At Your Funeral No One Reads Your Resume

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Erin Armendinger

To go to business school sponsored by my employer, I worked full-time and went to school full-time for two years straight with no breaks. I married my college sweetheart while I was in school. (I postponed our honeymoon to take mid-terms.) After school I changed careers and entered the retail field, which is the industry where I currently work.

My husband and I wanted children but were always waiting for a "better" time -- after the next promotion, after school, after I established myself in my new career. As a type A personality, it seemed like there was always something else that I wanted to accomplish before we settled in and had kids.

When we finally decided the time was right, we did not get pregnant. After a while we ended up at an infertility specialist and went through a list of tests and surgery until the culprit was discovered -- severe endometriosis. My doctor advised that we attempt IUI to give us the best chance of conceiving because endometriosis normally returns. We did and got pregnant, but soon after miscarried. Two months later we started the whole process again and got pregnant, this time with twins.

Today I am 25 weeks pregnant with twins. My pregnancy is considered high risk and I am monitored by both a regular obstetrician and a maternal fetal specialist. Every two weeks, my cervix and the growth of the babies is thoroughly monitored. Given all of this, I have tried to get as much stress out of my life as possible.

I have cut back my work schedule and no longer check work e-mails at night or on the weekends. In fact, when I leave the office, I rarely even think about work. It will all be there tomorrow. If I don't feel "right," I stay home. My one goal right now is to get to the end of this pregnancy and give birth to two healthy babies.

Needless to say, I have found this journey to be miraculous and also incredibly stressful. The experience has caused me to re-evaluate what is important in my life and what I can and cannot control. When I become a parent, I think I will want to be very involved in my children's lives, perhaps to the detriment of my own career and personal wants. I am not sure that this wish causes an intelligent woman to feel "unfulfilled" as so many working moms say.

So many discussions about combining children and a career only present the "work" half of work/life balance. In all, I think older working moms give many young, impressionable women the idea that work/life balance means nannies, travel away from home only 50 percent of the time and working only 6-8 hours on the weekends. If this is true, I wonder how far we as women have really come in the workplace.

A friend recently reminded me that nobody reads your resume at your funeral. I think we all need to keep this in the back of our minds. I am relatively sure that my children will not measure me based on how much I earn or how successful I am in my career.


Erin Armendinger lives outside of Princeton, N.J., and works in New York City. She is expecting twins in early 2007.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 28, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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How many times is "I" used in this essay? It's all about you, isn't it?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 9:25 AM

I am a lawyer and had my first child while in law school and my second three years after that. I am still in my 20s and have been practicing for approximately 5 years now. I used to work at a firm that was very prestigious and paid a great deal more than where I currently work, but there was no work life balance, it was all work as the guest poster was discussing. I now work at a very small firm and get paid about half of what I used to. Was it an adjustment? Yes! Was it worth it? You bet! I have now found work life balance and enjoy both parts of my life so much more, and am therefore more fulfilled. It is not all about money. I want to enjoy my life, all parts of it, and I can honestly say that I now enjoy both work and home life. Isn't that what we are all looking for? I think people just need to be willing to look out of the box. Some people may say that I have sacrificed for my family by taking the less prestigious lower salary job. I do not look at it that way. I think of it as improving every aspect of my life by doing something no one expected, but that works well for me and my family. That is what work life balance is to me.

Posted by: Mom of 2 | November 28, 2006 9:27 AM

I'm fairly certain that when Condoleeza Rice's obit is eventually published, it will include her resume. Probably Martha Stewart's too, and Hillary Clinton's, and Katie Couric, and so on. And their kids (or lack thereof) probably can attest to the benefits and downsides of their chosen careers. Just a thought.

Of course, in all of the neverending discussion of how women can balance family and careers, why aren't men having the same debate? Why aren't women asking them how they do it?

Posted by: Working mom | November 28, 2006 9:31 AM

It does not always take parenthood to reevaluate your priorities and remember that work will be there in the morning. Unless you are on the fast track to CEO-hood generally we work to live, not live to work.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | November 28, 2006 9:39 AM

What's the over under on how many times Wharton business school is mentioned in Leslie's obit? I say 4, and would take the over.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 9:39 AM

I agree with Mom of 2. I have a low stress job that requires no nights and no weekends. I leave at 4 and I never take work home. I could make alot more money in some high stress, super-competitive job, but I don't want that. It's a good compromise.

But it is true that work accomplishments ARE given their respect at funerals. And they are worthy of respect. Everyone makes their own choices. We can hope only that we don't regret them later.

Posted by: NashvilleMom | November 28, 2006 9:40 AM

A friend of mine said yesterday "You know, I can always work when I'm older. My children will only be here for a finite period of time." I think everyone wants to have everything all at once instead of having it in stages. When I was younger my life was all about me and my career. Now it is mostly about my children and helping to build my husband's career. I'm excited about what will be next but I wouldn't miss this for the world. I'm pretty sure no one ever died and said "You know, I shouldn't have spent all that time with the kids."

Let me add that I know that most people don't have the option to stay at home while their children grow, but I think its a shame to "outsource" this job if you don't have to.

Posted by: Working at home Mom | November 28, 2006 9:42 AM

Everybody has their own road.

I had children as my career got started. A few years later my husband developed a life-threatening illness. He was treated, but the chances of it coming back are high.

Much like your trouble getting pregnant, this event caused a shift in my thinking. The possibility that I might be left with two children and just my salary made my work, which had been drifting along, more important to me. I spent a bit more time learning new technologies and keeping up with industry events. A re-occurence two years ago drove that point home in case I'd forgotten.

Thankfully my husband is still here, but the knowledge that I might be the only earner shifted my focus and that's still with me.

In a few years when your twins are in school and otherwise occupied you may find that your work needs to be back in focus in order to educate them. Things just always keep changing!

Posted by: RoseG | November 28, 2006 9:44 AM

Some people do "live to work". I used to have a boss like that. She came into work at 7-ish in the morning and stayed until 7 or 8 at night...and she had a 3 year old at home. Her husband was threatening to leave her if she didn't spend more time at home. While I was working for her, she bought a new house and was emailing us while she was packing (With stuff that wasn't even important or relevant--just ideas for future projects.) Then, instead of unpacking with her husband and taking her time setting up her new house...she had friends come over and help her unpack and put stuff away in one evening so she could return to work a few days early! She had absolutely no clue what balance was. And the ironic part was that her lack of balance made her a TERRIBLE employee and boss. Her staff turned over constantly...and everyone around her was MISERABLE!!!! I think that work/life balance isn't just important to your family. It's also critical to being a good employee. Balance is healthy.

Posted by: Some people... | November 28, 2006 9:45 AM

"What's the over under on how many times Wharton business school is mentioned in Leslie's obit? I say 4, and would take the over."

It's not her obit (which is what people write when you're dead), it's her bio.

Kat

Posted by: TO: the anon poster at 9:39 | November 28, 2006 9:50 AM

I disagree. Human rights activists, pro bono lawyers, elementary and high school teachers, writers, social workers, and many, many other people make a difference in the lives of others every day. Do you think no one talked about the work of Gloria Anzaldua when she passed away? What do you think will be read at Nancy Pelosi's funeral? How about Frances Moore Lappe? Jane Goodall? I could go on and on . . .

Posted by: Kelli | November 28, 2006 9:53 AM

The expectation that women are the primary care-givers to children continues to hold women back in the workplace. The US is the most family unfriendly workplace in the world, yet no one raises objections to employers who do not offer reasonable accommodations to working parents - both mother and father. We live under the fear that our jobs will be outsourced or otherwise exported, or that we will just be discharged if we have a family issue, health emergency, or other life event that impacts our ability to be available for an employer 24/7.

Change will only occur when intelligent, educated women and men demand more of their employers in the way of sane and resonable expectations for working hours and responsibilities. We cheat ourselves as women by continuing to either choose to give up career aspirations altogether, choosing to settle for less pay in exchange for slightly less responsibility and time commitment and by failing to get involved in the political process that continues to favor males over females in this country.

Posted by: Working Woman | November 28, 2006 9:53 AM

Erin,

Best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy and I hope you have happy and healthy children.

The reevaluation process doesn't happen overnight and it isn't always Point A to Point B. It will take a lot of adjusting and fine-tuning to get what works for you and your famiily. And you need to remember it's not all or nothing and also parenthood requires you to be flexible.

Posted by: Librarianmom | November 28, 2006 9:56 AM

Erin,
It probably was scary that when you were ready to have kids, your body wasn't. Which made you think that you should have made parenthood a priority earlier in your life. But the fact that it wasn't a priority earlier was probably because you weren't ready for parenthood. Now you are...and you're willing to make changes in your life to have your pregnancy (and after your twins' birth your children's lives), be a priority. I coulda, woulda, shoulda, had kids earlier--but I wasn't ready. When I was ready, I did have kids--and I think that I'm a better mom because I did it when I was ready. So...to make a long story longer, don't be so hard on yourself. You ARE having kids at the right time...the right time for YOU!

Posted by: TO: Erin Armendinger | November 28, 2006 9:57 AM

"In all, I think older working moms give many young, impressionable women the idea that work/life balance means nannies, travel away from home only 50 percent of the time and working only 6-8 hours on the weekends."

So true!

I am a young mom (i'm a little peeved on the impressionable part, but i'll let you slide on that)and I just returned to work after 3 years of staying home.

I often feel guilty or that "something is wrong with me" because it is so incredibly tough to balance work and a child. I've found the ONLY way a woman can have a career- especially in Washingon, DC- is to not raise your kids.

Most kids are in preschool/daycare for 10 hours/day (let's say 8:30-5:30)and usually more time w/ a nanny and that's IF you can only work 9-5, which is rare. They sleep for 10-12 more hours once you get them home. So, how is spending only 2-4 HOURS PER DAY with your child "BALANCING"???

I work- so let's not get all riled up here. But it's not a balance. There is no such thing. Ideally, i'd love to do a job share and work part time while my child is in school part time. THAT'S balance. But those jobs are extremely difficult to come by.

And on the celebrity parent front- I HIGHLY doubt that Katie Couric or another celeb will regret not working more. I bet they would regret not spending more time w/ their kids/grandkids, though.

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | November 28, 2006 9:57 AM

To the first post,

This is a guest commentary on her own experiences. That would be why the author refers to herself so often, because the essay is about herself.

To Erin

Best of luck. The last few months are always the hardest (in my limited experience).

Posted by: LM in WI | November 28, 2006 9:58 AM

Actually, they do read your resume. I find it tacky (and indicative of the officiant's general lack of knowledge of the deceased), but it's done. I was recently at a funeral where the person's Bachelor of Science was mentioned. And the deceased was, by all accounts, a great, very warm, very social and well-loved person--not some kind of clueless workaholic. Ugh.
I say this more in the mode of "you'd better get to know the person who will run your funeral" than to contest the blogger's point, which is perfectly well taken.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 9:58 AM

If they say that you were a "good mom"...is that your resume they're "reading"...or a statement about your life?

Posted by: Now... | November 28, 2006 10:03 AM

First, best wishes to the author for a safe pregnancy and two healthy babies.

Second, I just wanted to second a previous poster's comment about everyone choosing her own course. I just spent a long weekend at home, and by yesterday afternoon I was simply jonesing to get back to work. Like anyone, I have things that I don't enjoy about working (commuting, sitting in a windowless office), but overall I actually really like work. I like my job and enjoy the projects I undertake. I respect many (sure, not all) of my colleagues and I LOVE interacting with smart, intellectually curious human beings and my job affords lots of that.

On the other hand, I've met many, many people who just don't feel that way. Some of them were intelligent and industrious people, but given their druthers they wouldn't have chosen to work at the jobs they did. And some of these folks were women who, when they had children, grabbed the possibility of being a SAHM with two hands. Others continue to work but, frankly, are pretty unhappy with that.

With all of this in mind, I find it a little distressing when writers depict working life as a kind of cosmic waste. As though time spent not with one's children, family, loved ones is completely without meaning even if that time is spent doing important or fulfilling work.

Posted by: TC | November 28, 2006 10:08 AM

"I HIGHLY doubt that Katie Couric or another celeb will regret not working more. I bet they would regret not spending more time w/ their kids/grandkids, though."

