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compromises, i’ve made a few

Do you watch the Momversation episodes? If you’re not a parent, I can understand not really being interested, but if you are, you might want to check them out, despite the somewhat nauseating title. (I mean, seriously, because I’m a mom, I need to add a “mom” prefix to all nouns? “Well, let’s see, today I needed momceries so I went to the momstore and got mombread and momilk and mombutter.”)

One of the most recent episodes, “Are You a Stressed Working Mom?” was of particular interest to me, seeing as how my picture is in the dictionary next to “stressed working mom,” though you might not have recognized that it was me due to the blur caused by my rushing out the door and that red halo around my head caused by my stressed out hair.

That episode has already sparked some criticism, which was communicated very well, respectfully and succinctly, by the lovely Miss Zoot.

Before I get further into this, I want to make it clear that we are all operating on the fact (yes, FACT) that all mothers who are active participants in the lives of their families work their asses off. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), a work-at-home mom (WAHM), or a mom who works outside the home (MWWOH?), you are dealing with stress, performance anxiety, failures, and successes. Just because they may take different forms doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other. If you do not accept this fact, then please retreat to your alternate reality. Earth will miss you, no doubt.

I also want to state that folks who do not have children also face many of the same stresses, all of which deserve an equal platform, but I think we can all agree that things are just really different when you do have kids. Plus, since I had my son at such a young age, my entire professional life has been as some form of a working mother, so my perspective is entirely shaped by this fact. Cool?

Anyway, back to the video. It’s not like I expected the full spectrum of issues surrounding being a mother and having a career to be represented in a seven-minute video, but I did feel a little shafted because there are HUGE issues that just weren’t addressed. As far as this video being a good conversation starter for mothers who work primarily from home in their chosen/desired professions, then it hit the mark, and that’s totally valid.

But me and Miss Zoot and the legions of women whose working/parenting lives don’t look like those of the panelists weren’t really in there, which is too bad because bringing up that discussion would have unfolded the experiences of women who deal with really thought-provoking issues that affect ALL mothers EVERYWHERE. Like, wage gaps and inadequate benefits. Dealing with the prejudices that co-workers and bosses might have about mothers. Even just getting the culture of work to accept and celebrate that many kick-ass women have children and still desperately desire to have a career, especially when that career isn’t always one that can be done from home. Plus other stuff like the gap of child care between parents and how that burrows into gender roles that have been around forever.

These are not easy conversations to have but it’s important that they happen.

Perhaps most importantly is the conversation surrounding how exactly one accomplishes all that needs to happen and one of the moms, Lisa Belkin, in the Momversation asked about compromises, and I perked up, all ready to hear about, “Oh, yeah, this shirt has never ever been folded.” But it was more about career compromises which is another, “Oh TOTALLY!” aspect of this whole thing.

See, here’s where I’m coming from: I work full-time at a job that is good, but not exactly ideal for me and my career aspirations. I am the sole provider for my family as my husband has been working on his BS for the past several years and had the awesome timing of finishing college exactly when the economy made that dramatic, cartoonish bomb-dropping sound. I’m attending grad school part-time and as part of my requirements I’ve started working on an internship on a super-part-time basis. I also continue to free-lance write, though I’ve had to limit how much I put myself out there for projects simply due to a lack of time.

So my compromises are numerous every single day. I don’t sleep enough. I stress-eat. At around 8 p.m. I am completely out of steam so I don’t do things like prepare my coffee maker or the baby’s lunch for the next day, opting instead to watch TV. I hardly ever clean and when I do it’s simply to take the house down a notch from total squalor. On Sunday, I exercised for the first time in many months.

And these are all just the things that I’m willing to admit to right now.

As luck would have it, I have to get back to work since I took the time to write this while I was eating lunch. But that’s my contribution (momtribution?) to that aspect of the discussion.

17 comments to compromises, i’ve made a few

  • ali

    yes. so many issues. I work full-time, outside the home, in an office and there are things like…having to take off work to go to class plays and drive carpool and to take my daughter to the dr. and having to miss things like kindergarten graduation because i HAVE to be at work. and how crappy I feel when I have to go to my boss and tell her that I have ANOTHER thing I need to take off for.

    …and don’t get me started on the “egads…someone else is taking care of my child” issues…

    :)

    • @ali, I feel you, mama. My son is in first grade so the issue of someone else taking care of him isn’t such a big one anymore, though we were EXTREMELY lucky to have family take on most of his early child care. But logging enough hours is a huge one for me since I’m already out of the office multiple hours a week at class, so I don’t even bother asking about going to school events and whatnot. I’m constantly letting someone down, whether it’s my kid or my husband or my boss and it’s enough to make me want a drink.

  • Cheryl

    I will admit that this is one of the prickly issues that pushed my buttons, and I have a hard time having discussions about it without getting either accusatory or defensive. But, while I haven’t watched that episode, I saw the listing and caption on Dooce.com, and, to put it as diplomatically as I can, didn’t particularly think that Heather is the best poster child for working parenthood. Not that there’s not work involved in her blog empire, but that she just doesn’t begin from the same point on time management, logistics, control over workflow, etc. that many of us do.

