Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are you talking to me?

If one reads enough of mother-oriented materials, a few common themes emerge: disciplinary problems, staying home vs. working, breastfeeding freely vs. bottle feeding without prejudice. One will also find that there are themes that are either rarely or almost never covered. Which boggles my mind because I am sure I am not the only going through these issues, but rarely would I find something in parenting blog or magazine on the matter.

But back to the recurring themes, because there's one that has been bugging me for far too long. I am sure you are familiar with the story: the alpha woman gets pregnant, alpha woman decides that her career is too valuable to abandon, something bad/terrible/sad happens or she sees the light and the alpha woman decides to slow down, reduces her hours/finds a job with more life/work balance and the alpha mom, her spouse and her offspirng are all happier than they ever were. Lesson learned: money is not everything, career is not that important, large house/fancy car are not equal substitutes for sanity, happy balance is the best.

Well, here's my beef with this story. I work, and I work full time. I work with all kinds of women, many of whom are moms. I have seen only one alpha woman that fits the description of the story in 12+ years I am in professional workforce. The rest of us? We are not doing it for kicks, or because career is so important to us, or because a 5 bedroom mansion is just too small for our family of four, or because that second Mercedes doesn't pay for itself, you know. We do it because we have to and more often than not we have no other choice.

Every time I read about suggestions to scale down the spending so that I can stay home or work part time, I want to grind my teeth. We don't buy, but rent. Eating out less would mean growing my own vegetables. Our case is by far not the worst. Most women work because their husbands' earnings alone wouldn't pay the bills. End of story. More ironic is that even with two working adults many people financially struggle.

And then I hear the famous line about working part time. Really, the best of both worlds, right? You work a little, make a little money, see more of your kids. Yep, agreed, the best of both worlds. If you don't need full income from your job. If your employer won't scale down or take away the benefits due to reduced hours. And here's the biggie: if this option is available at all. Most employers are very reluctant to allow present employees to scale down on their work hours. If they do, they often reduce the pay, but not the workload. In case of layouts part timers are often the first to go. And being allowed reduced work week requires constant negotiation and re-negotiation and living with the threat of it being taken away. And that's when one already works. Finding a new part time job with decent pay and working conditions is almost impossible.

But that doesn't stop these articles. And suggestions about making do with less. Or reminding us that children are more important than careers and the precious time we spend away from them cannot be made up later. And the first steps/words/milestones we miss cannot be done over. As if I or any other working mother wasn't painfully aware of that. Who are these people writing for? Some clueless, oblivious to their children's needs, insanely successful but still pretty dumb career women? If these people exist in nature, how many are there to warrant that many articles?

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