That's incredibly patronizing. And there are plenty of women out there, particularly elderly women who grew up at a time when women's paid work was mainly limited to being a teacher, a secretary, a nurse or a maid, who wish they had been able to have interesting, engaging careers. My grandmother was one.

Posted by: Lizzie | November 28, 2006 10:12 AM

Actually obituaries list education and work experience first. They always list spouse, children and siblings last. These are printed in newspapers which have a wider circulation than those attending a funeral. Check out any in the flaming left-wing liberal Washington Post.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 10:12 AM

As someone who was planning his first presidential campaign at the age of 18, I find myself at the age of 32 clearly in a quandry. Some days I wake up and want to take on the world, ready to re-ignite that campaign, finish/start my novel, save the world, make more money, rise to the top, etc. Then, I roll over and look at my son who somehow has finagled his way into our bed yet again, and all I want to be is a hippopotomus that he can play with all day long.

I am convinced that life is made of choices, whether active or passive, choices nonetheless. I want to make the right choice as to what kind of career, resume, legacy, bank account I want to have and what kind of parent I want to be. I think there are no easy choices anymore...our roles are not defined yet expectations to excel on multiple fronts have increased. Something has to give and that stinks. Good luck with your choices...and get your sleep now!

Posted by: dadindc | November 28, 2006 10:14 AM

You have to be 35 to run for president :)

Posted by: TO: dadindc | November 28, 2006 10:16 AM

Having a complicated pregnancy is terrible! I am 34 and pregnant with our first child. The entire pregnancy has been rough. However, I am firmly convinced that everything happens for a reason. I too tried to find the ideal time to have a child...uh, there isn't one.

Pregnancy complications make you re-evaluate everything in life and decide that work isn't the be-all end-all, especially if they have been unsupportive like my employer. (Hmmm, can we say pregnancy discriminaton lawsuit?)

Anyway, hang in there Erin!

Posted by: waiting..... | November 28, 2006 10:21 AM

"Of course, in all of the neverending discussion of how women can balance family and careers, why aren't men having the same debate? Why aren't women asking them how they do it?"

As a father of two and someone who tries to be a daily influence and participant in the lives of his children, I struggle with balance everyday. There is a discussion of life/work balance with respect to men, it is just not as mainstream as the debate with respect to women. If you ask me how I, "do it," I will tell you that it is a struggle. I want to read to my children at night, but often my job requires late hours. I would like to coach soccer, but often my job requires weekend work. I would like to advance in my career to provide financial stability for my family and for personal satisfaction, but I need to attend parent/teacher conferences and if I can't sit down for a meal with my kids, how can I get them to open up. So, I'm not sure I am "doing it."

The women who think that men have it easy at home and work are as ridiculous as the men who think staying-at-home with kids is a piece of cake. Each gender, but more importantly each individual, has a different set of circumstances, societal pressures and job prospects to juggle. Don't spend so much energy blaming others or assuming that it is your particular group that is terribly disadvantaged.

My wonderful wife, who has had full time and part time jobs since we've had children and spent 3+ years as a SAHM, told me once that she agreed with the articles from a few years ago that challenged the "you can have it all" advice she was given growing up. Interesting debate, but what struck me most was that many women viewed the issue as "you can/can't have it all...like men." Well, I can't have it all either, but I do my best.

Posted by: DC DAD | November 28, 2006 10:22 AM

Erin,

You will be in my prayers during the last trimester. I sincerely hope everything will go well. Elimination of any stress in your life will certainly help.

My wife and I decided at a later age to have another child - we already had four and the youngest at that time was 16. After three tries with in-vitro we had a beautiful son, who is now going on 13. After he was born my wife decided she wanted to stay at home with him, and also provided daycare for our first granddaughter - she was 14 months old at the time (told you the other kids were older).

She was lucky enough to stay home for the first two years of our son's life - I say lucky because I would have traded anything to give up the 10 hours work days with a 2 hour commute twice a day.

When it became time for her to reenter the workforce she was a little concerned her high tech skill set had been passed by. She took a job as an admin assistant because that is what was available. I knew she was worth more but that was what she got.

Fast forward 9 years - she is ahead of me in her career and getting paid more to boot.

Am I bothered by that as a man? No way!! She earned everything she got by hard work.

Do I think she should stay home with the kids? Only if that is what SHE wants.

I think it really helped our son having a parent at home the first two years of his life. I wish it could have been me, but since he didn't care for formula too much and pumping didn't seem to work, I wasn't really equipped to provide his required sustenance.

What really makes everything work with us is the team approach we have as a married couple. When I was working and she was at home, she did most of the housework and I did the yard work and moved the heavy objects (isn't that one of the primary reasons ladies keep us guys around?).

Now that both of us are working we both take care of the house work - she dusts and I vacuum. That kind of thing. I still get to move the heavy objects, the yard work is mine, and not even the kids touch the grill! LOL

Raising children is not a Mom thing or a Dad thing. It is definitely not a village thing.

Raising children is a Parent thing, and requires TWO to do the job correctly.

Posted by: A Guy | November 28, 2006 10:22 AM

Hi Erin,

I just wanted to post a quick note to say thanks for sharing and to let you know I'll say a prayer for you and your babies today. Please ask Leslie to let you post a short follow-up when your babies are born. I'll be thinking of you.

VAMom

Posted by: VAMom | November 28, 2006 10:23 AM

Did anyone see the excellent article about childless women in the Health section? The people quoted in it made some interesting points related to things that have been discussed on this blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 10:25 AM

I read the article about childless women in the health section. It is very well written and very poignant. Highly recommend it.

Posted by: Emily | November 28, 2006 10:31 AM

Double congradulations Erin! You still have at least another month to go, and each day gets fore challanging. Twins too. Ha! Thats what ambition gets you.

I don't know why I'm happy for you. I don't even know you, but for some reason I like to hear thoughts from a preggo, especially a first-timer. I think pregnant women are so cute. they become a little duck-footed carrying the extra weight, start waddling around and get extra clumsy. I have an instinct in me that wants to protect the expecting mother and help them out as much as possible, Especially in the last few months when they should automatically be granted handicapped status.

I'm hopeful that those cherished little beings swimming around in your belly will bring 2 wonderful parents into this world.

On the career thing, I'm a computer programmer. The first 15 years of my work have either been deleted off a computer disk or thrown in some techno dump. Gone! Done! Nobody cares! Even the knowledge I aquired during that period is obsolete. Talk about a disposable career.

Now, my kids are worth sacrificing my life for.

Erin, I wish you, your husband, and your children the best of luck, an of course, prayers too.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 28, 2006 10:36 AM

To Working Mom, who wrote at 09:31 AM: "Of course, in all of the neverending discussion of how women can balance family and careers, why aren't men having the same debate?" I have the debate with myself nearly every week, and I frequently have the discussion with my male friends. Before my wife and I had kids, I worked at a top tier law firm, putting in crazy hours for a crazy salary. Which was fine, since my wife was working long hours, too. Then my wife got pregnant, and there were complications. Even before our daughter was born, I knew that working crazy hours for a crazy salary would not be fair to my wife, my then-unborn child, or me. It's taken two job changes, but I have found an employer that encourages me to balance work and home. We now have two kids and live on 1/3 of the income that we had pre-kids. Sometimes I find myself imagining what we could do with my prior large law firm salary -- bigger house, more vacation trips -- and wonder whether I made the right employment choices. Then, I will spend 30 minutes reading to my daughter's pre-school class, and I will know (until the next wave of doubt crashes) that I made the right decision.

Posted by: Working Dad | November 28, 2006 10:39 AM

I don't think the point of the article was the resume at your funeral thing... but! for the record, I have lost several close friends and I have only vague recollections of their careers. What I do remember is how caring, warm, and wonderful they were.

Posted by: newbie | November 28, 2006 10:49 AM

"And on the celebrity parent front- I HIGHLY doubt that Katie Couric or another celeb will regret not working more. I bet they would regret not spending more time w/ their kids/grandkids, though."

And I'll bet that when her husband got sick and ultimately died she was glad that she had a job that was highly paid so that they could afford the best care possible. I'll also bet she was glad that the Today show granted her flexibility to be home if/when she needed to. As she is now a single parent, she's probably also very glad that she had a job to support herself and her children. Husbands (and wives) die, divorces happen. If you have one income a layoff is devastating. Being a SAHM is great, but CYA because sh## happens and you'll always want to be able to take care of yourself.

Posted by: anon | November 28, 2006 10:55 AM

Congratulations. I guess I always viewed life goals like this. When I am 60 years old, do I want to look around and see more things, trophies, awards, or people at the dining room table. The answer should be obvious. Best of luck to you and your family.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 28, 2006 10:56 AM

I appreciated the point about the pregnancy health problems and how this affected her approach to work. Pregnancy often comes relatively early in one's career, when taking time off can affect your total career progress. But you only get one chance to gestate your baby, and how well it goes can make or break your baby's chances. So even though it can really impact one's career, I think it's a no-brainer. If it prevents your career from progressing, well, so be it.

Posted by: m | November 28, 2006 10:56 AM

I just read that childless article in the Health section. It was beautifully written and very sad. I still gather there is a lot of pain in her life but the healing has begun.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 28, 2006 11:06 AM

"I am not sure that this wish causes an intelligent woman to feel "unfulfilled" as so many working moms say." Not true!!

Please cut out the comments about "others" raising children of working parents. It is demeaning to those parents who do have successful careers AND bring up their own children. It is a value judgement that is not born out of reality. Women who have careers love their children as much as the SAHM and want what's best for them as much too.

And Erin, you are doing the right thing right now for your children. I had a high risk pregnancy and had to take a leave of absense until after my child's birth. But yes you can resume a career with children. Even with twins though your sleep will suffer greatly. Your husband will need to be an equal partner in parenting. It's amazing that soon you forget those sleepless days and nights. So my point is, don't make any decisions about career just yet. Concentrate on your pregnancy and newborns.

And to those who think what you contribute to society through work doesn't matter--it sure does. I don't read obits of people who brought up children and not much else. Certainly it's a woman's or man's choice to stay at home, but it is those who work to support their children and to live as examples who deserve the praise.

Posted by: morning mom | November 28, 2006 11:12 AM

Hey, some of us were quoted in that Health section article!!! Cool. I'm not sure I can tell anyone I know though. I mean if anyone I knew knew that I write on a blog. Ugh!!! But it was cool to be quoted :-)

Posted by: morning mom | November 28, 2006 11:13 AM

The most profound thing my husband ever said to me was also the simplest: You don't get this day back.

When life gets crazy and I stress over stupid stuff I still think of that phrase and it always serves as the kick in the pants I need to clear my head about what is important. I enjoyed the guest blog. Good luck to you!

Posted by: prmom | November 28, 2006 11:14 AM

I also read the article in the Health section. Did it strike anyone else that this lady is still a mom whether or not her child died?? It certainly did me. I feel as though labelling herself as such would be counterproductive to the healing process.

Posted by: Lou | November 28, 2006 11:14 AM

Morning mom, if career women love their children as much as SAHMs why don't they want to see them more than 2 hrs a day?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 11:20 AM

As someone who has been in the situation mentioned in the health section article, I think she is definitely a parent. We just have different roles in that situation and we love and miss our children. I don't think it is something one heals from, though. You just get used to living with it.

Posted by: newbie | November 28, 2006 11:23 AM

Erin,
Why do you have to let go of your career to give your children a wonderful life (or even a wonderful start to their lives)? What if you and your husband could BOTH downsize your careers slightly instead? While I know that not every job can accomodate reduced and/or flexed hours, I firmly believe this is the way of balance for both parents and worth the effort to achieve (even if you have to change jobs and it takes you awhile to get there).

After your maternity leave, what if you returned to work at say, 30hrs/week, and your husband did the same? You could work your schedules so that each of you had days home with your babies each week and still have those careers you worked so hard to achieve.

You'd also be true equals, which is intimate and attractive. You'd both develop deep involvement with your kids as they grew, and you as the Mom wouldn't be stealing the spotlight on parenting from your husband.

