More Than A Paycheck

Johnson & Johnson -- a company where I spent my late 20s and early 30s -- is often called a "Family of Companies." Surprising to me is how often this sprawling conglomerate does feel like a family. Fifteen years ago, when I was going through the dissolution of my first marriage, my job felt like a safe haven, a place of consistency amidst chaos. Once I'd rebuilt my life, Johnson & Johnson sent me to Australia, Brazil, Dubai, Argentina and Mexico, places where I met people and had adventures I'd never have had without work. When I became a mom, J&J showed me how work and motherhood can enrich each other, and when I had to move to Minneapolis for my husband's job, J&J let me work long-distance, part-time, from halfway across the country. The company supported me in myriad life situations.

I recently was in New Jersey near the company headquarters for some Mommy Wars book signings. Later I went out to dinner with two women I'd worked side-by-side with for nearly 10 years. Between us, we now have six kids, two husbands and two ex-husbands. Both women have reached the top of their careers at J&J.

We laughed, caught up, and good-naturedly harassed the waiter as only three type A women can do. I found myself asking these friends for advice about career and family problems I hadn't yet shared with my real family members (nothing I'm willing to divulge here, either). We unraveled complicated family problems, tough bosses, what to do next in our careers. After we hugged good-bye and I drove away alone down the New Jersey Turnpike, I thought about all that being a working woman and working mother means to me. I imagine volunteer work at my kids' school or in my church or community would mean the same to me if I didn't have a job. We all need work, paid or unpaid.

Work has given me far more than I ever imagined when I got my first paycheck. Many times, my job has been my lifeline to sanity and a better future. A few times, a particular boss or project has driven me nuts -- and toughing it out has thickened my skin. Through work I've found friends who've stood by me for 15 years, who dole out good and caring career and personal advice, without expectation of a promotion or hard work or increased profitablity in return.

Have you had similar results from your jobs or volunteer work? Which companies -- or experiences -- would you recommend to someone starting out today?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 10, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Workplaces
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I have enjoyed your blog for sometime now, as we are both alike in many ways. Today your post truly touched a chord. I have worked for Bank of America now for about 13 years, and like J&J for you, the bank does often feel like a family and lifeline for me. I too started out full gear - armed with my MBA and aspirations to make a full time career at the bank... motherhood and a child with a rare form of cancer changed those plans, yet the bank has stood by my like a fine friend. Yes, it has its bad seeds from time to time.... just like we have bad seeds in our families and at spots in our dearest relationships, yet at the end of the day, the bank has remained steady in providing me and my family and many other families around the world with a safe and fine place to work.

Posted by: Maureen Quinlan | May 10, 2006 7:58 AM

Work probably mean more than a paycheck to men as well, so Leslie, what is your point?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2006 8:08 AM

Geez person-who-didn't-sign-your name (Post #2). This is a BLOG of her thoughts. I think her point was pretty well spelled out in the blog.
The fact that she is talking from the perspective of a woman, which by the way she is, doesn't mean that work doesn't mean more than a paycheck to men too.

If men have anything to add about their experiences on this -or any other - topic, then let's hear it. But, frankly, the overly sensitive nature and reactions of many posts on this board (by men and women) is a little tired.

Posted by: JS | May 10, 2006 8:27 AM

The point is that work women should not feel guilty about working when they have children, I think. It seems that some people think that the woman (with children at home) should only work when there are pressing economic needs. Work is more than that, it can also be a source of emotional support, friends, an identity, cool travel... When I got divorced, years ago, my job is what got me through it.

Posted by: MLH | May 10, 2006 9:05 AM

what a forward thinking wondrous company J&J must be, to have let you work from far away and supported you in many life situations--we should all be so lucky and I must apply for a job there asap! Most companies say, oh too bad, if you need to move for a spouse's job, and if you have a life crisis, be it health, financial or otherwise of your own or your family's, the company wants nothing to do w/it. When my college age daughter had to be in and out of hospitals,the insurance covered less than half the costs, and it was stressful in so many ways for us. When my boss learned of this dilemma, she took me 'off the clock'--which had enabled me to earn overtime pay of nearly 10 hours a week--and said,"oh, now I guess you'll need a parttime job to pay those bills." I've never forgotten what a rotten thing this was to do to someone in an already bad situation. So forgive me if I do not think "work" has been a solace and a support.

