Ever since Marissa Mayer announced she would only be taking a few weeks for maternity and that she would be “working” during that time the Internet has lit up with women weighing in on her choice. A recent CNN article captures some of the discussion.
Now before I begin let me state that I am not a mother, but my opinion does come from personal experience. You see, I am the daughter of a working women. I grew up with a mom who not only worked, but went to school, served at her church, and managed to raise three kids. Even now, as I approach my 40’s my mom hasn’t changed much. This weekend as I write this she’s off somewhere on a weekend course for her schooling. It ends up her example is addictive, and while she’s off doing her courses I’m home doing my own.
How was my mom able to do this? I really think it comes down to the fact that she had a really great partner in my father. A man who has never really cared about stereotypes and never thought twice about doing “womenly” chores – whatever those are. It ends up my parents were light years ahead in how they approached family life. Sheryl Sandberg, who famously stated that “women should select a spouse that supports their ambitions” would approve of my mom’s choice in my father.
My opinion formed is that it is not whether or not a women can have it all – but can a family have it all? The idea that one person can balance everything is unrealistic. My parents set me an example of partnership that showed how it could be done. It was my dad who braided my hair for school when my mom was already on shift for the day, bed time at night was with my mom (she instilled me with my love of reading), and somewhere in between we had camping trips, sleepovers, and school recitals.
I don’t remember ever feeling like I missed something. In my teen years, I enjoyed long walks with my dad and when a boy broke my heart it was my mom’s comforting arms that received me.
Now here’s the challenge. If you are a working mom you should be aware of this one thing. You are setting an example for your daughter’s and expectations among your sons that this is normal – and for those who know no different…it is. It may never occur to them that there is an option to “stay home” and only focus only on mothering. There’s no doubt that being a mother is one of the highest callings in the world. It is a privilege to be able to coach a little soul through the universe and help shape them. But I also think this holds true for fathers – and that really is the question here. Why is it that these debates seem to ignore the men altogether? Why are there never any articles that say “do kids of working dads miss out?”
I had a well meaning friend once try to tell me that kids need their moms more than their dads. Hmmmm. I have to say, that wasn’t really my experience and I found the comment hugely insulting on behalf of caring fathers everywhere.
For those in a family unit, it really should be figuring out the plan for what works for the entire family. I love that more men are open to taking paternity leave and in my circle of friends some have selected to split parental leave.
So what if you don’t have that supportive spouse? What if you married a dud? My closest friends who are dynamic women found themselves divorced and having to essentially do it all. Their strength constantly amazes me, but what I discovered is that they were successful because they developed a strong support network. They weren’t afraid to say “I can’t do this by myself.” They prioritize their days around what has to get done, and their children’s needs.
At the end of the day, kids judge the world differently than adults. They prioritize by their physical needs being met followed by “Am I loved? Am I important?” The African proverb that states “It takes a village to raise a child.”
If you’re still worried about whether or not your children are missing out if you work, consider a study that came out in 2011 showing that for young girls having both parents work is actually favourable! I guess that explains why I see my childhood experience as so positive.