Do you want to be home with your kids full-time for YOU or for your KIDs? If the answer is for you, then ignore my idea (and hope your husband doesn't mind being your financial supporter while you get to raise his kids). If it is for your kids, then a two-parent team is a lovely gift to give them.

Okay, so maybe that sounded a bit harsh. I don't mean to attack. I do, however, feel passionate about equal sharing and all that this brings to a marriage, your children, and an individual balanced life. Please take what you like from the above and leave the rest. And the best to both of you and both of your children.

Posted by: equal | November 28, 2006 11:25 AM

The title of this post reminds me of the old Matt Groening joke about being able to justify any kind of objectionable actions by asking yourself "How long am I going to be dead?" You can use platitudes to justify any point of view, but that doesn't address the complex and diverse situation of most of the rest of us.

Posted by: Platitudinous | November 28, 2006 11:28 AM

Erin, what an emotional time for you. I hope everything goes well for you and the babes.

to Lou - my husband and I lost our daughter under similar circumstances in 2004. We were fortunate enough to be able to have another child, but in between I referred to myself privately as a parent-without-portfolio. But what I did feel was childless, too - without child. I think it's a very personal thing, what will help with the grieving process and the weird black hole one ends up in after bearing a child that doesn't survive.

I thought it was a good article though, thanks to everyone who pointed it out.

Posted by: Shandra | November 28, 2006 11:30 AM

Bravo, equal. Bravo!

That is the wisest, sanest, dare I say most balanced comment I've ever seen on this blog.

Posted by: Hoosier | November 28, 2006 11:31 AM

Here's my take on it: I've had a variety of jobs over a 20-year span. At some I had to work harder than others, and some I enjoyed more than others (usually how hard I had to work had nothing to do with how much I did or did not like the job). Several times outside of my work I had opportunities to travel or to be of service to a friend or family member. I took off work during those times, even quit a job once, and I've never looked back. I was always able to find other jobs, often better ones, that moved my career along, despite the "gaps" on my resume.

Now I'm at the age when friends are becoming ill or having other traumatic life events. Many of them have never stepped off the work treadmill for more than two weeks since they were 21. They all had dreams of travel or of more education or a big career change. The ones who are now sick or dealing with aged parents see that those dreams my never come true.

One person told me that he thought there would come a day when he had "enough" and he'd take off and spend a month in Australia. Sadly, he is dying now and he's only 51. So, although I'm sure that his career was important to him, the thought that he never took that vacation because he felt he "had" to keep working really hits me hard.

If you're reading this and you're under 30, keep in mind that life has a way of fooling you. The best plans will go awry. So the key really is to balance your work and your dreams, and don't put off your dreams for the "right" time or it may never come.

Posted by: A. J. | November 28, 2006 11:32 AM

Amen, Erin!

I wish you the best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy and with motherhood.

Posted by: momof4 | November 28, 2006 11:34 AM

For the person who pointed out that the career and education go first and family last in the obit printed in the paper, some education on the process might help you understand why this is so. When you see someone's obit, their spouse (or someone equally close) is the one who wrote it.

When I wrote my husband's obituary, you bet I mentioned his career--I was proud of him. Had he outlived me, I am sure he would have done the same for me, because he was very proud of me and my career. I mentioned his family, including myself, last, because that was not my main focus. I wanted his obituary to be about him.

But it was about him and his public persona not his private one. Frankly, the people who didn't know him who found out about his death from the paper wouldn't care that he was a great cook, loved cats, and beat me at Scrabble almost every time we played. The people at the funeral knew all this and we talked about him there.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 11:36 AM

Good idea equal. What you suggested is just what my husband and I did...and it worked well for us.

One thought striking me is how many people are posting 2 hr commutes or 2 hr/day seeing their kids...there is a tradeoff right there. Admit you and yours made the choice to live with that commute. Thus, it may not be the job, rather, it may be the commute that is putting you out of your sense of balance.

Posted by: dotted | November 28, 2006 11:38 AM

One other thing about reading "resume's" at funerals:

I was at a memorial service a couple of weeks ago for a 62 year old man. Yes, they "read his resume'" - in that the minister talked about different highpoints of his life that the family had told him about. Were his degrees (bachelor's and masters) and his career (as an instructor at a college) mentioned? Sure. But the *vast* majority of the "resume'" was about his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his love of the outdoors, his vacation home on the river, the special trips he'd made during his life, his volunteer work in the schools and playing Santa. It was pretty obvious what was important in his life.

Posted by: momof4 | November 28, 2006 11:39 AM

Newbie and Shandra - The reason it struck me is that my husband and I have also lost our only child. And I hate denying her existence, even if to not spring the news on to some unassuming acquaintance.

I feel like a mother, though without all of the responsibilities, etc. Mother's Day is hard, as is her birthday etc. I wouldn't feel those feelings if I didn't have a child to give them to me.

I guess we all look at it differently. We hope to heal somewhat from the shock of her short life and death, but also live our lives healthily, remembering her and honoring her and speaking of her frequently in our house. We still want her to be a part of our lives. Even if she isn't here with us now.

Good luck to you all. Amazing how small the world gets when you start talking to people.

Posted by: Lou | November 28, 2006 11:42 AM

I rarely post, but felt compelled to. Being pregnant changes your priorities, but there is a lot of hormonal influence that tapers off after the baby (babies) are born. I decided to quit my job and stay home while pregnant with my first baby and within a year I was going out of my mind. The only thing you can know going into being a parent is that you DON'T know what will be right for you.

Also, I DO judge my parents on their work accomplishments and I know my children will view me in the same way. I want my children to respect my choices, not view me as either neglectful or a doormat. Their view of decision-making priorities will be viewed through the decisions they see their parents make. I didn't really respect my mother until she went back to school to get a degree in a career she loves. Putting something ahead of dragging me to gymnastic practice despite my grumbles made me realize she was a person independent of being my mom.

Anyways, wait and see - you can't know until you experience it all.

Posted by: Carrie | November 28, 2006 11:45 AM

To bring famous people into the debate about whether or not your resume is read at your funeral is absurd. I think we all know that the accomplishments of famous people are discussed during their state funerals and listed in their obituaries. Perhaps if we are personally on the fast track to amazing accomplishment this might apply, but most of us live decidly more modest lives ... sometimes even by choice.

I think Erin's point is well taken. Too often we live as if time were infinite. We all have to decide for ourselves what matters most.

I had a coworker who laid down on the couch to watch Letterman and never got up again. He died of an aneurysm and was found by his wife when she woke up and realized he had never come to bed. He was 36 and the doting father of two tiny children.

Many of us who knew him made major life changes afterward. I moved from having kids "someday" to "now." Like Erin I ended up in infertility at first, although happily I ended up being successful on my own without intervention. None of this was easy, but it was invaluable in that it forced me to really think about what I wanted and how hard I would fight to get it.

When I attend a funeral, it is not the accomplishments of the deceased that move me to tears, but the evidence that they loved and were loved in return.

Best wishes to Erin! I was on bed rest (briefly, thankfully) for both of my children and can testify that time can stretch on forever.

Posted by: Illinois Mother of Two | November 28, 2006 11:46 AM

Just reading some of the earlier comments makes me feel that a lot of people missed the point of the title of this post. For the most part, people's resumes are not read outloud at funerals. Highlights of their accomplishments, whether they be a Nobel Prize, climbing Mt. Everest three times after turning fifty, or being a single parents raising three kids, are what are spoken about at funerals. Regardless of this, however, is the point behind the comment: putting things in perspective. Just my two cents :)

Posted by: 215 | November 28, 2006 11:47 AM

Thanks, Hoosier and dotted. I agree with the commute issue, and any other time-wasters that can be trimmed. Unless of course your commute is your meditation and relaxation time. Or, for us, our exercise time - walking and bicycling. Two hours is less beneficial though!

Posted by: equal | November 28, 2006 11:52 AM

Equal, I hear what you're saying, but let's take a look at this from a slightly different angle--minus the man/woman thing--and see how it looks.

I am female. So is my wife. We plan to have kids, and we both think that it's better for the kids to have a parent home with them when they're small. It is not possible for me to scale back my job to part-time and it is important to our family's financial well-being that I keep this job. And, honestly, I like what I do--it's a great and interesting way to keep food on the table and allow us to save for the kids' college. I do not want to be a SAHM. My wife supports this.

So I get the stay-at-home wife to take care of things and raise our kids for a few years. My wife gets someone to support her while she raises the kids. We don't have gender roles to worry about when it comes to keeping the house clean or doing yard work. And we are planning for how to keep my wife solvent--and as current in her field as possible--in case anything happens to me.

So we're not splitting each responsibility 50/50 but we are (already, even before we have kids) dividing the labor of running our household 50/50. To us, that's just as equal and allow us to maximize what we're going to do best.

Posted by: Equal, but not identical | November 28, 2006 11:52 AM

To A Guy: "Raising children is a Parent thing, and requires TWO to do the job correctly." I'm sure you didn't intend this comment as a swipe at single parents, but there are MANY single parents doing the job "correctly". Is it the path they'd have chosen ideally? Maybe so. Maybe not. But my hat's off to them and I couldn't let this presumably unintended insult go by without comment.

To the troll at 11:20: Although your post is directed to morning mom, I'm calling you on it. First, don't dads matter in your universe? Otherwise, why isn't your inquiry dismissing the love of, and choices of, working dads? Second, you apparantly have no familiarity with the concept of one parent heading in to work at 5:30 or 6 and leaving to pick kids up (or otherwise be home) around 3:30 after school, while the other parent gets the kids off to school at 8 - 8:30 a.m. and comes home around 6. The majority of middle class two-parent families we've known follow some version of this dance. Regardless of the gender of the parents involved, if the kids are with their parents before and after school, enlighten us all on the quantitative difference in the love shown by SAH parents vs. WOH parents? or are you only interested in bashing employed -- oh, excuse me, you refer to us as "career" -- moms?

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 28, 2006 11:52 AM

Best wishes on your pregnancy and delivery. I hope that you and your husband will take the opportunity to stay home and raise your children, not contract their care out to strangers. Your children are your "living resume" and testament to what is truly valuable in your life. God is giving these babies into YOUR care--please respond in kind.

Posted by: Jonathan Lash | November 28, 2006 11:53 AM

Carrie,
I agree with you. Interesting post! I see way too many kids who do not respect their parents..and maybe their lack of respect is because the little darlings get whatever they want, whenever they want. Enjoying your children does not mean they always come first, last and everything in the middle. It is human nature to not respect 'worshippers.' Erin is relatively sure your children will not measure her by what she makes...but they may measure her by what she chooses to accomplish in her life: whatever gives her a firm self-respect generates respect from others. And what she chooses to accomplish/gain self-respect could very well be in that 'resume.'

Posted by: dotted | November 28, 2006 11:55 AM

"Morning mom, if career women love their children as much as SAHMs why don't they want to see them more than 2 hrs a day?"

Where do you get your numbers from? And what do you mean "want to see them" I feel sorry for people like you. Obviously you are not smart and talented enough to be a parent AND a constructive member of society. Do idiots like you ever say "if career men love their children so much why don't they want to see them more than 2 hours a day?

Posted by: morning mom | November 28, 2006 11:57 AM

lou & shandra,

The world really is a small place... I have always felt like a mother to my daughter and have considered it my parental responsibility to remember her. We visit her grave, have a special tradition on her birthday, and I wear a small ring with her initials engraved on it on a chain so I have her with me throughout my day. When I am missing her, it helps to have something tangible to hold onto. She would have been ten this year and it has gotten easier over time. Good wishes to you both as well.

Posted by: newbie | November 28, 2006 11:57 AM

To equal but not identical: Thank you for the great twist on the standard man/woman family. I am a wholehearted supporter of same-sex families and see you as forerunners in true equality - no gender barriers for housework, breadwinning role, etc. as you mention. Some of my close friends are same-sex parents raising children, and they range from completely equal to standard specialization model families.

Foremost, every family must choose the model that fits best. I am a champion of true equality as a team approach because this absolutely works for my family, and because it is uncommon and needs a champion.