Posted by: Rita | May 10, 2006 9:16 AM

I've worked at wonderful and collegiate places that didn't hesitate to lay me off when times got tight. I think it's wonderful that you've had such an unequivocally understanding and supportive experience at your job, but I think you are lucky. I learned early in my career that as wonderful as the people I work for may be, business is business, and I would hazard a guess that within even J&J, there are many examples of less considerate behavior.

Posted by: HP | May 10, 2006 9:28 AM

JS, do you remember rolling your eyes at those stories in the 1970s about fathers "discovering" the joys of diapering their child? (The Doonesbury comic strip published a particularly memorable spoof of this.)

That's kind of what Leslie's blog sounds like right now, but from the other side: women "discovering" that work can provide an oasis of stability in the chaos of one's personal life.

Just as there are people who are wide-eyed at this very concept, there are those who are rolling their eyes at Leslie's supposed "discovery".

Posted by: Silliness | May 10, 2006 9:58 AM

I've yet to figure out why women obsess about this stuff so much. It's some weird desire to be "friends" or "family" with their oftimes faceless corporate employer. This is not Japan, you are not expected to stay with one company for 50 years. If you can't have a family while working with a particular entity, move to another one; men do this all the time. I can't help but wonder if there's some correlation between this desire to be treated "right" by a particular employer and all the aforementioned divorces. Maybe you should be wedded to your husband, not your job.

Posted by: Agreed | May 10, 2006 10:04 AM

You know, all are valid perspectives; whether you are working for pay, doing volunteer work, working out of love of the craft (artists, etc.) -- the real point is the need to continue to develop, grow, contribute, and keep active our entire lives, despite (or because) of being mothers, women, daughters. The woman caring for an elderly, frail parent needs outside-the-family interaction and investment of her time and talent as much as the mom home with a newborn; whether that comes in the form of paid work, volunteer activities, or reading blogs and writing comments!
Working -- and not working -- offers lots of advantages and also drawbacks -- regardless of whether the worker is male, female, married, or a parent. Isn't that true of any endeavor?

Posted by: JerzyGirl | May 10, 2006 10:11 AM

It's nice that Leslie's workplace was supportive when she was ending her marriage to the spouse who used her for a punching bag, but there are many companies who will fire someone who has a spouse or S.O. who show signs of going postal at the workplace of a spouse/S.O. (to avoid liability in lawsuits where fellow workers may be injured/killed).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2006 10:15 AM

I appreciate Leslie's comments about J&J (I have some friends who have worked there and it is one of the more family friendly companies). But I don't think her point was the "benevolent" companies (I agree with the posts above that relying on your company's support too much can be risky). I think her point was that the friendships and relationships developed throughout her career have sustained her many times. When family life gets tough and chaotic, it's nice to have a job (paid or unpaid) to go to. When the job drives you crazy, it's your family that is your lifeline. Having both is a difficult balancing act, as we all know. But Leslie is just pointing out some of the things that make it worth it.

Posted by: FS Mom | May 10, 2006 10:16 AM

My first real job was with a huge, all-encompassing company that had its excellent as well as bad points. Since then I have worked at a series of smaller companies and my work has been much more of a job, not a family situation as it was at the large place. I don't know if it is my getting older or the nature of the workplace that has changed so much, that I feel so much more distinctly separate from my workplace world than I used to.

But still - I have realized many times in my life that the nature of my work is just crucial to how I feel about myself and life. And in many many ways it is through work that I have grown and come to my "cosmic" realizations about life. Yes the birth of my two children and various events in our family life have also marked and grown me, but I think that my work is about as important in how I experience life and how I feel human. Work has never just been something I do to pay the bills.