    I’m really disappointed to hear that there were no WOHMs (which is the acronym I’ve seen most) represented in the episode.

    • @Cheryl, If I could find a job, I’d be a WOHM in an effing second!

      One thing that drives me crazy about these conversations is that for purposes of time and editing for continuity, we have never addressed the fact that our being home isn’t necessarily by CHOICE. No job, no money for daycare. No job, plenty of time to get showered and dressed for two hours a week to film an episode. No job, good luck with insurance.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I’ll ever be able to take care of my family is to marry rich, and unfortunately, that’s tacky.

      Oh, and having “mom” somewhere in the name helps with searches and site optimization. : ) As I’ve learned from being the first to call her site The Mommy Blog. Who knew it would become a genre?

      • @Mindy, “we have never addressed the fact that our being home isn’t necessarily by CHOICE” this is something I would really like to hear addressed more often, for all of the reasons you list. In between graduating college and getting a part-time job (that later became my full-time job), I was trying to get daycare in place before finding work. but, as you probably know, that’s impossible. and getting state aid for daycare was also out of the question because my husband and I weren’t married then and didn’t have a child support arrangement because we were just…together. It’s very easy (easier than it should be) to find yourself totally stuck and out of ideas of what to do next.

        by the way, I hope that you and other panelists don’t feel like I (or anyone else with these gripes) were picking on YOU guys for having different situations. I was just grumpy that only one working mom situation was presented.

  • Burgh Baby

    I actually clicked away from the video after seeing who was in it. Those women certainly face challenges, challenges that SUCK, but there is a whole other level of suck involved with working full time out of the home that they can’t address. Since that’s where I’m at, that’s what I want to hear more perspective about.

    BTW, I took approximately a kajillion photos of our house during the three days it was on the market because that is the only time in history that it has been that clean. Never ever again will a house that I live in be that clean. That’s the thing I’ve given up in order to find more time for the other stuff in life.

  • You know, Kel? I really honestly think about you several times a week, and you know what I think? I think, “How the FUCK does she do all this shit and have a kid? I mean how the FUCK is that woman not babbling on the street with a shopping cart?”

    And then I remember that you’re kind of amazing. Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

    No, seriously. Because all that shit you were talking about with compromises? The dirty house and not being able to bring yourself to do things that save you time and energy like making coffee and packing lunches the night before, because an hour of television seems like a vacation in Fiji after school AND work AND cooking dinner AND cleaning up after dinner because your kitchen is too tiny not to, AND homework? That’s my life without a 7 year old. I really can’t fathom working full time, going to school and then having to go to Little League games and shit. You should write a book. Why don’t you just put that shit on your to-do list? :)

  • You know, another thing – doesn’t Dana do Momversation from time to time? I know for a fact that they’ve had moms who work outside the house on that series, and I know she works outside the home. Plus she homeschools and blogs all over the place. Another Wonder Woman.

    Yeah, they really dropped the ball in terms of accurately representing working moms in that video. SAHMs and WAHMs have totally valid voices that should be heard, but moms who work outside the home have very different pressures that also often rendered invisible. There’s also moms who work and go to school like you, moms who go to school full time and don’t work, out-of-work moms who are looking for jobs which is work in and of itself particularly in this economy, etc. etc.

  • Yes. I can relate. My life is insane. There’s no describing it. I really do feel like no one can or does understand. Like you, I am trying to shoot high–I am really trying to advance my career. I cannot cut corners here. I just cannot accept that mommy glass ceiling even though it is banging me on the head with extreme force at the moment.

    I will be honest and say that besides this post, I can relate to almost none of the discussions of parenting and so forth that I find in these venues. I avoid them and I avoid momversations of this kind because they simply don’t speak to me at all.

  • Zoot

    Bah. EXACTLY. AMEN! ME TOO!

    I think I get frustrated by the lip service: “It is possible to be successful in your career and be a great Mom!” And yes, in theory, depending on your definition of success: It is. But let’s be realistic: If you are doing BOTH – then things get missed. My house would be cleaner if I didn’t work outside the home. My kids would be cleaner too. On the other hand, I’d make more money at my job if I didn’t have kids b/c I could dedicate myself to it for more hours a week.

    Let’s talk more about the “not cleaning” part. I’m so glad that is what gets cut off your list too. I keep things picked up, so I can find things, but clean? NEVER. Bathrooms? Gross. Kitchen? Disgusting. Bedroom? Tornado.

    But you know what? I think we’re both pretty awesome.

  • Maureen

    Wow, I’m so glad to see all these other moms who feel the way I do. No one at my work is in the same situation I am–with a small child in daycare (and the horrible guilt that still causes), expecting another child, working on my writing in my “free” time, keeping up with chores at home, and never accomplishing any of it all that well–and all the moms I meet outside of work stay at home, and, while I’m sure they have their own frustrations, I caqn’t exactly relate to them. I’m sure we’re all doing what we can. It’s just so nice when I read of others who experience my kind of daily crazy.

  • Being a Mom is a momumental task.

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