Posted by: equal | November 28, 2006 12:01 PM

Erin,

Good luck with your twins, and here's wishing you a safe delivery and happy time afterwards.

I had my first child in my twenties and was gung-ho about my career. When my father died and I was fired in my thirties, I was forced to re-evaluate. A long depression ensued, too.

I've recently re-entered the work force, albeit at a lower status, lower paid job. But it has promise.

In the end, although I feel happier in some ways, I also feel strongly that the happiest people try to meet their own immediate and long-term needs, without sacrificing themselves to the idea of what others think. For some that means a realignment of choices. For others, it may mean pursuing a career opportunity full throttle during the ninth month.

It's really what makes you and keeps you happy and healthy. In the end, if you're happy with your choices, chances are your family will be, too.

All the best to you and your family, Erin!

Posted by: Kate | November 28, 2006 12:03 PM

I think of people with stillborn kids as parents. Why wouldn't I? I read the childless article. I sympathize with the woman but I thought she was perhaps overly harsh with those who were speechless when she said she was childless. When someone over a certain age tells me they're childless I bring to mind all the possible reasons that could be so. Each one needs a different response. Since I don't know what's the reason, I go for the polite response, which is something like "Oh, ok" and then move on to a non-child topic.

Posted by: m | November 28, 2006 12:03 PM

Hi Lou and Shandra -- my sympathies for your losses. Thank you for sharing them. I thought today's article in the Post's Health section about "child less" and "child free" was fascinating and poignant and important. A friend from J&J lost several children mid-pregnancy and she always felt terrible on Mother's Day and other similar parenting events, because felt like a parent too but everyone treated her like she was invisible. Our culture has words like widow and widower for someone who has lost a spouse, but not for a mom or dad who've lost a child. Maybe because it's too painful to name this kind of bereavement. But I wish we had a respectful way to honor that experience.

And to Working Mom's 9:31 post about famous women like Condeleeza Rice, Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, etc...First, of course these women's incredible accomplishments should be honored during their lifetimes and at their funerals. I never got the impression that Erin was negating them. But some women simply cannot (or choose not) to "have it all" in terms of work-related accomplishments and raising kids. This should be honored too.

Bottom line: Wouldn't we all like to have a troup of wonderful kids, friends and colleagues, and a long list of superlatives, read at our funerals? But no matter what you get at your funeral, you're dead by then. So just live YOUR LIFE NOW as you want to and don't listen to anyone telling you there is a right or wrong way to do it.

Final comment to toss in: Erin is another case where freezing eggs at 25 would have really helped give her more, healthy options.

Posted by: Leslie | November 28, 2006 12:08 PM

What's with the snarky Wharton comments? I think the times Leslie has mentioned the school she attended is in context to what the expectations were related to the school. What gives?

Posted by: Secondthoughts | November 28, 2006 12:16 PM

'After a while we ended up at an infertility specialist and went through a list of tests and surgery until the culprit was discovered -- severe endometriosis.'

The problem wasn't about eggs, it had to do with the lining of the uterus.

Posted by: to Leslie | November 28, 2006 12:23 PM

You're not alone at all in reevaluating your priorities. I did the same thing, tho the ton of bricks hit me when I was sitting on the couch with my 3 week old one weekend. I just cried and cried thinking of how much time I'd spent at work and how worthless it was in comparison to the little boy in my arms. I could have spent so much more time with my husband, friends, travelling, you name it. My husband finally snapped me out of it by pointing out that I'd had this epiphany quite early in our son's life and that there was plenty of time to set things right.

I went back to work full time (I thought I had to try it) and it was horrid. It obviously works for many people, but not for me. I switched to a part time schedule that gets me home by 5 pm and gives me every Friday off. I get to feed my little guy dinner and play with him every night and each morning before work. I give him his baths. People know that I prefer not to travel. I turned down a government job that required more "face time" in the office. While these may not be the best career moves I could have made, they were the right family moves for us now. When I'm home on Fridays, I get to play with my little boy and maybe take an occassional class with him. I realize how much of the day he spends sleeping and eating! I may decide to stay home when we add to our brood, but for now, working part time is right for me.

You'll figure out what is right for you after your twins arrive and you get to know them. Whatever "works" is likely to change over time. Don't be afraid to ask yourself what you and your family need, and then propose your arrangements to your supervisors. Best of luck in the coming months!

Posted by: Amy | November 28, 2006 12:24 PM

"What's with the snarky Wharton comments? I think the times Leslie has mentioned the school she attended is in context to what the expectations were related to the school. What gives?"

OK, I'll ask - does the word snarky exist outside of this blog?

Posted by: saywhat? | November 28, 2006 12:25 PM

I agree with the Father of 2 in DC. My life - though thankfully not as hectic, is by no means in balance. My work life is not what I want it to be. The odd thing is that my wife would rather be working and I'd rather be at home watching the kids. Being that we have 5 month old that is nearly impossible (unless she were to pump her breastmilk). Not to mention the fact that she homeschool's our 8 yr old. But, we do make it a point to have dinner together as a family and on weekends I read to my son. My wife reads during the week.

Erin - good luck on the pregnancy and thanks for a thought provoking article.

Posted by: Father of 2 in CA | November 28, 2006 12:28 PM

TC and A.J., both wonderful posts about the importance of work, in different ways.
I'm the child of a man who sort of regrets having kids. He loves us, but he sacrificed a lot in order to provide for us. He's nearing the end of his life and I know he wishes there were more artistic achievements to include in his obit.
I've inherited his drive and I've also learned from him that family isn't everything. Part of balance is listening to your own true needs, and those needs aren't always for companionship or love. Sometimes we need to invent. Sometimes we need to discover.

Posted by: worker bee | November 28, 2006 12:28 PM

Regarding "snarky" from Merriam Webster dictionary:
sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

It's been around awhile....not much new is written about or said on this blog.

Posted by: Ms. Webster | November 28, 2006 12:30 PM

I think the team approach (50/50 split of each individual task, not the overall scope of running a household is uncommon because it's a pain in the tuchus. :) It is much harder to find a way to split 50/50 than it is to divide responsibilities. Different people have different things they're good at and some things are hard to split. One of us will end up fixing the toilet that's running--not both of us.

That said, I think it's a good goal--particularly for opposite-sex couples who do have society's gender roles to worry about. (No one's totally immune to this, but it's less noticeable when you have similar sets of gender-based expectations.) Even if the split doesn't end up being 50/50 for each task, it's apt to be more equal if the goal is to get everyone out shoveling snow, raking leaves, making dinner, and bringing home the bacon.

And if the day comes when she's making more money than I am and can support the family, we've already talked about what I'd like to do if I had the leisure to start a new business on a totally different track.

Posted by: Equal, but not identical | November 28, 2006 12:31 PM

I'm mildly confused by equal's reaction [equal | November 28, 2006 12:01 PM] to the post by 'equal but not identical'.

I can't quite figure out if equal thinks that same-gender couples have a head start on the ability to share roles better than other couples (alas, much like Jews, tall people, Republicans, musicians, and folks with tattoos, it turns out that there's little evidence that they do!), or if equal believes (as I do) that successful couplehood is largely independent of these other factors.

I know that respect for oneself, combined with a lack of selfishness, is a pretty handy thing to have around, no matter what your gender, or that of your mate. If all of the parties in a relationship possess these things, it tends to work out OK. (Of course, such things as salable skills and large inheritances are not to be scoffed at!)

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 12:33 PM

"Also, I DO judge my parents on their work accomplishments and I know my children will view me in the same way."

How sad.

Neither of my parents went to college. My dad was in the Army and worked for 40 years in the forest products industry in sawmills. My mom was a bookkeeper before she had children and a classroom aide in an elementary school after the youngest were in school full time. The respect I have for them has nothing to do with what they accomplished, but how they lived their lives, treated the others around them, and provided for their family (both emotionally and financially.)

Your children will only judge you because you judge others.

Posted by: momof4 | November 28, 2006 12:35 PM

to momof4
Your children will only judge you because you judge others.

Exactly. Not something I would want to pass on to my kids.

Posted by: just another mom | November 28, 2006 12:41 PM

Erin, it looks to me like you feel that there is a connection between your stress level and your babies' physical survival. Please don't think that way- however your pregnancy turns out, it's not going to be because of something you did or didn't do. If excessive stress could cause a miscarriage, there would not be any abortion clinics.

Posted by: randommom | November 28, 2006 12:42 PM

As a working mom of seven year old twins I wish you the best in the weeks, months and years ahead. The pregnancy is tough, and the first 18 months tougher. I must confess that after six months at home full time, I returned to work part time--I needed the rest. My advice is to take it in stages. You can't know now what the future brings, what your babies' health will be like, what your exhaustion level will be or whether you will want to reenter the workplace full force. For me and for my family, a reduced work schedule was the best solution in the near term. I know another mom of twins who returned to full time work after six weeks. Rest up now, line up reinforcements for after they arrive, and enjoy your babies!

Posted by: lifermom | November 28, 2006 12:43 PM

you know, I read Erin's post and I am happy for her and hope it works out, but for me I'm not so sure those choices have.

I passed up opportunities coming out of law school that everyone says you NEVER pass up because I felt it would be too hard on my young family to pursue them; I found a job that is not a powerhouse type job and that is also not in a field I care about because it was more family friendly, and my husband did the same. Now here we are and it still feels so hard - it's like nothing I do will ever be enough. My son will always want more time with me, my house will never be clean, my husband and I will never have enough time, and I don't even have a satisfying job or feel like I'm going anywhere in my career. It's so frustrating, and I don't know how to get out of it. Ironically, the jobs I would like to have would have longer hours and less pay, which seems like something we really can't afford. Usually I am more upbeat and feel like we're going the right direction, but there are days where it does feel like working parenthood will always involve tradeoffs on all sides.

Posted by: sad today | November 28, 2006 12:52 PM

"Your children will only judge you because you judge others."

How true. I wonder what "Cream of the Crop" thinks about that comment.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 12:52 PM

Another way of expressing the "no one reads a resume at your funeral" idea was said by my pastor in a sermon recently: "No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time at the office".

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 12:59 PM

To equal but not identical: Clarification - I don't mean 50/50 split on each individual task. That really WOULD be a pain! I mean equal time and involvement by both partners in breadwinning, childraising, household tasks (indoor and outdoor tasks) and recreation time. So, if one person is an expert home plumber, the other needn't be...but it would be good if the other could dabble in it just in case! This equality I'm writing about is not easy by a long shot. It takes lots of communication and daily respect and willingness. But it gets easier with time - we're actually pretty good at it now, my husband and me. It keeps us both on our toes and connected.

To Bob S - As a standard opposite-sex family, I can only make a guess that perhaps same-sex couples can bypass some of our culture's prescribed gender roles. Or maybe I could be clearer if I say that their very same-sexness puts these issues on the table way before kids come into the picture. If our society says that women clean house and men earn the money, well, same-sex couples will have had to grapple with this from the beginning and bust that stereotype just by partnering with each other. So, when kids arrive, they may be more ready than others to be purposeful in their role assignments rather than be surprised by how they evolve to be just like what society dictates. Hope that helps!

Posted by: equal | November 28, 2006 1:03 PM

Hiya Morning Mom -

Totally bugs me too when people say "working moms aren't raising their own kids" or are "outsourcing" their kids' childhoods. Good grief! It's so inaccurate and judgmental. Love and mothering are 24/7 for all of us no matter where you fall on the work/home spectrum.

Posted by: Leslie | November 28, 2006 1:13 PM

ooops - you're right, freezing eggs wouldn't have made a difference to someone with endometriosis. my bad.

Posted by: Leslie | November 28, 2006 1:16 PM

11.20 a.m. poster, what a silly comment, I work and see my children from 3 pm until they go to bed and then for two full days on the days I work at home & the weekends and holidays.

I'm not sure where people get the idea that they cannot find or carve out a flexible career for themselves, it is possible...I'm proof of it.

Erin, good luck with your pregnancy and hope you find balance for your family.

Posted by: To November 28, 2006 11:20 AM | November 28, 2006 1:35 PM

Erin, best of luck. We went through several miscarriages and procedures and bed rest and the like, so I understand how emotional this time is. Becoming a parent for the first time is a tremendous life change in any event; going through what you did to get there, and now with twins on the way, just makes it more complicated and emotionally difficult.