Posted by: Catherine | May 10, 2006 10:20 AM

My mom has her own law firm. She and her partners broke off from a large firm and formed their own small, specialized one. In some ways they're like the cast of Cheers or something - a close-knit, if dysfunctional, family! :) From what I can tell (and experienced, as her child - I'm now in my 20s), this has made it easier for people there to balance work and family/outside activities/etc. Most of the lawyers and other staff have children - some young, some grown. They all work a LOT, but everyone knows everyone else really well, and there's no corporate hierarchy or whatever. There's flexibility - though more for the lawyers than the secretaries, b/c it's more important that they be there and available, whereas a lot of legal work can be done anywhere. Although my mother's secretary was having child-care issues and so she has set up a schedule where she comes in earlier and leaves earlier.

Not that everyone can go out and start their own small law firm, but this seems to have worked out well for the people there. They share similar goals in the specialized work they do - it's something very important to them on a personal level - and they seem to get a charge out of working together.

Posted by: Law Firm Daughter | May 10, 2006 10:38 AM

In my experience, I didn't expect or rely on my employers for moral support, I just was extremely lucky to have found a lot of support when I really needed it. I have had my share of "bad" employers. One of my bosses actually helped my ex-husband kidnap our kid. She hid them in her house. And she didn't even know my ex-spouse that well! After that experience, later on and in a new job, I kept to myself and did not share my personal life at work. However, when my marriage did break apart and it was more "public" (I was working and living in a military base) I was very lucky to find a compassionate boss and, in the end, great friends.
When you find an awful boss and work environment, it can be hell. But when it is good, it can be great.

And again, that said, work is for me more than a paycheck in terms of a personal accomplishment, learning skills, meeting interesting people, but I don't rely on it to provide me with the solutions to all my problems or a personal life.

Posted by: MLH | May 10, 2006 10:43 AM

My work has also been a lifeline to me. Work is an inextricable part of my being. It allows me to use a part of my brain that doesn't get exercised elsewhere. I really enjoy figuring out complicated regulations and putting the pieces of the puzzle together and coming up with ways it all makes sense, and then using that to solve problems. I love writing, pulling together different concepts into a tight, well-reasoned document -- when the tumblers all click into place, it's tremendously satisfying. And I work with people who make me feel smart and competent, and frequently tell me that I do a good job. In short, working makes me feel smart and valued every day (well, almost).

I'm extremely lucky to have found a field that is so satisfying and a firm that is very supportive: I'm a lawyer at a firm that sees its employees as assets, not liabilities. When my husband's job took us across the country and I found I hated my new job there, they let me telecommute from 2,000 miles away. When we finally moved back east, they gave me my choice of locations and status (full-time vs. part-time, partnership track or not). They also let me work at 80% -- and they made me a partner working at that rate (they even made another woman a partner while she was on maternity leave!).

My advice for people starting out today is, if you have the opportunity, find something you love to do, and actively look for places that seems to offer the kind of flexibility and lifestyle you will want down the road -- don't pick something just because it pays a lot, but also don't just settle for a "secure," boring job unless you have to (i.e., family commitments, needing health insurance, etc.). Even before I was married and had children, I always chose jobs that would let me have a life, and have never chosen a job just because it offered the most money. Then, once you get a job, work very hard to prove that you are a valuable asset, because the more you offer your company/clients, the more they should be willing to offer you to keep you.

Also pay attention to the financial side early on. If you keep your expenses low and avoid debt as much as possible from the beginning, when you do have kids, that will give you more options (staying home, working part-time, etc.).

The biggest thing is to be conscious and aware of these issues when you're starting out. In my field, the opportunity for higher salaries can suck people in -- they start off thinking, "I'll go for the big bucks the first couple of years, and then when I want to have a family, I'll scale back." But then when that time comes, they still have $50K in student loans, or they have mortgages and car payments based on that income, and so they feel trapped. If you only intend to do X for a few years, then plan for that -- choose to use that salary in a way that will get you what you want in 5 or 10 years (pay down debt, buy less house than you can afford, etc.). If you make job satisfaction and lifestyle your priorities for your career, you are more likely to ultimately find a place that gives you that.

Finally, I do understand that there's a lot of luck involved, and not everyone has those opportunities -- my mom was a single mom, and I worked my way through college and law school, so I understand that there are other needs and commitments that sometimes trump personal satisfaction. And sometimes, life throws you a curve (I certainly wasn't expecting to be transferred out west a year before I was due to make partner, or my husband's company to shut down when I was 8 months pregnant). But no matter the situation, you are far more likely to reach your ultimate goals if you define what they are, recognize and acknowledge the other things that will have to give to let you reach those goals, and are constantly on the lookout for options and other paths that might allow you to get there.

