ask any 7th grade girl.) So here we are: the real mommy war is an inner battle inside our head, but it gets played out on an external stage through other moms.

Enough philosophizing! Gotta get some work done.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 10, 2006 10:38 AM

Before having a baby, I worked all the time (literally -- days, nights, weekends). I realized very quickly that I would not be able to (nor did I want to) carry on with that schedule once I had a child. Now I work from 8-5 twice a week, from 8-3:30 three days a week, and no more weekends. If I have to, I bring work home -- but only things that I can read while watching t.v. at night. I'm flexible about my arrangement and realize that as my needs and the needs of my family change, my work arrangement might need to change, too. I think flexibility and realistic expectations go a long way toward happiness. Thanks for the blog -- I think it's a great idea.

Posted by: E.J. | March 10, 2006 10:42 AM

This is a great blog…it’s interesting to see everyone’s differing opinions on motherhood, working, and family life. I think everyone has to find a solution that works for them and their families. Often the solutions aren’t perfect and compromised have to be made. But then when is life ever perfect.

I’m not a mother yet but I plan to be in a few years. My husband and I have been discussing and planning for our future family since before we were married. I want to be a SAHM until my children reach school age. In order to make this a reality my husband is going back to school to get a graduate degree. I’m supporting him right now so he can concentrate on school. When he finishes we plan to have children. Then he’ll be the one going to the office every morning while I’m at home. His getting an advanced degree and increased earning potential is key to our being able to afford for me to stay at home. I’ve gotten some criticism about me supporting my husband, setting aside my goals for his, why is he getting the advanced degree and not me, etc. I get sick of trying to explain to people that this is a choice we made together and being a SAHM is the goal I’m working towards. I plan to go back to school and get my Masters later. Once our children start school I’ll be going back to school too. It makes more sense for me get my Masters after I have children instead of now when I plan to be out of the work force for a few years. I think getting the masters later will be a good way to brush up on my job skills and make it easier to get back into the job market after having taken time off while my children are young.

Everyone has different needs and has different ways of solving them. Why does everyone have to be so critical of other people’s choices? Yesterday several comments were posted to the effect the SAHM are harming working women, wasting their educations, and not appreciative of sacrifices women in the past made so the women today have career choices. The key word here is choices. Women in the past fought so that we call could have freedom, equality, and choices. I understand and appreciate it. My wanting to be a full time mother in no way belittles that. If a woman goes to college but never works a day in her life it’s not a waste. Education is about more then just preparing for a job. College introduces you to new experiences, teaches you how to learn, makes you think about things you may have never considered before, teaches you social skills, time management skills, and so much more. Education makes you a better person, a better citizen, and a better mother. Is that a waste? Is using those skills to make $$$ the only “good” use? In the past women were forced into the family mold even if they weren’t happy with that role. Should we do the same thing now and force women into the office when they would be happier at home? How is that progress?

Posted by: Hoping to be a SAHM | March 10, 2006 10:56 AM

I was very fortunate when my children were younger to have wise managers who would let me do my work - but run off to pick up the kids after school and then finish up with a couple hours work from home. I'm currently frustrated with a huge administrative change that has made this formerly wonderful, family-friendly company a corporate nightmare, so I'm leaving at the end of the month to launch out on my own. I only have one child left at home and she can't even remember a time when I didn't work outside the home on a flexible schedule. I don't think it's ever too late in life to seek more balance. I'm looking forward to getting my life back so I can spend time with aging loved ones, be active at church, and support my older children while hopefully working from home. Technology advancement has made creative work ideas come to life. Long live the CPU!

Posted by: Becky | March 10, 2006 11:07 AM

I used to be a workaholic, but now I work 9 to 5 most days, with some weekends and late nights thrown in. My worry is that I don't seem to have enough time to play with the kids, teach them their alphabets etc etc. I toy with the idea of being a SAHM. But I know that would totally kill me, I tried that when my first child was born, and was a zombie for most of the time that I stayed at home. So I chose to take a job that doesn't pay much, and isn't high pressue, thought still satisfying. it seems to be the only choice I have so far...