My only advice is to be gentle with yourself; accept that you will not, cannot know what you will want now, but you will figure it out along the way, like the rest of us. Personally, I always liked that quote that said "no one's dying words were ever 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'" Thought that was a pretty good motto to live by. Then I found myself home alone with a baby 1600 miles away from my job and family, feeling very lonely and lost. And I realized that if I did die early, I WOULD regret not having achieved what I wanted to in my career. So for me, balance and fulfillment meant adjusting things so I could add some more back on the career side of the ledger.

Your situation will in all likelihood be completely different -- from mine and from everyone else's here. But as long as you and your husband focus on what will make you all happy -- as a family, as a couple, and as an individual -- then I'm confident that you'll find the right balance for you.

Posted by: Laura | November 28, 2006 1:45 PM

Congratulations on your pregnancy and best wishes for a healthy delivery.
My husband and I wanted to wait until we felt financially secure and otherwise "ready" to start a family. Now after over 3 years of trying, one miscarriage, unsuccessful IUIs, and with age 40 fast approaching, we are about to start the very expensive, drug-intensive, and still not guaranteed procedure of IVF. The moral? If you want kids, listen to your friends who say "you'll never really be ready - don't wait".
I believe that raising a principled child who will contribute to society is not only an important task, but is THE most important job you have during your child's most important developing years. I don't know why anyone even questons whether they should cut back on work, if their finances allow, to give the most time and energy they can to their child. When it comes right down to it, there is someone else who can do your "day" job. You are the only mother or father your child has. I am a woman with a career, and I don't understand why some women think that the incredibly important job of mothering is "beneath" smart, capable, accomplished women.

Posted by: M | November 28, 2006 1:57 PM

"I am a woman with a career, and I don't understand why some women think that the incredibly important job of mothering is "beneath" smart, capable, accomplished women."

As another career woman who plans for children but does not want to be a SAHM, I don't think it's beneath me at all. However, it's not what I want to do. I truly consider what I do at work to be important--not just to our family (although it is) but on a larger scale. You don't have to be Nancy Pelosi to have a career that is worth maintaining.

If my children have a better place to live and work when they are adults, then I am not following my career at the expense of my children. Teaching my kids to read may not be the most important thing I can do for them.

Luckily, my wife _does_ want to be a SAHM, so we can get the best of both worlds (we hope!). But phrasing it as you did polarizes the question of which path a mom (or dad) might choose. It's not always as simple a question as you make it out to be.

Posted by: Equal, but not identical | November 28, 2006 2:06 PM

To M: hind sight is always 20/20. Best wishes on forming your family. I don't understand why some people have to feel ready to have kids. You are never really ready. As long as you are in a loving marriage or partnership, have a decent job, and in decent health then it is OK to have a baby. There is no magic $ amount that lets you be ready for a kid. Funny enough most of my friends who have faced infertility found out in their late 20s. So waiting had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 28, 2006 2:11 PM

I am a working mother in DC and SAHMbacto work speaks for me too!

And best of luck to the guest blogger today.

Posted by: a dc woman | November 28, 2006 2:18 PM

Good luck on your pregnancy - and congrats on the twins! My twin sister and I are still great friends in our mid 40s...

Posted by: Twin | November 28, 2006 2:21 PM

Erin -- Good luck -- you've already started making good choices. It isn't always appropriate to try to do everything and this isn't a good time for you to be having to choose between what's right for your job and what's right for the health of your babies.

I think that most of us will be judged by the contributions we make in the here and now as well as the future (our children) and even our past (our parents). When I felt that the contribution I was making to my work wasn't good enough, because of the priority I needed to give to my family, it was a sign that I needed to reevaluate working.

One thing that bugs me -- and I'm seeing it here today -- is the view that being a contributing member of society ends when you cease to get a paycheck for your work. That's amazingly shallow and unimaginative. It can be a very freeing and enabling experience to stop working for others.

When your kids start to be more independent and you start to take back your own life you'll have lots more options than just going back to a paid job. Many women start their own businesses based on their interests and passions. Some write books. My field was technical and I'm always getting hit up by this organization or that to do a job for them. And there's nothing wrong with playing golf. Plenty of men do that when they retire. If gives you fresh air, sunshine and a new perspective when it's time to get back to the kids.

Good luck-

ps: freezing eggs is a long shot bet--

Posted by: busy SAHM | November 28, 2006 2:22 PM

Equal, I agree with you. I said "cut back", not necessarily stay at home. I also think that the example of a capable, accomplished working mother can be very important for a child. Erin's column suggests to me that she, and other women, are unsure if placing a high value on mothering means thay are de-valuing women's role in the workplace - - in other words, is mothering a less-valuable use of women's abilities? My point is that mothering is incrediby important, and is a good and valuable use of women's talents and abilities.

Posted by: M | November 28, 2006 2:26 PM

Fertility clinics are one of the fastest growing businesses in the United States. the largest source of money comes from women who have been taking the pill for 15+ years and wonder why they can't get pregnant after 4 months. Taking a substance that seriously changes the natural hormonal balance of a female over such a long period of time is very unhealthy and has a substantial negative effect on future pregnancies.

If you are a young woman taking the pill for the purpose of contraception and are considering pushing off kids until your 30s, please, discuss this with your doctor and review other options.

Posted by: the Pill | November 28, 2006 2:36 PM

Apropos of not much else, here's last night's message from a dear friend of mine, who decided to become a mother (sans partner), and (after much money, anxiety, heartbreak, and other stress) is now four weeks into the adventure:

"This is my first night alone. I haven't cried yet, but I probably will. This is hard. I didn't realize they ate every three hours...which is three hours from when they start, so if he starts at 11:30pm and finishes at 12 midnight, then you change a diaper and get back in bed by 12:15am, you're up again at 2:30am. And that's a good stretch."

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 2:41 PM

I've turned down more than one promotion because the increase hours or travel demands would have deprived me of time with my family. I have my entire life to invest in my career if I chose to do so, but the time I spent reading to my daughters before tucking them into bed was worth more to me than all the gold in the world.

Posted by: Rufus | November 28, 2006 2:47 PM

My grandmother worked and my father thought she should have stayed home, so he wanted a wife who would stay home with the kids. My mother stayed home and loved it more than anything, but I wished that she worked. My father and I both know that our mothers did the best mothering they knew and accept that even though our thoughts might be different.

Do what you want and don't put too much stock in doing something because you think it's the right thing to show your children (which is different than doing what you believe to be the best for your family.)

Your kids will always think that you should have done something differently. do your best and don't lose sleep over what other people think.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 2:47 PM

Working woman-

I actually had the same job preferences before I had a daughter. I am just not willing to work all the time so I can look up when I am 70 and wonder where my life went. I have enough education to make decent money in a low-stress job and I am not driven to sacrifice my life to more money and prestige. I'd rather have fewer toys and gadgets and more free time.

Posted by: NashvilleMom | November 28, 2006 2:48 PM

I have read every day though never posted and I have a different take on why I should work, rather than be a SAHM. I am a better parent when I am with my son bc I work. I, like some people stuggle with patience, and working means that I can focus on him when I get home, without losing my patience as easily as I would if I was home all day.

In addition, I am an introvert who cringes at the thought of most social events bc I come from a large family and rarely socialized outside of it. I want my son to develop better social skills than I can teach him.

While I can not afford to stay home, I am pretty sure that if I could, I wouldn't. He is learning things now that I can not teach him.

Some of you might be thinking that there are Mommy and me events that I could also take him to that would socialize him, this isn't really an alternative for me, as I am not very good in those environments and I do not want him learning from my anxiety.

Like I have read on here several times, working vs SAHM is a personal choice for a family, and this works for us. I have a very well adjusted 4 yr old that I enjoy spending time with and who is quite the social butterfly at school.

I don't look at it as will they read my resume, but will they appreciate that I knew I needed help from others to overcome my shortcomings in what I could teach him.

Posted by: a little different | November 28, 2006 2:48 PM

First, I am not a doctor nor do I pretend to be one on the blog. This is my personal experience with endometriosis and the pill.

I was diagnosed when I was 22 my doctor said, have a baby, have a hysterectomy or go on the pill full time. Full time means no periods. I did this and the only side effect was weight gain. I gained 40 pounds in two months. A small price to pay for no more pain and the chance at having a baby when I was older and out of school.

I went off the pill when I turned 29 after being on it for almost 7 years. Five of those years were full time, i.e. no period. I was pregnant in 6 months and had a healthy child.

The pill saved my fertility and it is one of the best treatments for endometriosis.

Just my experience and my opinion.

Posted by: scarry | November 28, 2006 2:51 PM

Scarry,

I am just curious. What pill were you on that produced no periods? I've been using one or another variety of the pill, before and after kids, for 28 years and have always had periods . . . or are you saying that the version of the pill you were on was a 28-day, no placebo, version, rather than a 7-7-7 pill?

Posted by: to Scarry | November 28, 2006 2:58 PM

A little different, just wanted to say that I think what you're doing for your son is really marvelous.

I was raised by a SAHM in rather isolated circumstances and, while there was much that was good in that experience, socialization was always a challenge for me. I'm just now (in my 30s) getting a handle on the kinds of casual interaction most people take for granted.

Posted by: TC | November 28, 2006 2:58 PM

First, Erin, best luck for a healthy pregnancy and two happy babies.
Second, we can only make our decisions on the basis of what we feel is truest and best for us and our families, with the understanding that that can and will change over time.
Having uttered that platitude, I'll add a comment about the way you characterize women's work here, and it's an honest observation (no bashing intended). You make the work women do sound high-powered and well-paid (nannies, professional travel, long hours). This to me sounds like a career, not just work; but surely it characterizes only a small proportion of the jobs women hold. Is it only this kind of work that may not pass the "what they'll say at my funeral" test--or would other kinds of less demanding work (to cover the cost of living, for the health insurance, etc.) be more okay with young kids at home? Sometimes, if both partners don't work, bills can't get paid. Unless it's a high one, one income is less and less likely to be able to cover everything (especially with more than one kid). Between the divorce rate, the early deaths some have mentioned here, and layoffs, it might be only prudent for both partners to have something to fall back on in case the worst happens (because things do change). And finally, I do like the comments on here that point to more sharing, more joint planning, and mutual giving-things-up as ways of reaching balance in a relationship that includes kids. No one partner should be asked or expected to renounce everything outside child-raising; every couple can learn to negotiate as it becomes necessary. And TC says a mouthful: it's not as though every moment you spend away from your kids is a "cosmic waste". Work can actually be fun as well as fulfilling and can leave the world a better place. That you participated in something like that can also be a powerful modelling for your kids to see.

Posted by: mamie | November 28, 2006 3:06 PM

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I was on loestrin for a long time. WHen it was time for my period I opened another pack. So I never took the placebo, I just started another pack of pills.

Does that make sense?

Posted by: scarry | November 28, 2006 3:07 PM

yes. Thanks.

Posted by: to scarry | November 28, 2006 3:10 PM

Momof4, you beat me to it! I was also disappointed with the post from the person who said they didn't respect their mother until she got an education and a job. I was also raised by a stay-at-home who had no college education, and I respected her then (and continue to) because of the person she is, not because her particular talents bring home a paycheck. I think it's extremely degrading to parenthood in general to suggest that mothers don't deserve respect unless they "work".

Posted by: TakomaMom | November 28, 2006 3:21 PM

Yes. Let's be clear. Just because you take a pill, doesn't mean that you're "on the pill".

Sugar pills don't count!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 3:23 PM

"In all, I think older working moms give many young, impressionable women the idea that work/life balance means nannies, travel away from home only 50 percent of the time and working only 6-8 hours on the weekends. If this is true, I wonder how far we as women have really come in the workplace."