Posted by: Laura | May 10, 2006 10:53 AM

Right on, Laura! Good advice.

This sentence really jumped out at me:

"don't pick something just because it pays a lot, but also don't just settle for a "secure," boring job unless you have to"

We recently moved to a new state, and after some searching I found a job at an organization that was very established, prestigous, and also extremely boring for me. I didn't love it but it seemed safe and secure. Two weeks into that job I was offered another job that looked more exciting and interesting (and paid better) but much more risky. I decided to take it, even though I was worried about giving up the stability of the first job. Two weeks after I left, it came out that there had been severe mismanagement and possibly fraud in the upper management, and the organization may fold. Meanwhile, my new job has worked out incredibly well; I'm challenged and happy and well valued.

I learned a real lesson in that experience, and I'm so glad I made the choice I did. You never know what will happen in any job, so I think you should go for what you will enjoy and make the best of it.

Posted by: Shannon | May 10, 2006 11:13 AM

I know I am one of the lucky ones, but I purposely searched long and hard for a company that would be supportive trhough life;s situations, including starting a family. I get calls from recruiters weekly offering me more money and a better title, but I would never leave this place. If you know you want to be a working mom and can afford to look at intangibles at a workplace instead of just pay, then my advice is to do that. Many yound people (including me) make the mistake of only considering salary when looking at a job.

Posted by: SoontoBeMom | May 10, 2006 12:01 PM

For me it is not necessarily about the company you work for, but who is your boss or your immediate supervisor and what are there expectations.

When I was looking for new work 3 years ago, I had simoulatenous offers from two different companies. I turned down the position with more authority because it meant working for an older man who had no family. When I asked some indirect questions of him about work/life balance I realized I'd feel lots of guilt if that family emergency came up and had to pull me away. The place I did chose to work, I've always worked with supervisors (all male) who have families, make families their priority, and never blink when that emergency comes up and I have to run.

In return for the respect they've shown me, I've always returned the favor in filling some "urgent role" that nobody else could fulfill on a moment's notice.

I think employers get more out of their employees when they respect the balance that we're all trying to strike.

Posted by: Mom in Silver Spring | May 10, 2006 1:45 PM

Surprized that a company is a safe haven in anything.
My career has been composed of insults from other staff and bosses, assigned to do the wrong jobs, nit-picking bosses who ignored excellent work, lay-offs,
useless interviews by personnel managers who are justifying their jobs?, other staffers giving me instructions in long hand on post it notes!!??-when they have word on their PCs!!!???, My current boss is bipolar and evidently quite psychotic; except for the fact its close to home, sometimes I fear--

Posted by: Veteran | May 10, 2006 1:57 PM

To all you people who have nothing but bad experiences at work.
You should look at yourselves and try to figure out why that is. Look, we all have our challenges, difficult bosses, etc. But if all you have is bad, then you are contributing to it or choosing it. Stop playing the victim and take some control over your life. No one can make your life miserable without your consent.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2006 2:04 PM

Work is what you make it. For those who say that work is just work, and it stops at 5pm, and you don't think about it again until the next morning, you probably feel like those are wasted hours. But if you take a real vested interest in what you are doing, it can truly enrich your life. When Leslie said that she would probably feel the same way if she was doing volunteer work, I think this is the point she was trying to get across.

Sure, we all don't have jobs we love and companies that look out for us, but maybe it's time for those workers in bad places to either find a new job or try to make the best of the situation they're in. Especially in DC, we spend so much time working, that we ought to have a vested interest in what we're doing.

PS: Taking a job for the money is like buying a car for the color.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | May 10, 2006 2:06 PM

"No one can make your life miserable without your consent."

I couldn't agree more!

Posted by: SLP | May 10, 2006 2:07 PM

I do believe J&J is often cited as one of the most (if not THE most) family friendly large company in America. So I do think Leslie's experience is the exception, not the rule. I work for a big company with wonderful people but I would never think of turning to my company or co-workers for any kind of personal solace. That isn't why my co-workers are there. If it is offered, fine. But I don't expect it. I'm a male, so maybe I view this thing differently. I would guess Leslie's experience matches less than 20 percent of workers today, and her expectations match even fewer of workers over 30 (people under 30 usually still don't know exactly what they want, even when they think they do).