Posted by: mother of 4 year old, 2 year old | March 10, 2006 11:25 AM

Personally - the only SAHM/WOHM mom tension I've felt - I think - is myself. I'm happier working - a long weekend w/my wonderful clan and I can't wait for a moment of peace at my desk. But, I'm often filled with guilt that I'm not spending enough time, doing enough, involved enough - with my kids. I feel like I'm always letting someone down. I too am fortunate to have managers who are more interested in my work product that my time - so I work 8 (or so) to 4:30 - more or less. When child #2 starts K in 07 - I will be able to (barring a management change) go to 35 hr weeks and my husband and I will take turns meeting the bus. Getting home at 2:30 3 days/week to meet the boys, get dinner on, supervise homework and maybe read a story or two or play baseball in the backyard - will HOPEFULLY ease our crazy life. But I'm still filled w/guilt that my oldest is bearing the brunt of my decision... There is no right answer.

Posted by: mother of 3 6 and under | March 10, 2006 11:50 AM

Does the term "Full-Time Mother" annoy any one? I used it myself until I became a mother, and relized that I am a full-time employee and a full-time Mother.

Posted by: Question? | March 10, 2006 11:52 AM

I think it's a huge mistake to frame the issue as a war between moms or even an internal war that rages within a mom. It's not that I don't appreciate (and experience) the internal conflict. Rather, I think it's a waste of energy and creativity for women (particularly working moms) to struggle to create their own tailor-made solutions to this internal conflict.

The solutions generally leave moms feeling fragmented and in perpetual (but futile) pursuit of the perfect balance between work and family. That's not to say that the solutions accomplish nothing -- they do -- but they don't solve the larger problem.

Women need to demand broader social and economic changes to better accommodate working families. Why is it that maternity leave benefits in the U.S. are so pitiful, compared to other industrialized nations? What incentives would encourage businesses to create products and services to accommodate the special needs of families (such as loans that can be deferred for a period of time while a parent stays home with small children)? How can government programs be adjusted to help? (New mothers used to be able to defer student loan payments for a period of time, but now they cannot.)

This isn't about a war between or within moms. It's about being a mom in a culture that is hostile to accommodating the special demands of motherhood and of parenthood.

Posted by: Jenny | March 10, 2006 11:55 AM

Full-time mom drives me crazy. I don't turn off being a mom because I go to work. A friend of mine used the term before she went back to work. I haven't heard her use it since.

Posted by: metoo | March 10, 2006 12:08 PM

I think a "mommy wars" bulletin board forum, where posts are organized by topic, would be more useful than a blog for discussing these issues. Comments to a blog are not organized in any way, and thus actual discussion becomes difficult.

Posted by: Not a Warrior | March 10, 2006 12:20 PM

The mommy wars definitely exist, and mostly they exist within each indivdual. I work full time. I have a 6-year-old son, and I worked right up until the day he was born and went back to rwork when he was 10 weeks old. My husband, a victim of the tech bubble disaster has had no income in almost years. My mother, who always worked (at flexible teaching jobs usually) when my sister and I were growing up, drips admiration from her voice when she talks about othermothers who have either given up[ working outside the home altogether or have given up other careers to get school teacher credentials so they can spend more time with their babies. I take my son to many plays, museums, and other cultural "events" because I think its important, and I love quality time with him. And then my mother tells me how "everyone" laughs at how much i do with him.

As if her ambiguity weren't enough, my mother-in-law in one breath tells me I should just work part-time so my sonm will ne well-adjusted and then tells me I should just learn to like being the sole breadwinner and that anyway, since I''m a professional I don't deserve a husband with a job. She was always the sole breadwinner and "enjoyed" it so much she dumped her husband over it.

I have been blesssed in that I found wonderful center-based day care for my son, where he is frankly better off than he would have been at home with my husband. At the center, he was with other children, they had lots of activities, stories were read, arts and crafts were done, etc. My husband, of course, was raised not to lift a finger around the house because his mother felt thaat getting him to do anything around the house was more effort than she could muster. This includes doing any activity with the child other than plopping him in front of a tv.

I sometimes feel a bit guilty for not spending more time with my son, but my income is necessary. I see how conflicted his 2 grandmothers are and I feel that reflects society. I love the time i spend with my son, but I am saddened by people who on the one hand seem to think I should spend more time with my child and at the same time seem to feel i should not enjoy my time him.

Just my $0.02.

Posted by: mcol_de_sp | March 10, 2006 12:46 PM

Two comments...