WARNING: LONG-WINDED RANT AHEAD:

I am accustomed to a great many things on this blog, but insulting, age-related generalizations isn't one of them. I wish Erin all the best, but also wish she didn't view the wide variety of women around her as monolithic "older" working moms. Older than what? and what sort of narrow group of jobs involves nannies, half-time travel and working 6 days a week? I am in my mid 40's and am glad every day that I can look around in my workplace at women in their 50s and 60s who have achieved various levels of balance, have marriages that have weathered more than a few bumps, and have happy kids of a variety of ages. If Erin's workplace doesn't present her with a variety of female (and male0 role models, that says alot more about her choice of career, employer and office than it does about "older" working moms. harumph.

How far have we come? Far enough that women can evaluate their options for themselves and make choices that work for them, their spouses/partners, and kids. Even twenty years ago, options to retain one's job after motherhood, cut hours back to PT status or telecommute, or cut back on travel (in travel-intensive jobs), were not available to women if they were moms, and men were not permitted to SAH or cut-back their hours.

We've come along way, and we'll continue to progress when we stop stereotyping other women based on age and other irrelevant characteristics.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 3:25 PM

to anon at 3:25

well said...I skipped right over Erin's comments, but I shouldn't have done so. And I can't believe it took until 3:25 to come out!

Posted by: dotted | November 28, 2006 3:28 PM

The pill is great. I bet the other poster was a man.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 3:31 PM

As long as we're talking about the pill... I have to say that I'm loving my IUD! I've had it in a year and I don't even have periods any more. My insurance charges me $15 a month for birth control pills, but the 5-year IUD cost me $15 total. It's contraception's best-kept secret.

Posted by: Anon this time | November 28, 2006 3:39 PM

Well, TakomaMom, a case could probably be made that what's "extremely degrading to parenthood in general" is the attitude that somehow parents ultimately are the primary factor in how kids turn out.

If you accept that the welfare of children is the most important goal of parents, and if you also accept the thesis that virtually every decision made by a parent affects the welfare of their child(ren), then you essentially reduce parents to the role of childcare providers, who should always consider the latest "expert" advice.

Somehow, I think it's a little more subtle and complex than that! I know that this gets boring after a while, but parenting is both more and less important than most other relationships, but not essentially different. [Warning: Cliches ahead!]

Love is letting go of fear. Respect yourself, but don't be selfish.

Don't lose your head trying to teach these lessons. Just live them! Balance in life tends to follow, and kids do what they're gonna do. Working mothers/fathers who are fearful and/or selfish tend to be lousy lovers, mothers/fathers, workers and mates. But it has nothing to do with working mother/fatherhood, and everything to do with fear & selfishness.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 3:42 PM

the pill made me a crazy hormonal beast!

Posted by: yikes | November 28, 2006 3:42 PM

"Our culture has words like widow and widower for someone who has lost a spouse, but not for a mom or dad who've lost a child. Maybe because it's too painful to name this kind of bereavement. But I wish we had a respectful way to honor that experience."

I like that idea from an emotional viewpoint. But I wonder if such parents really want their loss to be public like this. Perhaps if there were a better cultural lexicon for losing a child, or for being unable to have kids. The other day I met a women while at the health provider, who said she couldn't have kids but might adopt when she had a better financial situation. She was quite young. I had no idea what to say. She didn't seem upset about it: would she be offended if I said, "i'm sorry"? I said, "I think adopting would be wonderful!" but I felt like an idiot.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 3:55 PM

I cannot believe anyone would say that no one reads your resume at a funeral. The last funeral I was at was: went to medical school, served as a medic in the Battle of the Bulge, worked at an inner-city Chicago Hospital, served as a surgeon in the Korean War, worked at a different hospital, taught medical school... If you succeed in your career they will read your resume at your funeral. If you don't succeed, they won't.

Posted by: Bethesdan | November 28, 2006 4:04 PM

You said exactly the right thing. Stop worrying about it.

Posted by: Emily | November 28, 2006 4:04 PM

To the poster who sent this: "Morning mom, if career women love their children as much as SAHMs why don't they want to see them more than 2 hrs a day?" at 11:20 AM -

I can only say that each of us gets handed a different set of cards to play, and we each must make the most of it. If your hand allows you to stay at home, good for you, but most people have to work for a living, usually both parents today, and it's quite all right. By the way, I wouldn't want to offhandedly go labeling the poster a judgmental, critical, smug person, but maybe I'll have to reconsider my position on that!!! Cheers all. JayoBlade

Posted by: JayoBlade | November 28, 2006 4:11 PM

My mother was a mid-wife who gave up work when I was born. She has said on a number of occasions that in retrospect she wished she had kept working part-time (especially once we got to school age). She isn't alone- many of my mothers friends (all stay at home mothers) have said similar things. Financially they were secure so they weren't encouraged to work outside the home (by their husbands or peers). Many have said, they wished they had made different choices- that they had kept their hands in the work world (doing something they loved) especially when their children went to school and ultimately left home.

Posted by: ug | November 28, 2006 4:11 PM

I think you're probably right in that many, many women wished that they had kept working in some way. What I can say from my own experience as a child of a mom who tried to be a part-time midwife is that it's a very hard thing to do part time.

My mom loved being a midwife but decided she couldn't be the parent she wanted to be with the night-time calls to births. She ended up giving it up for a series of of less fulfilling part-time admin office jobs. I know she missed the midwifery, but I don't think she had any regrets about the decision she made.

Now she's in her 50s, has three grown children, and is happily embarking on a brand new career. Just because you don't pursue a career when your kids are young, doesn't mean you'll never be able to. I'm sure she could have chosen to be bitter because she had to pay her entry-level dues later in life, but she chose to be happy with the decisions she made.

And before people say, why does it have to be the woman making those sacrifices? I don't think it does! It just so happened that this was what my parents thought was best for our family. Now that my mom has a full-time job, my dad has taken the opportunity to follow his dream--quitting his job and starting his own business.

Posted by: To ug | November 28, 2006 4:25 PM

3:55, you said just the right thing. When I was that woman's age, I found out my tubes were blocked. I knew that I could later have surgery, etc., to enable me to have children, but honestly, I already knew that I didn't want them and would not undergo surgery or other procedures -- but that I might adopt. *Technically*, I cannot conceive, so if someone asks, I say that I chose not to have children. Even if I said, "I can't have children" to forestall the inevitable "you might change your mind" that so many people say to me (Hello! I'm 42!), I wouldn't want someone to say they were "sorry". I guess it's all in the tone the person uses when they tell you, but overall, being cheerful and positive about the adoption alternative seems like the right thing.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 4:30 PM

Foamgnome, you seem to think that by feeling "ready" to have kids, people mean they feel like they have enough money. That's not always the case. But you also wrote "As long as you are in a loving marriage or partnership, have a decent job, and in decent health then it is OK to have a baby." Sometimes that's what people mean when they say "ready". Also, I had plenty of money, but I was not emotionally ready to have a baby. The whole advice of "you're never really 'ready' so just go ahead" just isn't right. Sometimes, people simply KNOW that they aren't ready but that they will be when certain things are right in their lives.

Posted by: Joyce | November 28, 2006 4:39 PM

About this whole 50/50 mom/dad split,

A dose of reality. No marriage is 50/50 all the time, same goes for parenting. The best advice I got before my wedding was that sometimes, the wife shoulders the bigger burden, sometimes the husband. Is that fair? No, but no one said life was fair. The important thing it to keep your priorities straight and make sure both of you are on the same page in terms of ordering those priorities.

Posted by: LM in WI | November 28, 2006 4:46 PM

Scarry's comments about the pill reminded me that Slate ran a story about a new pill up for approval that would not have the sugar pills, basically the regimen Scarry's doc recommended:

http://www.slate.com/id/2151746/?nav=navoa

Posted by: Megan | November 28, 2006 4:46 PM

Here, here!

I appreciate your honesty. There is much to be said in feeling like you can give a little bit of your career up for the more rewarding goal of raising children. And raising children does take effort. If you read the NYT Sunday Magazine article on childhood development and education, the presence of a parent seems important. I summarized it on my blog if anyone cares to read:

woodstock.typepad.com

Posted by: Woodstock | November 28, 2006 4:47 PM

She's right that no one reads your resume at your funeral. Then again, no stay-at-home mom gets a big obit in the newspaper.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 4:50 PM

3:55, I also can't have children and I think you said exactly the right thing. I'm not upset about it either as I had no desire at all to get pregnant--and I'll be very happy to adopt if/when my husband and I decide we are ready.
In fact I'd probably be a bit irritated if someone got all pitying about it, since I didn't want natural kids anyway and I am kind of bothered by the assumption that all women must by nature have a "biological clock" ticking away like a time bomb.
I can certainly believe some, maybe even most, people have a drive to reproduce--I just can't figure out why the assumption is commonly made about women and not about men. My inability to conceive affects my husband just as much as it affects me. Luckily we're agreed that (a) adoption is a great option and (b) we both love our careers too much for either one of us to step away just yet.

Posted by: worker bee | November 28, 2006 4:51 PM

A comment above said, "She's right that no one reads your resume at your funeral. Then again, no stay-at-home mom gets a big obit in the newspaper."

Yes, but this stay at home gets something better than a memory in the paper, a life time of memories with my children. My sixteen year old son said to me the other day, "Mom at the end of your life all you have are the relationships you built while you were alive."

I have six children all with strong relationships with me and one another. Yeah, my resume may not get me a job at Wal-Mart but my heart and there's is filled to overflowing. I'll take that over a paycheck and a large obit any day.

www.spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com

Posted by: Spunky | November 28, 2006 5:00 PM

"Taking a substance that seriously changes the natural hormonal balance of a female over such a long period of time is very unhealthy and has a substantial negative effect on future pregnancies."

Ok, as a physician, I cannot let this one go by. The "Pill" (which is actually many formulation of hormones) is exceedingly safe. It has been proven by scientific study and many years of use. To make an ignorant statement like that does a diservice to anyone who would believe anything he or she reads. Folks, there is a group of conservative Christians (or whatever they call themselves) who believe that any form of contraception is evil and therefore make up all kinds of false side effects to bolster their anti contraception arguments. These are the same people who say that abortions cause breast cancer. Untrue and the spreading of these lies is just plain evil

The fact is, the pill is very safe. It does not impact on future fertility. It make take some time (up to 6 months) to get back on a cycle, but it doesn't harm fertility. There are in fact precious few side effects (wild weight gain is a myth population studies have shown so if you've gained 40 pounds, you need to look at other causes with a competent physician). IUDs are good too as the other poster points out. With regard to stopping periods, that's safe too. There is a pill ("Seasonale) that is marketed for this purpose, but you can take back to back packs of pills (skiping the placebo or dummy pills) without any ill effects. Doctors recommend this for honeymoons, big trips, etc, but can be done all the time.

Posted by: To pill basher | November 28, 2006 5:01 PM

Thanks Megan for the article

I just wanted people to know that the pill helps some people to lead normal lives. Endometriosis is a horrible disease to have and sometimes having a baby at 22 isn't possible.

It's frightening to be diagnosed with it if you want children, but there is help, and the pill is one way to fight it. Also, the doctor's told me that I had it for a long time before I was diagnosed, probably since I was a teen. My mother just thought that what I experiencing was normal. If you are the mother or father of a young lady who has horrible cramps and periods it would be best to have them checked out.

To the guest blogger, I know how you feel and it is perfectly normal with all you've been through to try and create a stress free environment! Good luck to you!

Posted by: scarry | November 28, 2006 5:01 PM

On the question about responding to someone who tells you they can't have kids, if they don't mention adoption, do people think would it be rude to ask if they're considering it? This situation came up once when I was talking to someone, and I decided not to ask but I'm just curious as to what others would think.

Posted by: Megan | November 28, 2006 5:02 PM

Megan: it wouldn't bother me at all if people ask if I'm considering adoption. After all, I'm open about the fact I can't have kids. I think the only thing I might find rude would be if someone wanted to know the exact details of my health issues, but that would be true of any health issues, not just those related to fertility.

Posted by: worker bee | November 28, 2006 5:07 PM

to To pill basher

Thanks, I feel better to have a doctor write a post about it rather than just my own experince.

Posted by: scarry | November 28, 2006 5:07 PM

I also will plug the IUD - it can be great for moms who are nursing and don't want to use a contraceptive with hormones. There's one that does not have any hormones and is good for 10 years - it can give you more cramps though, but very effective, safe, and easy.