Posted by: Ottis | May 10, 2006 2:09 PM

"We all need work, paid or unpaid."

I don't think it's work as such that everyone needs. I think it's more that everyone needs a social network and people with whom they feel valued, whether it's at work or elsewhere. People need other people to care about them and what goes on in their lives. When I was on maternity leave with my first child, I found the experience very isolating. Several months later, I left my job while in graduate school and my daughter went to daycare three days a week and I had her the other two. I enjoyed interacting with other (mostly) mothers at Gymboree and Water Babies and talking "kid" but I also liked the days I went to school where I wasn't seen in the context of being someone's mother, and where I could work towards my future goals with other people in the same situation.

I still keep up with my former co-workers on occasion because these are people I interacted with both on a professional and more personal level for years. And at my current job, I have my set of "work" friends with whom both personal and professional discussions come up.

When I was looking for my last position, my husband thought I was crazy (at first) because I was really only looking in Montgomery County, not even D.C. But that really worked out and I'm the one with the 15 min commute rather than 1 hr plus. Like someone else was saying, sometimes you have to purposely search for a work place that's going to be supportive through life's situations. It's not just about money. Your commute time, your work schedule, how supportive (or evil) your co-workers and supervisors are, whether you enjoy the work. It all matters.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | May 10, 2006 2:20 PM

I'm surprised at the bitterness some of you express at this blog. Leslie is sharing her experiences and her thoughts which are all uniquely hers. If you don't agree or have different experiences, you don't need to trash hers while sharing yours. Just because it's not your view of the world, doesn't mean it's wrong - it's just different. So let's tone down the snide remarks and disdain and use the opportunity to share different experiences.

Posted by: Sigh | May 10, 2006 2:35 PM

with 1,500 aol layoffs and 4,500 from another company in the same paper; someone's excellent experiences with one company somehow doesn't seem relevant in today's US. Glad that her company is intelligent; but her experiences don't ring true for; I'd say 80% of the readers in the private sector.

Posted by: reader | May 10, 2006 2:37 PM

Over the last 13 years, work has meant different things at different times. Being in a big consulting company, it gave me instant friends and a support group out of college - friends that I've kept and grown with as we moved from happy hours to weddings to children's birthday parties. It's given me fantastic opportunity to lead and manage other people - some great, some not so great. It's let me learn by example how to be a good co-worker/manager and how to be a bad one. It's toughened me up and made me stronger and less emotional about the 'little things'. It's taught me time management and how to organize and plan. It's also showed me different types of work - frantic, work all night, travel the next morning for months on end to calm, arrive at 9 and leave by 5 - and how your life priorities need to map to what kind of work you can do at any point in your life. But most importantly, it taught me that if I don't tell people what I want, nobody's going to hand it to me.

I love my family, and while I don't 'love' work, I honestly think working at my company has made me a better person, a better mother and has been much more than just a paycheck.

Posted by: NY | May 10, 2006 2:47 PM

I too question those who stay in jobs that are not supportive of their employees. I spend 8 - 10 hours a day at work and if I were miserable at work I'd be a miserable mother and wife as well. Not happy? Find something new!

My job is the most stable, predictable part of my life. I've recently been offered a new opportunity and I'm going to take it, but it will be very sad for me to leave the job (and people) who have meant a lot to me over the past decade. I feel fortunate that I was able to have such a great experience and I'm more than a little afraid that I won't find the same situation in my new office.

Posted by: Jennifer | May 10, 2006 3:31 PM

There are companies I worked for (e.g. One large Mid-Atlantic telco. that rhymes with "Horizon") where most people hated the company, but loved the benefits (including telecommuting, generous 401K matching, a- gasp!- good pension, etc.). Now that company has cut back so much workforce in the US and hired like crazy in India. The only good thing that was going on at the company was the amount of sheer incompetance/bumbling and lack of motivation. It created an environment where fellow employees and I mocked that company and its management for years.