I have three kids. I work part time at a non-profit organization and take one class a semester. I love it and most of the women I know think it is an ideal situation, but I get the occasional potshot from each side. The full time paid employment moms think I'm cheating. The stay at home 24/7 moms make it clear I've broken the mom code by paying a sitter so I can "volunteer" and having the nerve to wear a dry-cleaned blouse to do it.

Second point: Why, oh why, must grown women call themselves and each other "Mommy"? If we want to be taken seriously we should stop using babytalk.

Posted by: Di | March 10, 2006 1:08 PM

I'm recently married and not quite at the point of having kids yet. But in talking with my friends, in our late twenties/early thirties, ranging from almost engaged to pregnant with first child, I've noticed an interesting pattern. Although in popular culture it's the women who are "blamed" for having a ticking biological clock who can't wait to have Babies, among my friends, it seems to be the men who are pushing for babies first. I've had this conversation at least 5 separate times. I was kind of puzzled by this, in myself as much as in any of my friends. But reading this blog, I wonder if maybe we're already struggling with these issues before the fact, knowing that we'll have to deal with "the mommy wars" and our husbands will not be expected to make the same types of decisions.

Posted by: hm | March 10, 2006 1:28 PM

I'm so glad to see this blog as it is badly needed.

I'm a full time working mother and my job requires me to work 40 hrs a week. I have 2 small children [8 and 3] and this has always been an issue for me. I'm the breadwinner in my family [as are many of my friends] so my working is not out of a need to keep my sanity, rather a need to live, pay the bills, tuition, etc.

For majority of African American women, we don't have the "choice" of being a stay at home mom as do other women simply because most of our husbands don't generate anywhere NEAR the income as their counterparts, due to a variety of reasons too many to list on this blog.

Moreover, a great number of African American women are the sole providers for the family so they literally have no other option other than to work full time.

Nonetheless, I've always suffered from alot of guilt/angst over the need to work but I've finally learned to be forgiving and accept reality as it is. Just because someone stays at home w/ their children doesn't make them a better mother, just like working full time doesn't make someone a worse mother.

Posted by: Mom of 2 in Silver Spring | March 10, 2006 1:35 PM

I'm one that thinks I have the best of both worlds--a full-time job with flexible hours, which allows me to be home until after the kids (8 and 5) leave for school, and then, the ability to leave mid-day to pick up my son from pre-school, usually bringing him back to have lunch in my office and play until my husband can take him home, on his way to pick up my daughter. I don't do it every day, but when I need to, it's a life-saver. It also gives my son the one-on-one time he often doesn't get, especially when I take the L (we live in Chicago) to pick him up and come back. That indulges one of his obsessions--the bus and train system--and makes me available to pay attention to him, not the road. I also make time to serve as an assistant Brownie leader in my daughter's troop, to get time just for her. Of course, flexibility works both ways; if there is something at work I am needed for on a night or weekend, I arrange my schedule so I can do it.
I don't wonder what parents without paying jobs do; I find full-time child care more challenging than work most days, especially since those parents (moms and dads) who don't have job commitments are the ones schools and other organizations count on.

Posted by: Michelle | March 10, 2006 2:03 PM

Talking with another mom today about a third mom we know, we discussed "the fight" we all chronically have with our husbands. The difficulty for most of us is that we are "in charge" of everything -- every doctor appointment, work meeting, birthday party, school assignment, carpool arrangement, soccer practice, and those important thank-you notes for grandma -- all the logistics of family life fall to us.

Many husbands apparently have difficulty not only doing these organizational household tasks, but also seeing the need for them to be done (and therefore appreciating it when these very real chores are performed by someone else).What we would really like from our spouses is acknowledgement of the difficulty and crushing responsibility of being the ONLY person apparently capable of keeping track of these important connections.

Posted by: Jill | March 10, 2006 2:53 PM

Coming across this blog has really freaked me out. I'm only fourteen, but I have already made big career plans (I want to be a plastic surgeon). I always knew I wanted kids when I grew up, but now I realize that I never considered how I would balance being a doctor and spending time with them. I would go crazy staying at home, I need more intellectual stimulation, but now I feel like if I pursue the path of being a doctor my future child will be horribly deprived. This blog has given me something to think about. Oh, and hats off the the working moms out there, like mine. I don't know how you do it.

