A friend sent me a two minute news blurb the other day on how women in the work force who have children are not promoted to the same extent as those without children. Initially upon watching the segment I felt like I was *supposed* to be outraged but instead I felt somewhat responsible. I automatically felt conspicuous as a cause. There are women like me that contribute to the preconception that being a mommy in the work force may lead to less productivity. Don't get me wrong. When I'm at work. I work hard. I'm passionate about what I do and often times that carries over to doing work at home or being on committees or other little extras. But when it comes to attending meetings outside of my work day I can't just stay on a whim. I have kids to pick up at 3:30 so I have pretty strict boundaries. And boundaries in the American work force are not a very welcome thing. I'm reluctant to give up the precious time that I've been given to be a mom to two litle ones. Anything "extra" that I might have dedicated to giving to work in the past I am now dedicated to giving the kids instead. But on the other hand, there are women who are absolutely dedicated to their jobs and will do anything to get ahead. They seemingly are able to do this while balancing their roles as a mom. Maybe their husbands stay home with the children so that they are able to dedicate 120%. Or maybe they have family in town that offer additional support and therefore they have less guilt at being away more. The women who are able to give 100% to their work deserve to be promoted for their extra efforts and not held back just because of their parenting status.
The article said that in order to get ahead you need to have solid and reliable child care for when your child gets sick. Is my childcare solid and reliable? Absolutely! But if I have to choose between work and mommying a sick child, I'm quick to put on my mommy hat. This happened recently with Coben and his myriad of illnesses. My kid was sick and it made for a distracted mom. Unfortunately the worst of it was on one of my short weeks where I only work two days. One day was so bad that I chose to stay home. Coben had diarrhea, vomiting, a fever, coughing, etc... Not only did I not feel it was fair to subject Alicja to Coben's virus but really, when it comes down to feeling like crap, I feel like a kid needs his mom. The next day I pushed myself to go back to work but only lasted a half a day since Coben's fever was not breaking, he was sleeping around the clock and his eyes were now glued shut most of the day. The following day I took him to the Doctor and was told that he had a double ear infection and pink eye on top of a cold virus. We started antibiotics which caused severe diarrhea. Coben already hadn't eaten for a week and now everything he was eating was exiting his body was quickly as it entered. And just when I thought he was on the upswing I woke up at 6 on the day I was to return to work to find a child who had a bone dry diaper after 8 hours. Dehydration can be a pretty serious thing for a little one. Since the Dr. wasn't open yet I went to work and found myself absolutely distracted by Coben's health the first two hours of my day until I could make a phone call to bring him in and was then told to bring him right in. What would a mother who is able to dedicate 100% to her job do? I honestly don't know how a working mom is "supposed" to juggle these things. Because the structure of our employment system (with the exception of some really progressive companies) requires me to make a choice. And I will always choose my family. But the truth is that while I was unable to be at work, I spent hours at home taking care of the work that needed to be done. This was not noticed. What is noticed is that I was not at work therefore I was not working. Nobody called me out on this and my dedication is not in question but I imagine if I actually worked in a traditional system that promoted a person that my sick days would not go unnoticed.
So I am not surprised that working mom's don't get promoted as often. And it's because I understand our jacked-up American work system that won't even take a chance by hiring a newly married woman who they perceive might, God forbid, get pregnant. And forget hiring someone who (no matter how well qualified) may already be pregnant. And if you happen to be employed through your pregnancy it astounds me how many women don't get paid time off for any amount of maternity leave. I appreciate the great strides that have been made that allow me to be a working mom and I understand that it is my choice to put my children over my work. But I'm not a single mom who doesn't have the luxury of that choice. Or a mom who is financially responsible for the family because her husband has been laid-off or has a disability preventing him from working. This is where my outrage comes in. We have more choice than ever but we are still dealing with antiquated companies that fail to recognize that they actually may have the ability to retain some pretty fantastic working moms. Mom's aren't quitting the workforce because they are flaky since having children. Many of them are being driven out. Is is possible that working-moms can be just as productive as their childless counterparts if given flexibility, the potential to job share, opportunities to telecommute, and/or on site childcare? And I'm not just talking about moms here. Rob has the opportunity to be a fully-invested dad because he is fortunate to be in a position that offers family-friendly policy. I know it sounds a lot idealistic and extremely kumbaya-ish but it's being done. Look at McGraw-Hill http://www.businessweek.com/careers/workingparents/blog/archives/2006/02/the_family-frie.html and Johnson & Johnson who is at the top of the Working Mother's Magazine top 100 Family Friendly Companies and has been for the past twenty years!
I know that some of my more conservative readers are going to insist that a woman must make a choice or that she belongs at home for those first few years. I don't disagree that within our current contstraints that a woman must make a choice. But maybe where the choice needs to lie is not with working versus caring for your kids but instead with where you choose to work so that we can strive for systemic change.
Ummm. That 2 minute news blurb really kicked off some emotion. I went into this blog thinking I would sound off with a couple of SENTENCES. Thanks for staying with me. :)