Needless to say, I'm still in touch with those ex-employees, and we love to get together and make fun of that company's bumbling mentality and off-shore missteps. So, in a nutshell, that comapny and its missteps to this day make us all ex-employees laugh and remember the weird times.

Posted by: Rob. | May 10, 2006 3:45 PM

I think it's important to recognize that people's experiences are likely to differ not only based on the company, but on the level of their position. While I agree that those who say all of their experiences are bad are probably doing something to contribute, it's a lot harder to negotiate changes or even to change positions if you don't have a skill set that is in demand, or if you are not in a position where the company feels it has a lot invested in you. A lawyer, consultant or other high-level professional has more leverage to negotiate on flexibility and work/life balance because the firm or company has invested a lot training in that person, and that person has accumulated a knowledge base that the company relies on. Managers may not see it that way when working with an administrative assistant (though in my experience the administrative staff has a huge influence on how well a company runs, and more companies would do well to recognize that). I don't know what the market is for support positions, but it might be harder to find one that pays well than it is to move laterally from one firm to another. I think the lower you are on the ladder, the harder it is to exert control over your working conditions and get the respect you deserve. That's not an excuse for remaining a miserable worker all your life, but I think people should recognize that before handing out their advice.

Posted by: mel | May 10, 2006 4:13 PM

Mel makes a good point here, and it also points to a larger problem with Steiner's column, that it seems to be only concerned with the issues faced by well off professionals. I know that it is supposed to be written from her point of view but the amount of navel gazing going is a little much for me, and I suspect for other readers as well. Steiner seems to have failed to realize that the social and economic situation she and her family are in is very privileged and to be able to think the way she does in her columns is a luxury few can afford to indulge.

Posted by: Dave | May 10, 2006 4:50 PM

I fully agree that some positions are more than a means to an end (paycheck). Some of my colleagues were instrumental in getting me through a very rough divorce and custody battle. Other colleagues however were very quick to try to use my legitimate days off for court dates to complain about my "random" days off, albethey legit.
I think you get a little bit of both, the greater than just a paycheck and then, the paycheck.
My concern though is when you become "stuck" in a position for fear that the next position won't offer you the flexibility (sick kids, an occasional soccer game, etc) and hence limit your scope. I'm presently in that position. I have a wonderfully flexible job, albeit very demanding, great colleagues (although I keep them, for the most part, out of my private life) but am in a position where I need to earn more money (to pay for those divorce lawyers). I'm afraid that that will be at the cost of flexibility, but in turn, I'm barely making ends meet.
Where does one make the sacrifice?
Stuck and wondering.

Posted by: stuck & wondering | May 10, 2006 4:53 PM

More than a paycheck? I would be *delighted* with an honest employer. My last employer washed records for RV's they sold, removing owner information, warrantee and other repair work, sometimes going so far as to change VIN numbers. When I reported this to the Sorbanes-Oxley auditor, they fed my name and a complete report back to the corporate bosses, and I was fired.

Posted by: Mike | May 10, 2006 4:58 PM

More than a paycheck? The very question is hogwash, as we say in the south.

Posted by: yourntoo | May 10, 2006 6:29 PM

Dear Stuck and Wondering,

I think the only way you're going to find out is by getting out there and starting to look. You may be able to find something that pays more and will still be flexible, but you won't know if you don't put yourself out there. Also, it might be worth interviewing for jobs that you can see won't offer flexibility and try to get an offer at a higher salary. Then you can go to your current bosses and say, "Hey, I love it here, I don't want to leave, but I need more money. Can you do anything to match this offer?" Hunting for a job sucks, but it's the only way you'll find the answer to your dilemna. Good luck!

Posted by: Shannon | May 10, 2006 6:34 PM

My job is basically 9-to-5 and I rarely spend 10 minutes thinking about it outside of those hours. That doesn't mean that it isn't important to me during that time and that I don't work hard and feel accomplishment for what I do. Those hours are NOT "wasted" in my mind, but I also don't need work to be my only source of social contact, entertainment, and education. People who can talk only about their jobs are as boring as those who can talk only about their kids. I value my job and am grateful for it, but I've never been the career type so it's important to me to find a job that's "just a job" and doesn't require me to spend 23 hours of my day worrying about it.