Posted by: Emma | March 10, 2006 3:09 PM

The common thread running thru here is balance. Shouldn't we as parents, both moms and dads, be demanding more of our government and employers to help us in this effort? Flexible schedules are an easy way to help yet most corporations continue to resist them. There are all sorts of things our government and private employers could be doing but aren't. We will continue to be unable to find long term satisfying balance without help.

Posted by: LB | March 10, 2006 3:25 PM

I work FT out of necessity - husband is self-employed (home improvement) therefore we need benefits. I also make most of the $ and have a master's degree. One of the huge struggles is finding balance - between a long commute, and my being the caretaker of our 4yo child on Saturdays (he works at least half the weekend) there is almost no time for anything but work and childcare. Not that I don't enjoy being with my child but there is NO adult time, either for me alone, or with my spouse. By the time I put my child to bed, I am passing out with her, and get nothing done at home, only to get up in the a.m. to do it all over again. The trap we fall into is feeling we can never measure up in either arena, always feeling we should be giving more @ work and @ home. But where to cut ourselves a break? For now, I am hanging on to the hope that our long-term financial plan will eventually take some of the pressure off but in the mean time, it's hard. I don't resent SAHMs but would like to have the choice to go PT. And I agree that the rhetoric about this being a "war" is not helpful, although this discussion about the lack of balance that I think many moms/parents feel is worth articulating.

Posted by: ExhaustedinDC | March 10, 2006 3:42 PM

LB - I agree completely. I am a military wife in the process of moving to the DC area. I'm also 20 weeks pregnant with our first child. I have encountered nothing but roadblocks and derision from my employer while trying to schedule my own doctor's appointments and coordinate our upcoming move.
I want to be a SAHM, but am very nervous about doing that in DC, one of the most expensive metro areas in the nation.
But I do feel confident that if my husband and I work together, budget and concentrate on what's important, that we can do it.

Posted by: 20wkspregnant | March 10, 2006 3:51 PM

I would like to posit a pretty controversial idea that a friend of mine shared with me the other day. She's a married mom of 2 (I'm a married mom of 1) and she says that part of this generation's problem is that we have made our kids the center of our lives. In everything we do and with regard to every choice we make, we put them first -- above ourselves, above our spouses, above our relationships with our spouses, etc.

When we were young, the philosophy was more along the lines of "children are seen and not heard." In other words, our parents didn't organize their lives around us; they fit us IN to their lives. My mom worked pretty much throughout my growing-up years, and it was fine with me. I was a latchkey kid by the time I was in 6th or 7th grade, and I don't recall it having any negative effects.

Today, we mothers sweat every decision because we don't want our kids to be short-changed and we don't want to have any regrets. An honorable goal, but what's the toll for us? In some ways, I can see my friend's point: We seem to have lost ourselves in the process of being mothers.

What do others think?

Posted by: JMB | March 10, 2006 4:05 PM

I really don't understand what this hype about working is all about? Do we really like deadlines, long meetings, obnoxious bosses and insensitive colleagues? Or do we miss the "adult" environment of work and having adult conversations about mature subjects? Having read the above posts, I am frankly jealous of the supportive work environment these women describe. I had a job where when I was leaving 15 min earlier or just earlier than others (I had a long commute and the nanny left at 6:30 on the dot) a female colleague remarked that she needs to "rent herself some kids" so she can leaver early and a male colleague pointedly looked at the clock. I felt really defensive and felt like I had to justify myself all the time and work twice as hard and fast as others. BTW, this was a highly professional, educated, sophisticated office environment. I can't imagine anybody on their deathbed saying I wish I had worked more...

Posted by: Anonymous | March 10, 2006 4:10 PM

Hmm...good points but you missed something towards the end of you column, mother, worker and WIFE.

Why is it the women of today only think of themselves and their kids. They never seem to want to give credit to the husbands or the men in their lives. Why is that?

I'm not talking equal rights stuff...just respectful human being relations...Men seem always get treated as second class citizens.

