Assistants On The Treadmill
Welcome to the "On Balance" 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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.
By Maggie Leifer McGary
I was watching Oprah while I was on the treadmill one morning last week and Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, was the guest. She has a new book out, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), the premise of which is the concept of the "360 degree life;" e.g. work/life balance. Oprah's cameras followed Black through her typical day: treadmill at 6:30 a.m., dash to the office, meetings, event after work, then home to her husband and kids. Exactly the same as my day. Except I, of course, am not a publishing mogul.
Cathie Black, Leslie Bennetts (The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?) and, our own Leslie Morgan Steiner (Mommy Wars). All these women inspire and impress me. They, and other women of that ilk, are the poster people for balancing successful, lucrative careers and family. They are confident and successful and (presumably) well respected in their fields.
What they write rings true for me and motivates me, but ultimately I am separate from them: I am not a Wharton MBA or a lawyer or a hugely successful corporate executive (although I could play one on TV). I doubt any of them ever had jobs with titles including the word "assistant." If they did it was back when they were fresh out of college.
When I graduated from college, the only job I could find was as a secretary. My parents forced me to take it. Even at 21, I was disappointed to be pigeonholed into an administrative position. But with hard work and determination I clawed my way up the career ladder. By the time I had my first child at 28 I was a project manager at an association with great potential for advancement. At that time I "opted out" of the workforce and spent the next eight years at home raising my kids and occasionally freelancing.
I decided to re-enter the workforce when my youngest was in first grade. I took a part-time job because I was bored and miserable at home. I didn't give much, if any, thought to my title or the actual job. All that mattered to me at that point was being able to work around my kids' schedule.
Once I got back in the swing of things my old ambitions started to surface. I craved the intellectual stimulation and recognition that a career provided, not just a way to fill the hours when my kids were at school. But I felt like I was back to square one: viewed by my colleagues as a 21-year-old with nothing of value to contribute. I would sit in meetings or work on projects and know that my ideas were good, that I had intelligent things to say. But as an "assistant" I had to remain mum. Or I would speak up and be heard for a brief time, only to be dismissed back to my administrative duties.
I have persevered and continue to re-establish myself as a professional over the past three years, first part-time and then full-time The process seems excruciatingly slow and discouraging. I am the first to admit that I'm not a patient person. But how long does a non-MBA or non-lawyer have to scramble to be seen as a professional after putting career on hold to stay home with kids?
One major aspect of the concept of balance is equal enjoyment and fulfillment from work and family. At least for me, it's a lot harder to gain satisfaction and enjoyment from a perpetually entry-level job than it is for a woman with a high-stature job.
What do you think -- are you a lawyer or doctor or executive who has a different view of with what I'm saying? Or are you a non-executive/non-professional who agrees? What advice can you share from your own struggles?
Maggie Leifer McGary is a former stay-at-home mother who now works as a Web writer and developer. She lives in Olney, Md., with her husband and two children. She writes about balance and other random issues on her blog, Motherwhatnowredux. Her last On Balance Guest Blog was Staying for the Sake of the Kids.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: dennis5 | October 30, 2007 7:54 AM
Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 30, 2007 7:59 AM
Posted by: DandyLion | October 30, 2007 8:29 AM
Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 30, 2007 8:31 AM
Posted by: jjtwo | October 30, 2007 8:33 AM
Posted by: Songster | October 30, 2007 8:35 AM
Posted by: chittybangbang | October 30, 2007 8:39 AM
Posted by: Meesh | October 30, 2007 8:42 AM
Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 30, 2007 8:43 AM
Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 30, 2007 8:48 AM
Posted by: leslie4 | October 30, 2007 9:02 AM
Posted by: kfoley311 | October 30, 2007 9:02 AM
Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 30, 2007 9:07 AM
Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 30, 2007 9:14 AM
Posted by: MrsDre | October 30, 2007 9:18 AM
Posted by: cm9887 | October 30, 2007 9:20 AM
Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 30, 2007 9:22 AM
Posted by: tsm | October 30, 2007 10:14 AM
Posted by: _Miles | October 30, 2007 10:18 AM
Posted by: schellef77 | October 30, 2007 10:21 AM
Posted by: goodhome631 | October 30, 2007 10:37 AM
Posted by: Meesh | October 30, 2007 10:42 AM
Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 30, 2007 11:27 AM
Posted by: ashleymcarollo | October 30, 2007 12:08 PM
Posted by: ashleymcarollo | October 30, 2007 12:14 PM
Posted by: Songster | October 30, 2007 12:24 PM
Posted by: _Miles | October 30, 2007 12:35 PM
Posted by: _Miles | October 30, 2007 12:36 PM
Posted by: MattInAberdeen | October 30, 2007 1:15 PM
Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 30, 2007 1:47 PM
Posted by: MN | October 30, 2007 1:51 PM
Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 30, 2007 2:01 PM
Posted by: StickyNote | October 30, 2007 2:01 PM
Posted by: chittybangbang | October 30, 2007 2:18 PM
Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 30, 2007 2:26 PM
Posted by: _Miles | October 30, 2007 3:07 PM
Posted by: EmeraldEAD | October 30, 2007 3:08 PM
Posted by: maggielmcg | October 30, 2007 3:15 PM
Posted by: DandyLion | October 30, 2007 3:32 PM
Posted by: MN | October 30, 2007 3:55 PM
Posted by: kfoley311 | November 5, 2007 12:06 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.