Posted by: Lori | May 10, 2006 9:33 PM

Really interesting points here. Wanted to agree with people who advise keeping some emotional distance from your job -- I've found that everything works better when I stay rational, even when I was at J&J. Also wanted to point out that yes, my perspective is from a higher level manager's (a degree of success I've worked for three decades to achieve) but that doesn't mean I cannot sympathize with the stresses facing employees at lower levels. I started out doing clerical work that paid hourly and I well remember how a bad boss could absolutely ruin my life -- and how it would spill over to my home life. In order to be a good manager, you have to always be able to sympathize with people facing different work situations, and make sure you help them find the flexibility they need as well.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 11, 2006 7:06 AM

I had a job back when my kids were little where we were more than just a workplace -- we were a community of likeminded individuals; we traveled together, socialized together. It was one of those places where people ended up marrying each other! You know the kind of place I mean. I LOVED those people!

And then when my child was diagnosed with special needs and I took a hiatus from my job to tend to my child(ren), I foolishly assumed that some of these (mostly) women would still want to socialize with me occasionally, have the occasional lunch, etcd. WRONG! It was so isolating and lonely to realize that I had somehow constructed my whole social life (and a fair amount of my identity) around work -- and that when work was no longer in the picture, these people were no longer my friends. We had, in actuality, been friendly colleagues.

JUst a word of warning for those who want to wax poetic about their wonderful supportive work environments. It's not actually like your family or your neighborhood, where people accept each other, foibles and all, and where they work out problems to a resolution. Just saying -- don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Posted by: Another Mom | May 11, 2006 7:40 AM

I interned at McNeil about 10 years ago. I was given a bad review at the end. Not because of the quality of my work. Oh no. It clearly stated that as an intern taking time off for my grandfather's funeral and my own wedding was inappropriate. Go figure.

Posted by: J&J not all rosy | May 11, 2006 7:50 AM

Have any of you read Midlife Crsis at 30? It speaks to role that companies have in creating families for people and how that affects job and life decisions. It is very interesting, especially in context with all of the parenting issues, as it also talks about that.

Posted by: jlm | May 11, 2006 9:43 AM

"I imagine volunteer work at my kids' school or in my church or community would mean the same to me if I didn't have a job. We all need work, paid or unpaid. "

This struck me as an interesting point, since that I feel is contrary to what Leslie has written in her introduction to Mommy Wars. (I am about 3/4 of the way through the book right now.)

In the book, she emphasizes many times the importance of women earning their own *money* as a reason for continuing to work after children are born. Of *course* quality work is more than a paycheck - but nowhere in her introduction nor in any of the career moms' essays that I have read thus far is volunteer work put on the same level of importance as paid work.

When I talk to other people about the "Mommy Wars" issue, my first point is always that there are many ways to keep your identity as a woman separate from your identity as a mother - that a paid job is not only way to do this. That point is always lost in the discussion, and as I stated before, I haven't seen it made in Leslie's book.

Posted by: momof4 | May 11, 2006 6:46 PM

Dear Mom of 4 - There are several moms in Mommy Wars who volunteer a great deal, some who like doing so (check out Lois Shea's essay) and some who have mixed feelings about the pressures on SAHM's to volunteer (Page Evans & Leslie Lehr). But Mommy Wars is a collection of 26 highly personal essays. There is no way 26 perspectives can capture everything the eighty million moms in America experience. What I'm saying is that the book is not trying to invalidate your experience or to push that one approach to motherhood is better or worse than another. Being financially independent is really important to me, because of my experiences as a child and in my first marriage, but I know many, many other women who don't have my same "issues" and are very comfortable not pulling down a salary. And frankly, as I think my conclusion to the book makes clear, I'm jealous of their security! But you can't escape your own reality. I think what's most important about Mommy Wars is that every writer tried to tell, as honestly as she could, how she made her decisions about working and raising kids, and the pros and cons of what she chose.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 12, 2006 9:26 PM

It's not about the money

Posted by: Catfight | May 15, 2006 9:36 PM

Hi! Very interesting! pefil

Posted by: John S | August 31, 2006 5:29 PM

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