Thanks

Posted by: Frankey | March 10, 2006 4:28 PM


I’m sorry so many working women seem to feel guilty about their choice not to become stay-at home moms. My mom raised my two siblings and me while working 40+ hours per week, and I think we turned out just fine. At the time, she was given only six weeks leave after birth, so I spent my early years in full-time day care, pre-school and then kindergarten. I’m sure some people out there would see it as abandonment, but I loved going. I looked forward to playing my friends everyday, and getting a chance to spend hours climbing on the jungle gym.

The thing is, my mom knew how to balance her work and family life, and more importantly, she was willing to delegate responsibility. She would come home every night a make us a homemade dinner – which wasn’t easy. But then she would insist that each child help out with setting the table, cleaning the dishes and doing the chores that she knew she didn’t have time for. My Dad also contributed. And even though I grew up in Los Angeles – where there are more cars than people – I was expected to walk or take the public bus at an early age. My mom wasn’t a chauffeur, and didn’t have the time to taxi me from school to piano to … wherever. As a result, I think I am a more independent person than I would have been if I didn’t have these responsibilities at a young age. Also, I never get lost – well, almost never.

This isn’t to say that stay-at-home moms are wrong, just that there’s no one way to raise a kid. And as far as I know, there isn’t any conclusive evidence that working full-time will cause your child to grow-up less successful, or less happy. So don’t worry about it – and please stop feeling guilty.

Posted by: AH | March 10, 2006 4:33 PM

Exactly, JMB!

We are told that we are supposed to eat, sleep, and breathe parenthood, usually by people trying to sell us something, and it's ridiculous.

I spent the first six months of my first child's life wondering if I was missing something, because I didn't go around in a state of sloppy, half-panicked frazzle like the rest of the stay-at-home or part-time-job moms in the playgroup.

And it was a badge of honor--the more tired and worried the mom, the better the mom. I just didn't get it. I still don't.

Come on, gals, is it social progress to be proud of going around in spit-stained sweatsuits and not washing your hair? To sit at the table feeding a child while your husband eats, then eat a cold dinner alone?

Yes, we sacrifice for our kids, but if a woman can't find 20 minutes in a 24-hour day to take care of her own basic needs and personal dignity, then mom culture has gone VERY overboard.

Posted by: Di | March 10, 2006 4:49 PM

To the extent that mothers have their own lives (our dads, too -- but this is a moms' blog), I think they raise their kids with a strong sense of independence, confidence and resilience. I shudder to think of what society will be like when today's 5 and 6 year olds come of age. Will they know how to do ANYTHING for themselves? Will they be able to fill their time with simple pleasures, or will they expect to be entertained every waking hour?

I am not criticizing anyone's choices; there are many ways of being a good parent. But I do think that many of us have lost all sense of perspective. For too many moms I know (and I, alas, am frequently one them), the quality of our lives is measured by the amount of guilt we feel on any given day.

We have made parenthood a chore when it doesn't have to be this way. I do think mom culture has gone overboard. Maybe it started when people began to organize "play dates" and when pregnant moms started to put earphones on their bellies so their fetuses could hear Beethoven. (My mom, who's 80, laughs at such concepts.)

Somehow we have got to reclaim ourselves. We're no good to anyone if we're not good to ourselves. Like the last person said, there is nothing noble about being a martyr.

And now...I'm cuttin' out from the office and heading home!

Posted by: JMB | March 10, 2006 5:05 PM

di, i couldn't have said it better myself!

Posted by: mary | March 10, 2006 5:05 PM

If you are at all concerned that only 1/9 supreme court justices, only a few percent of CEOS, only 14% of senators, only 25% of full professors, only 16% of law partners, only 7% of top-earning medical doctors, and much, much fewer than half of Ph.D. level scientists are women (i.e., only a small percentage of influential and high-profile careers are done by women), you should be thinking about the effect that SAHMs have on these statistics.

Some recent government statistics show that the average doctoral level scientist works about 50 hrs/week, the average doctor works about 52 hours/week, and the average lawyer works about 46.5 hrs/week. These influential careers require a lot of work, and it is currently set up that if you get off the bandwagon to raise kids for a couple years, your chances of ever fully getting back on are slim (this should certainly be changed, but that's how it is right now).

Most of these jobs are held by men, and most of these men have SAH or part-time-working wives to take care of their kids and the rest of their non-work lives. The fact is that almost no women who attempt high-powered careers have SAH husbands to take care of their kids and the rest of their lives. When women in these jobs have to compete with men who have very little work to do when they go home, these women either have to be bionic women who require only a few hours of sleep a night, or else they simply are not going to be able to compete.