Posted by: me too! | November 28, 2006 5:09 PM

Megan, I'd only ask a question like that of someone I knew very well, or if they volunteered the info. Adoption is such an obvious option that if a person who would like to have kids and can't isn't exploring it there is probably a good reason. It's not exactly rude, but it is pretty personal.

Take me, for instance. It would be simpler for us to adopt kids than to have them naturally, but I have some reasons why I would much rather not adopt even though we want kids and it takes a good chunk of intervention to make this happen. I prefer not to discuss those reasons except with close friends.

Posted by: Equal, but not identical | November 28, 2006 5:10 PM

"There is much to be said in feeling like you can give a little bit of your career up for the more rewarding goal of raising children."

Okay, maybe this is just me, (And if it is, I'm sure someone here will tell me....:-D) but this is a slap in the face to anyone who chooses not to have kids.

My goals, careerwise and lifewise, are no less rewarding because I won't raise a child. I have wonderful relationships with my friends and with my family. While it's unfair to think less of a woman because she chooses to stay at home after the birth of a child, it is equally as unfair to think less of women who choose a life without children.

Posted by: AG | November 28, 2006 5:10 PM

I am always amazed at workaholics. Do they think that they get another shot at life? Life is like a big hourglass, time is constantly running out just like sand. Yet some people think that being regional manager of acme widgets is the end all. Yet almost no one cares or can name that person ten years from now. I think it is a sad,lonely way to go through life.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 28, 2006 5:18 PM

AG, you are right, it is absolutely unfair to think less of women who choose a life without children - I hope the original poster didn't intend for that comment to sound like a slap in the face. I suppose the "more rewarding" part of the sentence might have been a little jab ... but it is often hard to tell which comments on this blog are tongue-in-cheek.

Posted by: TakomaMom | November 28, 2006 5:24 PM

Thanks Worker Bee and Equal but not identical - I kind of agree about it being really personal, but I wasn't really sure where to go with the conversation after she told me she couldn't have kids - we were in law school together, and talking about our plans, and I said we were trying to have a baby and that would affect my choices, and then she said she couldn't have kids. I think I just said, "Oh, really?" and she said yes, and then there was one of those long pause moments, and then I just asked more about her summer job. So I didn't want to pry but I also wasn't sure if once she brought it up maybe I should have. ANyway, it was just one of those awkward moments, I was curious how others would have reacted.

Posted by: Megan | November 28, 2006 5:25 PM

Hey Patrick, I'll bite. What if you really, really like widgets and don't get along all that well with people?
I agree there are a lot of lonely workaholics out there. And also I have a career much more fulfilling than widgets so I have a good reason to stick around at the office. But I do think some workaholics are misunderstood by the people around them... some people really are happiest when they're alone & working with ideas or things, rather than in a crowd or on a team.

Posted by: worker bee | November 28, 2006 5:26 PM

"There is much to be said in feeling like you can give a little bit of your career up for the more rewarding goal of raising children."

AG, I read that as being written to those who have career and children. I honestly didn't see it as an affront to the childless by choice or circumstance.

If your life is full and rewarding without children, I applaud that.

Posted by: to AG | November 28, 2006 5:27 PM

I think a lot of childfree people take needless offense to innocuous comments about making children a priority, as if these comments were intentionally directed towards them in an effort to denigrate their choice to not have children. Certainly, when my husband and I decided to have kids, we made some choices about work and family, and in certain ways, did put our careers second because we believe that raising children should be our priority once we decide to have them. We do not think this makes the lives of childfree people less important then ours. We do think that our family comes before work, because to us, work is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. But this is a very personal choice for us. And I must admit that though I rate my work as second to my family, it is still very important to me. And I cannot see how any thoughtful decision to have children could be any different. Not everyone wants or should have children, and that's fine, but I strongly believe that people who do decide to have children should make their children the priority in their lives. This does not mean that they should stop working. There are myriad ways of making your children a priority, and I can certainly see how having a successful career can benefit the children in a family. But nevertheless, the children, not the work itself, should be the priority. Otherwise, what's the point?

Posted by: Emily | November 28, 2006 5:30 PM

AG, I see where you are coming from, but my guess is that poster meant that it was more rewarding for her - in other words, the comparison is between how she feels about herself doing two activities, not about whether one is objectively superior to the other in all situations. Like me saying I find hiking more rewarding than tennis.

And Patrick, it's only sad and lonely if that's how they feel. If that person is happy, then that's great for them.

Posted by: Megan | November 28, 2006 5:32 PM

TakomaMom and to AG -

Thanks. It's quite possible the original comment was tongue in cheek, but I just felt the need to say something. I think between recent topics here and some comments in my personal life, I'm sick of being labeled a workaholic or somehow "less than" because I choose not to have kids.

Ironically, I'm a big supporter of balance for working moms (and dads) because I think eventually it'll trickle down to a better balance for all of us! Flextime means more time for a mom or dad to spend with kids...for me it means more time to volunteer. Looking at ways to improve work/life balance can help all of us.

Posted by: AG | November 28, 2006 5:34 PM

No, it's not only sad and lonely if that's how they feel. That is a very good Oprah slogan but it's rather untrue. Many workaholics have family and they miss out on having an engaged parent and spouse because deep down they have chosen ambition, greed and pride over being with their families. I know men where i work who commute nearly 5 hours a day and have children. What do you think is more important to them, family or their job? I already know the answer. I have children to love and enjoy in my old age, they have a lot of boring work stories and maybe a pension if they are lucky.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 28, 2006 5:40 PM

Emily, you snuck in while I was typing...

I think we (we being childless by choice people) sometimes take offense when none is meant because to many people, being childless is treated as abnormal. When I say I plan not to have kids, I get either "Well why not???" in an incredulous tone of voice, or a dismissive "Oh, you'll change your mind when you're older." (I'm in my thirties....how much older should I be before I know my own mind?)

After a while it builds up, and sometimes it comes out unfairly towards someone. If that's what I did here, then I apologize.

Posted by: AG | November 28, 2006 5:41 PM

"Many workaholics have family and they miss out on having an engaged parent and spouse"

This was not your original argument, you spoke of workaholics generally, and there are many who don't have family. I do think it's sad when a parent does not engage with their family whether it's because they are workaholics or for some other reason. But I don't see any problem with someone who decides not to marry or have kids committing themselves to work that they enjoy and find fulfilling. Not all absent parents are workaholics, and not all workaholics are absent parents.

Posted by: Megan | November 28, 2006 5:47 PM

I think a lot of workaholics simply feel best about themselves at work and feel fulfilled putting all their energies into work and the rewards of working. No big mystery.

But it's ugly when they expect others to be like them (especially their employees).

Posted by: Leslie | November 28, 2006 5:47 PM

Sure, we all need to set reasonable limits at work, particularly consistent with the larger purpose of your life -- whatever you believe that to be. Setting reasonable limits is critical and quite difficult if you work in an environment where otherwise no limits exist, or if you are the only one at your level seeking to set them. but make sure when you label someone a "workaholic" you are applying that label exclusively to someone who fails to set limits that are able to be set without losing his/her job, and not someone who is in an industry like IT, wherein the prevailing mindset is you either do the job your boss expects you to do or you'll be replaced by someone who will.

Related topic: Is anyone else on the board concerned about the general lack of work ethic that appears to be gaining in prevalence? Admittedly, there are folks of all ages that lack work ethic, but I do seem to notice it more and more among GenYers. I often wonder whether, in our quest for balance and our constant direct and indirect messages to our children that they are the most important, important, important people in the universe, we've devalued the concept of having a work ethic and replaced it with the message that work only has value if it's personally fulfilling and if there's nothing else you'd rather be doing. Thirty years ago if you ran a family business, be it farm or retail, everyone in the family knew that the family business required hard work (in excess of 37.5 hrs per week) and compromise, in the best interest of the family. In fact, there was satisfaction in hard work for the sake of "an honest day's labor". Now many of us raise our kids with the concept that life is all about a pursuit of personal happiness. I'll duck now, but this is something that bothers my husband and me, and we wonder if we're merely the last of the kids raised by WWII veterans and survivors of the Depression.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 5:48 PM

First of all, I want to wish the author all the best of luck with her pregnancy. Her post is encouraging for everyone who is trying to balance both family and work.
My mother had always worked while I was a child and I have only the utmost love and respect for her determination. As an adult, I can appreciate her accomplishments in her field and the difficulties she had to face in acheiving everything that she did. So, while your child may not wish for you to earn more and live in a bigger house, he/she will certainly learn a lot from your determination and work ethic. They may also appreciate your sacrifices when they are older.

Finally, there are a lot of people in this world who will be remembered for what they did in their lives, ie. their resume, when their obits are read.

Posted by: AN | November 28, 2006 5:53 PM

AG, you don't have to apologize. I get it. I did not have a child until my mid 30s and frankly was just not interested in having one until then. In fact, I remember thinking back then that my dog was a lot cuter than any baby I had ever encountered. I remember all the comments about changing my mind or regretting it later.

I did happen to change my mind, but I am not so sure why exactly. And once I did, it was great also, but I am so greatful for the freedom that I had in my 20s and early 30s. And I can definitely see the pros in that kind of life, had I decided to ultimately choose it. There are pros and cons to any decision, I guess.

Posted by: Emily | November 28, 2006 5:59 PM

I will take a stab at the lack of work ethic. I think it is the realization of the meaning of life is not work. In these days of 100 million dollar ceos,complete lack of employer loyalty, wholesale offshoring of divisions overseas and the revulsion at baby boomers yuppy self importantness has pretty much killed that mentality that you refer to. Now people are much smarter and work for THEIR goals.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 28, 2006 6:08 PM

Talking about obituaries reminds me of a former coworker who tragically died unexpectedly and a a fairly young age. She was a great lady in many ways: personable, helpful, kind, generous, funny, smart. She was absolutely devoted to her family and definitely put work second. To her, it was just a paycheck and she was waiting to retire. This was kind of frustrating so those who worked with her because she just did not seem to care much about work. But she was so nice that she still had friends at work. When she died, several of us went to the funeral and it kind of hit us that her life was so much more than her work. It especially hit our boss, who had always been rather dismissive and contemptuous of this person because she considered her a slacker. Our boss commented that she did not think her children would say the same wonderful things at her funeral as our coworker's kids had. But I can think of many positive things that our boss will be remembered for, even if they are not that she was a warm and fuzzy person. I guess my point is that you don't have to be good at everything, and that you should probably concentrate on persuing what is important to you, because in the end, that is where you will have the most impact on the world. If that means you are devoted to your career, so be it. If that means your personal life and family are more important, then so be it also. For some people, it is a mix of both. Why should there be one particular standard for everyone, when we are all so different.

Posted by: Emily | November 28, 2006 6:10 PM

"Now many of us raise our kids with the concept that life is all about a pursuit of personal happiness. I'll duck now, but this is something that bothers my husband and me, and we wonder if we're merely the last of the kids raised by WWII veterans and survivors of the Depression."

One observation: I enjoy reading fiction from previous periods of history. That kids today just don't have the work ethics or manners of their parents seems to be a common complaint no matter whose fiction you're reading and when it was written. :)

Doesn't mean that it's baseless, though. The Depression kids had very good reasons for having a good work ethic. Many of the Boomer kids did not have that same fear of "what if I lose my job?" They became more fun-loving parents who taught their kids similar values, maybe. And of course it's about individual family conditions. My peers who grew up poor or working class have very different values and work attitudes from those who grew up with extra money.

I heard recently that the boomers were motivated by a desire for youthfulness, Xers by a desire for savvy/expertise, and "echoes" (coming into the workforce now) a desire for personal empowerment. As an Xer who was married to a boomer, I can see that.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 6:10 PM

I understand your point and agree, in large part. I owe my employer no loyalty. I will apply my skill set to the job I was hired to do. But I also think if you take on a job, you should do it well, or find another job that fits what you're willing to give. Anyone else wonder what it's like to be Erin's employer, supervisor or colleagues right about now?

Posted by: to pATRICK | November 28, 2006 6:14 PM

"Now many of us raise our kids with the concept that life is all about a pursuit of personal happiness."

