An honest take on life and parenthood

She works hard for the money

on May 23, 2012

As I mentioned before, I work 20 hours a week from home. This work arrangement didn’t exist up until fairly recently, and I am grateful that it coincided with my time as a new mother. I am also very concious of my good fortune, since there are countless parents out there who have to work full time, or stitch together several jobs to make a living. My mom did, and I don’t have to, thank god.

After many years of struggling to find a job and organization that fit, I found this opportunity. It is a stable, steadily growing company with interesting work to do, and the people are down-to-earth, smart, and a pleasure to work with. They appreciate what I do for them.  I am well-liked and respected, and paid well. What’s not to love? And believe me, I had such bad experiences in previous disastrous jobs, I feel very blessed to be in this situation.

But let’s be very honest here. Even with a company as progressive as this one, it is a challenge for organizations to incorporate working mothers on a part-time schedule. Everyone is on a full-time mentality. The concept of cutting the responsibilities of a job into a 20 hour weekly schedule is still new, and few managers really know how to trim the work into manageable size.

So even though I work my smartest, I still have a full-time workload that I manage on a part-time basis. I say no all the time, and I am the most efficient I have ever been in my life, but my workload does not correspond to my hours.

Since I am not a sadist, and I have no desire to be a hero, I get little satisfaction out of trying to do a full-time job in 20 hours a week. If it were about the money, I would have asked for it. If I wanted a full-time job, I would have taken it when it was offered. But right now, my sanity and my time with my Pooh is more valuable. She won’t be little forever.

During exceptionally busy times, I sometimes work from my laptop in bed as she is nestled next to me at night. I vainly hope that she will drift off to sleep as I type away. But she can’t sleep because of the tapping of the keys and glow of the screen, and she inevitably starts messing with my keyboard and trying to distract me. I am frustrated – not with her – but with my situation. It is fair of her to demand my attention at 10:30 pm at night. It is not fair of my job to do so.

I could let the work go, and I often do. I sacrifice pride in my work to do so, and for this little overachieving people-pleaser who always got straight A’s, it’s not an easy thing to swallow. It would be easier to balance this if my workload were more manageable, but instead, I end up feeling like I am shortchanging my job and shortchanging my daughter. While my nanny is in the house, I don’t feel guilty about focusing on work, and enjoy what I do very much. But once the nanny leaves, and I still have deliverables or deadlines or requests outstanding, I spend the rest of my day on an emotional balance beam, stressing about what I was not able to get to, and yet trying to put it aside so that I can be present and a good parent to my daughter.

Companies and organizations are still figuring out how to integrate mothers with young children into the workplace. There is still a long way to go. They won’t do much, in my opinion, until they see the value in having us and giving us the flexibility to contribute professionally in a way that doesn’t burn us out or force us to neglect our little ones.

Also, working mothers will have to be our own advocates. I am pushing my managers to help balance my workload, but believe me, they wouldn’t do anything unless I forced them to. Not because they don’t care, but because it’s not affecting them negatively. They have someone doing a full time workload for half the price, and the work is getting done. I am screaming and jumping up and down and telling them I am burning out, but at the end of the day, it’s on me to come up with solutions and force them to help me come up with a plan that meets both of our needs. They won’t do it, because they don’t really have to.

It is my hope that when my Pooh grows up and has her own family, she will work in a world that will also give her the flexibility to raise her children, yet not expect the pound of flesh in return for a half-time schedule. The satisfaction of working part-time and parenting a small child is wonderful – the best of both worlds. I hated being a stay-at-home mother, and I know I am not ready to leave the Pooh for a 50-60 hour a week job. So for now, I will continue to fight for a more balanced workload that does not add to the count of grey hairs sprouting out of my dark hair.

Wish me luck, because this story is to be continued.

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