Face the facts, if you are a professional, you have a huge advantage if you can get yourself a SAH spouse. Almost no women have been able to get men to do this (only 2% of SAH spouses are men), and I don't see that stat changing anytime soon.

Somehow society needs to take into account that men have this huge advantage (or somehow reduce this male advantage), either by fewer women staying at home as SAH wives (who provide the advantage) or by some other mechanism, or you can bet that the pitifully low representation of women in influential careers is not going to budge.

Posted by: person | March 10, 2006 6:24 PM

I strongly disagree with the assertion that "no one in America is in the business of making moms feel good." As a federal government employee who has gone from single and carefree to married and expecting, I have been amazed at how much better the system now treats me. I feel much more socially integrated into our organization than I ever did as a single woman. I get to use weeks of medical leave to care for the baby that would have all been lost otherwise. My colleagues reach out to me much more. All anyone in our organization ever seems to do is glorify the heroism of marriage and childbirth.

Did the mother who left 15 minutes early every day ever think about who would have to pick up the slack? Did she routinely arrive 15 minutes earlier than others to compensate? I think her coworkers were cruel to express their concerns that way but, let's face it, those are valid concerns. Such behavior would simply never be tolerated in a single or married-but-childless employee who did not have a serious medical condition.

I think the "Mommy Wars" debate evades the larger issue: women are and will continue to be financially and professionally penalized as long we keep accepting basic social inequity in our personal lives. Despite the fact that American men help out much more than their fathers ever did, they have still remained, as a group, unwilling to trade their career prospects for parenthood or do the bulk of the unpaid labor it takes to sustain a middle-class household. We know that we, not our male lovers or husbands, will be the primary caretakers. We know that our careers will be derailed. Many of us also know that we will be torn between our desire for meaningful outside-the-home work and an overwhelming sense of duty to our children. But we choose to take the plunge. In this era of widely available contraceptives no one forces an educated, ambitious woman to have children. It is a conscious choice, the consequences of which should be accepted as much as the benefits are enjoyed.

Posted by: Preparturient | March 10, 2006 8:28 PM

To Preparturient;

As for the mother "who left 15 minutes early every day" and never thought about "who would have to pick up the slack"-- please. People do not work non-stop, at full effectiveness for 8 hours or more a day. I've had co-workers who routinely took 15 minute smoking breaks, and yet I've never heard anyone suggest smokers come in early to make up for the lost time. What about people who take long bathroom breaks? I guess they should take some work in there to keep up the pace?

I have two toddlers children and work at my federal job from home 20-25 hours a week. I feel lucky to have this arrangement. But I know my agency benefits, too. My work output is quite similar to that of my full-time colleagues, because I am very focused. I know I have to be productive while I work, so I am. I suspect many other working mothers, whether they work from home, or in the office, full or part time, are the same way. Putting in your time at the office does not equal productivity.

I suspect you may see things differently after you have that child. At least I hope so.

Posted by: telecommuting mom | March 11, 2006 12:33 AM

I have a 16 year-old son and an 8 year-old daughter. In these 16 years I have worked full-time, part-time, worked out of my house and am now a full-time stay-at-home mom. I have never taken part in the "mommy wars" and I won't do so now. Women who work can be excellent mothers. Women who stay at home can have fascinating lives. Each choice brings challenges, challenges that can, hopefully, be met with energy, vitality and determination.

I deeply disliked the statement

I'm still envious of the trust stay-at-home moms seem to have in their husbands and in life, a breezy Carol Brady confidence that they will always be taken care of.

Our author claims to be against the mommy wars and yet she would paint stay-at-home moms with such an ugly brush. My work in earlier years allowed us the economic flexibility for me to be at home now. My care for our children, our home and my husband allow him to focus his time on his work and the result has been for him to have greater confidence and financial rewards than when we shared more "at-home" duties.