There a reason for the saying that, Necesscity is the Mother of Invention.

When the first rent comes due, if Mom and Dad aren't paying it for Johnny or Sally, then they'll find a way to handle it themselves.

It's human nature.

They can still pursue personal happiness, while being responsible and having a work ethic; and most of them will.

Posted by: Duh! | November 28, 2006 6:36 PM

Erin, I think your comments are too one-size fits all. You are where you are in part because YOU were the one who CHOSE to wait to have babies because YOU were a driven career woman. Now you have doubts about your own decisions, and are obviously struggling with your future plans. You decide you want to "slow down" and take more time for your family, and that is laudable. But why must you then project your own issues, guilt, past, needs, and feelings on other women?

There are women who wanted babies at a younger age, "consequences be damned" and who did so even though it was hard to get "established" in "new careers." But they balanced "type A personalities" with their strong desire to have and raise kids when they did.

Some of us mothers took time-outs from our careers. Some of us worked part-time. Some of us kept going. There are as many paths as their are intelligent women, I'm sure.

Some worked full-time, and somehow made it work, not because they are "super women" or more deserving of praise or attention than anyone else. They did it through a combination of such things as supportive spouses, extended families, schools, friends willing to help each other, and, yes, in my case, I am not ashamed to say it, hired help. Yes, my work/life balance included "nannies" and I am happy to say so. Over sixteen years, I have had three "nannies" -- although we have never called them that. From them my children learned to nap to East African folk songs, to make leaf rubbings and cook grits, and to make awesome paella and speak Castellano.

Some of my closest "girlfriends" are the Moms of my kids' friends. Some are "stay at home" Moms. Some work part-time. Some work full time. Some have advanced degrees. Others never went to college. Some are well-to-do. Others are just scraping by. But guess what -- they are all great mothers, dear friends, and women who will have so much to show for their lives, you are right, we will not need to read their "resumes" at their funerals.

As for the "young, impressionable women" of today, what they DON'T need is preachy, guilt-ridden, one-size fits all advice. Just as you were FREE to put off having children until you did in order to pursue YOUR ambitions (nowhere in your piece do I see you apologizing for having done so), each and every young impressionable woman has the right to do so as well. I have never told "impressionble young women" what a proper "work/life" balance should be. As with everything else in life, the young, strong, intelligent women of today need to be free to find their own way and make their own choices. Although I worked full-time after having children, I would never presume to lecture others on what will or won't be right for them.

So, while I am sympathetic that you are facing hard decisions, don't justify your own perfectly valid, sensible, and meaningful decisions by attacking those made by others.

Me thinks thou dost protest too much. Perhaps it is YOU who worries about being judged by how much you earn or how successful you are in your career. Speaking as a high-earning, successful career woman, I can assure you my children are incompletely unimpressed. We agree on one thing -- your children will measure you only by how much you love them.


Posted by: Working Mom, Not a Judge | November 28, 2006 7:11 PM

I think its wonderful that we all have more choices in family & work, etc. than 20 or 30 years ago. But, work life balance for women & men (but mostly women) wont' ever happen until the goverment mandates reasonable paid maternity/parernity (and other) leave.

We are the only civilized 1st world country with this issue, why don't all of us working moms call our senator and our representative and demand more. It would work even better if we all called on the same day. We are a huge group (add on the working dads and we are even bigger) let's all band together and force the goverment to respect and accomodate our needs.

Posted by: Sam | November 28, 2006 7:20 PM

to Sam, I respectfully disagree.

Work-life balance over the eighteen-year span when I'm raising my kids to adulthood is significantly more important to me than 6 - 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave. Changes in the unlimited expectations of salaried employees over the long-haul are key to achieving that balance. Societal expectations have to change, and that change won't happen by the government ramming it down employers' throats. When we start voting with our pocketbooks and our resumes by investing our 401(k)s in the stock of companies that don't expect their employees to respond to e-mail on a 24-7 basis, and by taking employment at those companies rather than the employer that pays the most and expects the most blood in return, we will do more to promote the cause of work-life balance than can be achieved by any government-mandated and unfunded maternity and paternity leaves.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 28, 2006 7:39 PM

In considering the benefits and difficulties of working and having children, I recommend strongly a wonderful book by Arlie Hoschschild, "The Time Bind", which chronicles the experiences of women at all levels of work from top executive to line worker when they compare their work time with their at home time with their husbands and children.

Hochschild spent a long summer break from her University teaching to study an unnamed mid-Western company and its executives and employees. From her descriptions it seemed as though the company involved some level of manufacturing so that there were line workers as well as administrative workers and executives. Her interviews provided perspective, particularly with regard to women employees, of whether there is a possibility of work life balance and what the pitfalls seem to be for these women.

Women found that they enjoyed their work because it provided intellectual satisfaction, a sense of achievement at what they did, the camaraderie of working with others, and the praise and rewards received for their accomplishments.

Yet too often these same women said that coming home to child rearing and household tasks provided the opposite dissatisfactions: too little time to achieve anything, too much stress trying to meet family and particularly child needs, constant exhaustion and little, if any praise, for what they accomplished at home. One got the sense from these interviews that despite working hard to provide a home environment that was positive for themselves, their husbands and their children, these women received little positive feedback, praise or rewards.

It seemed as though the stresses of coming home to children tired and cranky after spending many hours at day care, and having to prepare meals and help children with homework and activities did not provide solace because of the stresses of doing these otherwise positive things in a frenzied and cranky environment.

What amazed me was that these same women who compared the joys of work to the exhaustion found with family, had up to six children. Since many of these women had worked throughout their child bearing years, I wonder why, given the stresses, they were motivated to have more than one child.

The assumption for many working parents is that the child care they use is at worst neutral to the children and at best beneficial. Yet I read that the experience of many parents is that child care is often well below the standards offered by a stay at home parent and that the children themselves do not yearn each day to enjoy the benefits of away from home care or nanny care.

If we want to see our children for only a couple hours a day (and those hours often stressful), why, exactly, do we want to have them in the first place? I pose this question not as sarcasm, but rather to begin a discussion of the quality of family life, particularly for the children, where both parents work during hours when the children are not at school.

I strongly believe that women benefit tremendously from working: the intellectual stimulation, the praise, the satisfaction of a job well done. I strongly believe as well that for many women child rearing full time is not as satisfying as working away from the home. Although these women love and cherish their children, spending an entire day with them is not fulfilling, satisfying, or even, for the most part, interesting. Despite this, these women do want and love their children.

Instead of citing sociological studies showing that children are well adjusted and bright with only minimal contact with their parents, why not more information about the feelings and opinions of those children at various stages of their upbringing with full time working parents?

And, finally, can we have a blog about how children react to their experiences with day care (whether at home or outside the home) compared with children who have a stay at home parent.

The end result, I would hope, be enough information so that those of us who prefer work, yet have children, could better understand whether we can have a work life balance that benefits our children as well as ourselves when we choose to work rather than to be stay at home parents while our children are not at school.

Posted by: Seriously Wondering | November 28, 2006 8:31 PM

"And, finally, can we have a blog about how children react to their experiences with day care (whether at home or outside the home) compared with children who have a stay at home parent."

And how would you quantify a child's reaction? What are your metrics? Would they be valid? Probably as valid as that author's "study" in her book. Nothing that you have written has resonated with me and I'm a mother with a career. What you will get as an answer to your "plea" is a bunch of opinions--the SAHM will say how much happier their children are and the mothers with children cared for in daycare or by an in home caregiver will say their child is happier. My experience among my friends with careers is that their children are well adjusted and happy. But I'm sure they'll be SAHM who will say their kids are happy. People just want to validate their lives by criticizing others who believe differently.

And as with anything else, there is good daycare and bad daycare--there are bad SAHM and good SAHM. Soooooo what?

Posted by: To seriously wondering | November 28, 2006 9:02 PM

And, finally, can we have a blog about how children react to their experiences with day care (whether at home or outside the home) compared with children who have a stay at home parent.

You can have one but I bet you wouldn't like the answer. Children who go to day care are mature, smart, and otherwise well adjusted. Most children like day care, school or whatever you call it. If you wanted to start a fight you should have came earlier in the day.

Ta ta

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 10:06 PM

Great job Erin!

Posted by: limesucker | November 29, 2006 1:06 AM

"should have COME earlier..."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 3:06 AM

Good luck with your pregnancy - I know how difficult it is to be pregnant after a loss.

I completely understand your fears and concerns - it's natural for such a period of transition in your life. When my daughter was born 2+ years ago, I didn't know how it would go for us.

Honestly, things worked out pretty darn well - my husband ended up taking my daughter to and from daycare (which was at his work) and then he'd have a couple hours alone with her each evening until I got home a bit later. Sure, it's tough only having a few hours each weekday to spend with your child, but we tried hard to make up for it on the weekends by making our time together really count.

When my daughter was one, my husband took a new job and we moved overseas and I became a stay at home mom. I would never have anticipated this for myself, but it's honestly worked out pretty well.

I guess the point it, you never know how things are going to work out, and regardless, you can always figure out a way to make things work.

Even when I was working, I enjoyed my job and worked hard, but I didn't kill myself (I also didn't overdo it before having my child). Just hang in there and it will all work out - I promise!

(By the way, I also worked full-time while pursuing my MA so I feel for you - it's a long road, isn't it??)

Posted by: Vienna mom | November 29, 2006 4:43 AM

"should have COME earlier..."

moron

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 8:21 AM

"should have COME earlier..."

moron

No, the person who can't use proper english is the moron...

Posted by: correction | November 29, 2006 8:34 AM

For anyone looking to use an IUD, here is one data point. I have had mine for nearly ten years. It has been great for sex, but bad for life. The paraguard can make you bleed very heavily. I had it put in a few months after my baby was born. I had more energy the first week after giving birth than I did five years later. I didn't realize that I was anemic until my blood was tested during a hospital stay. A month on iron supplements helped a lot. The marina iud is supposed to be much better in terms of blood loss--like none. One caveat: if you get an iud, you should be in a monogamous relationship. And, of course, get your info from a doctor, not an anonymous blog!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 9:34 AM

"should have COME earlier..."

moron

No, the person who can't use proper english is the moron...

No one cares but you. God get a life.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 9:58 AM

"should have COME earlier..."

moron

No, the person who can't use proper english is the moron...

No one cares but you. God get a life.

God, get a life. HA!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 10:18 AM

Working mom,

You are confusing an obituary, which is a death notice, with a funeral, which is a celebration of life...

Posted by: HankC | November 29, 2006 10:26 AM

Firstly, thank you all for your thought provoking comments and well wishes.

Just a few insights into the blog:

1)The blog originally started as an e-mail to Leslie in which I expressed my reactions to a Business School Conference- work/life balance panel that I had attended (Leslie was the panel's moderator). I felt that the panel (which was made up of highly successful career moms) presented a skewed perspective on work/life balance to an audience full of 2nd year MBAs at a top B-school.

2) To each his/her own. I was trying to express the choices that I believe I might make in child rearing and career, but everyone has a right to make their own choices.

Thanks again!

Posted by: Erin (the author) | November 29, 2006 10:44 AM

Granted, I haven't read through all 170+ of these posts, but I've read many and I think many of you are missing the point when you're arguing with the writer's assertion that "A friend recently reminded me that nobody reads your resume at your funeral." You're missing the point! But ... how about one of my favorite sayings "on their death bed, no one ever says 'I wish I worked more.'"

The Evening News (ABC I think) did a piece recently about "extreme jobs" and people working 70-100 hours a week. The story infuriated me. The main guy they interviewed was trying to make partner in a law firm and admitted to never being at home with his toddler/preschooler daughter and wife. They interviewed his wife too and I just kept thinking the whole thing was terribly sad and I would divorce him in a minute since he's literally at work from about 5 am to midnight and then rushes home for a few hours sleep. But, at the end, when they asked him if he could/would keep this up forever, he just smiled and said "god willing" or something like that, completey uncaring and clueless that he doesn't know his own family. And people brag about having these kind of jobs. I find my self worth in other ways, thank you.

Posted by: Mel | November 29, 2006 2:40 PM

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