Halleluyah. An article about mothers who work outside of the home that doesn’t focus in on the so-called “mommy wars” about SAHMs and WOHMs. One that doesn’t force our hand in the “lean-in” debate. One that doesn’t say that you can’t have a rewarding career without giving up a lot at home, and vice versa.
Instead, the New York Times article last week, entitled, “Coveting Not A Corner Office, But Time At Home” describes my ambition to a tee. I want a rewarding career, one in which my work is valued and I enjoy my organization’s mission and think my colleagues are interesting, dynamic, complex people with whom to work. I want some modicum of recognition for a job well done, and for a career with a long trajectory of relative success.
But I don’t want any of it to come at the expense of my family life. My home, with my spouse and children within its four walls, is the sanctuary of my world. I love those four people more than anything else, and their happiness, well-being and success is one of my key objectives. I want to be there as much as I can to enjoy their company, make them dinner, accompany them to their various activities, and cheer them on when they play soccer or field hockey, or win an award, or need a shoulder to cry on, or fail a test, or take a big step in their own ongoing life stories.
I am one of the most fortunate people I know, because I have found a way to have both. Between my more than a decade of consulting work, and now, with a flexible and family friendly office and an understanding supervisor and staff, I have been able to carve out a work life that gives me what I need in the office, as well as supports my need to take care of my family. It almost never asks me to choose between the two.
I work at home at least one day a week. I can take time to take my children to the doctor, the dentist, and the orthodontist. I travel a bit, but I am given the flexibility to plan my trips around my personal schedule needs. And I have generous sick and vacation time that enable me to take time off without needing to work while away, and to tend to those who need me in a time of illness or other crisis.
I am so lucky. My husband also knows how lucky he is, to have a fully and happily employed partner who still has the ability to take care of most of the household needs we have.
Every once in a while, I think about the corner office. About running my own organization. About launching a project in my community that I think would help the field enormously. And then I remember there’s another orthodontist appointment to schedule. A graduation for plan for. And I realize that my small amount of ambition to reach higher than I have so far in my career is still not a possibility.
I also think about the long stretch of time that I "stepped off" the track, even though not entirely. I am eager to rejoin the full working world after having been so part-time for so many years, and would like to take advantage of training opportunities. But am I too old? Am I beyond the age curve when it comes to these things? And is that fair, as so many women have stepped off the track to focus on the family needs that take up the lion’s share of their peak earning and working years?
So I tuck those small thoughts of outward ambition away, realizing that I still have another six years of at-home child rearing to complete. By the time that ends, I will be in my mid-50s. Not sure how the work world will respond to me at that point – despite our many strides, there is still enormous ageism in the workplace. But I will just be kickstarting again, ready to work longer hours, and put in more time and energy.
Until that day comes, however, I am grateful for my spot, not in the corner office, but on the seesaw of life, with the office on one end, and our home on the other. Fortunately, I usually am surfing in that sweet spot right in the middle, precariously balancing it all.
photo by jaaron via Flickr