There are three things I totally do not miss about work: commuting, people who ramble at meetings and colleagues whose arrogance out-weighs their talent. I was disappointed in the arrogance to talent ratio of this piece.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2006 1:18 PM

I look forward to the day when no parent feels they must "defend" their decisions regarding work/family and how they are navigating their lives. Having your office in the kitchen works for you. Who cares if it doesn't work for someone else or you think someone else would not want it that way, it works for you. Once we can get to a point in our society where we can say "So what" to the competition factor as it relates to parenting and those who are caregivers (parent or not) feel supported in how they deal with work/family responsibiliies I think the defensiveness will decrease and the enjoyment in our lives will increase. Employers,employees, parents, non-parents are caregivers. Having a society which values caring for others, certainly would help us all care about each other. Caring about other people is hard work too!

Posted by: Devra Renner | March 12, 2006 8:50 AM

I hope folks don't mind a few quick comments from a telecommuting stay-at-home father.

There was a comment about statistics for PhDs, executives, etc
being male and needing a SAHM. So I've got a PhD and until
recently was a VP of a Fortune 10 company (now VP at a smaller
company) and have been the parent at home since my son was born a decade ago. I telecommute from my home.

I don't have my office in the kitchen, but close -- I redid the living
room as my office. So I can see my son's comings and goings
and (equally important) he can see me.

I take my cues from the father of a close childhood friend -- that father worked at home as an illustrator and kept an eye on his four kids after school while mom worked [in the 1970s]. He was firm with
the kids that his work was important and he should only be
interrupted for important things -- so they were careful about
interrupting him. Yet, somehow, if a problem began brewing
he always seemed to emerge from the office in time to prevent
trouble. I'm not that good, but I try -- and it is interesting how
the sounds of a household change when problems crop up.

Posted by: craig | March 12, 2006 2:53 PM

As a Canadian mom, this statement leaves me gobsmacked:

"I get to use weeks of medical leave to care for the baby that would have all been lost otherwise."

You feel that the system is treating you like gold because you get mere weeks of leave to care for your newborn? Yikes!

In Canada, as in most of the Western World, the standard maternity leave is 12 MONTHS, nowt 6 weeks. This length of time is important because it allows a parent to be home for the entire critical first year, and gives mom a chance to breastfeed that long (if she chooses) without having to deal with the logistics of pumping in the public washrooms or letdwon during a business meeting.

It serves another important function in that it evens the playing field. Even the most hardcore working working mom has the chance to experience life as a SAHM. This allows women to at least glimpse both sides of the fence and make a more informed choice about what they want in their own home/life balance.

Posted by: Ms Sisyphus | March 12, 2006 3:07 PM

One of the things I find most interesting about this blog so far is how well written the entries are. Obviously, there are a lot of intelligent women (and men) out there thinking about these issues.

My husband and I are in the process of trying to figure out if he should become a SAHD. He's currently a teacher. His salary basically pays for day care and health care. With the long hours he puts in, this seems crazy. So, we're thinking he should stay home with our two children.

Does anyone have suggestions or thoughts on whether or not this has worked for them? Or, maybe people have thoughts about how to deal with how society will respond to this plan. So far, our families have not been very supportive.

Posted by: erossmith | March 12, 2006 9:46 PM

Re: Teacher husband

Has he considered being a part time sub? A friend of mine did that. You can pick your days, no homework to grade, keep up certification and years of service in the district, etc.

Posted by: Di | March 12, 2006 10:10 PM

Erossmith - My husband is also a teacher. I am a lawyer. When our baby was born, he had planned to stay home. Our friends and family were extremely supportive -- they thought it was great.

He ended up working part time instead, with my sister caring for the baby on the days he worked. I worked full time. It worked out very well. He enjoyed his alone time with the baby, and no one seemed to think it was a bad arrangement.

Posted by: Jenny | March 13, 2006 7:34 AM

I absolutely can't work from home. I have three children under the age of 4 and when I try to work from home, I... a) get nothing done OR b) completely reject my children's needs, piss them off royally, and ultimately bash their trust in me. It's a lose-lose. Being "there" for your kids isn't just being there phsyically.

Posted by: Part-time career and Full-time Mom in Bethesda | March 13, 2006 2:38 PM

I work in my "kitchen office" every morning from 6:00 until 7:30 or 8:00, when it's time to get everyone ready for the day. I'm back at my desk (either at home or in my nearby office building) at 9:00, where I work until it's time to pick up the kids from school. Yes, my "lunch break" is from 8:00-9:00 a.m., but I get to drop my girls off and they run into my arms at the end of their day.

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