Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I don't know how she does it

A few years ago, I read the novel “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” by British author Allison Pearson. It was a humorous account of a successful business woman trying to juggle career and family life, finding that it's a challenge, to say the least.

Last night I saw the trailer for the film based on the novel, which stars Sarah Jessica Parker as the American version of the lead character, Kate Reddy. The novel was a good read, and while I couldn’t relate to Kate’s executive-level work/life balance (I have a senior level position, but no employees reporting to me, THANK GOD), I certainly can relate to the everyday tug-pull that moms who work full-time outside the home experience.

Just this morning I was included in yet another mass email from one of my daughter’s room moms stating, “Hey, let’s take the kids to the park after school lets out – who wants to join us?” Theoretically, I’d love to join you, as would my daughter who usually heads to the school’s after-care program when classes let out. Alas, I’ll have to offer up another big fat “No,” since I WORK FULL TIME. I want to scream this to the moms in her class because when it comes to the working moms, sometimes the stay-at-home-moms at her school lack a sensitivity gene.

Of course, this feeling is somewhat new to me, because when my kids were both at the preschool childcare program, all of the parents worked. That’s why our kids were there. We shared a common bond. But, now my daughter is in grade school and I feel like I’m surrounded by SAHMs. Not that being a SAHM is a bad thing. Sometimes I wish I could be one. It’s just not part of my life path, at least for now.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not attacking SAHMs, so please don't send me hate mail. I'm just talking about this particular group at my daughter's school. I'm not here to judge people's life choices. We do what we do in the best interest of our families. Period.

I have a friend whose husband is an attorney and with his income, she could probably stay at home if she wanted. But, she enjoys working full-time. She says she doesn’t feed into the guilt because her family is happy. “They (the stay-at-home moms at her kids’ school) don’t want my life and I don’t want theirs, therefore it works out for everyone.”

I guess when it comes down to it, I feel that way most days, too. As women, we should support each other no matter what we do – whether you’re a career mom or SAHM. No judgment, just be there for each other because we’re part of the sisterhood.

So, SAHMs, if you want, I’ll be happy to meet you on the playground on a Saturday morning with my kids and Starbucks in tow. We can chat about life, school, spouses, you name it. Rather than judge each other for our life choices, we can pick apart the skinny 20-something girl running through the park. Ah, that makes me feel so much better!
Images from Amazon and IMBD

P.S. - For the record, the majority of SAHMs at my daughter's school are wonderful women and are sensitive to the fact that there are a number of moms who work outside the home. And, there also is a great group of career moms that I adore.  It's only a small contingent that irk me. But, I guess I can say that about every aspect of my life!


Danielle said...

This gives me something to look forward to when my boys start school! Seriously though, I would have never thought of a scenario like this, so your forewarning is actually quite helpful. As someone who likes to plan ahead, I want to make sure I have my head in the right place when something like this is sprung on me. You're definitely right on track with your thinking.

High Heeled Life said...

LOL.. I loved your post... though we have not been blessed with children YET(hoping to adopt or use gestational surrogate), its amazing how people (moms)can't realize how this may affect the children whose mother's work, by not being able to go too. I agree Saturdays would certainly be a better suggestion and include all.

I can relate on the being left out... after the accident, it's often difficult more me to attend evening functions (lack of energy by end of day) ... but everyone always plans these things after work (which works great for them) ..instead of a week-end afternoon .. so slowly I am no longer part of their outings.

I can't wait to see this movie!! xo HHL

Heather said...

I enjoyed the book too, and am curious to see the movie. I am a full-time lawyer (as is my husband) and our son is 8. I get similar invitations sometime and I feel left out!

Renée Finberg said...

could i talk!!!

it is hard to be either.
i know, because i was both.

personally i was happiest when i worked in bloomingdale's design dept. and had a nanny.
but that was from kindergarten to middle school.
i was divorced and it was like having a wife.
when i got home, she was fed, homework done, clean and ready for kisses.
just like when a working father comes home!!! AWESOME.
they really do have it made.....
unless of course they are really involved fathers....
...are there are a few.
xxx great post!!!!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

not much i can say...i don't have kids and i don't work... but i did enjoy the read....

happy to stop by today

p.s. loved the skirts !!!!

myletterstoemily said...

this is a good lesson to us all to be
careful about everyone's feelings
and not to assume things about each

CRICKET said...

I loved the book and will be excited about the movie.

Having been both a working mom and a SAHM maybe one should look at the flip side...

Possibly the mom who sent out the email was trying to be all inclusive.

Now, I know it can still irk. Beleive me I know.

But a lot of parents these days have flexible jobs and sometimes that working mom can take off early or doesn't work on a particular day.

JMW said...

Good point, Cricket. You can't leave out anyone when sending an email to the class parents. That would be far worse.

Natasha in Oz said...

I remember feeling exactly like that when I was working full-time and it really bothered me too. But now that I am only working once or twice a week and have been to a few of these get-togethers I'm not sure if I was really missing out on anything. Sure it's nice to be there for the kids but I really didn't feel comfortable being back in high-school so to speak; there were too many bi$#hy conversations (I'm so sorry for using that word but I just can't think of another that sums it up!) and it wasn't really about the kids and more about the mothers. I'm quite positive that your circle of friends will be there for you at the drop of a hat and make you feel good about yourself. Those are the friendships you need to keep nurturing!

Take care and one day I might just take you up on that offer of a Saturday play date...you never know when I might decide to fly over for a holiday!

Best wishes,

Jennifer said...

Great post. I am a full-time working mom. I don't have to be, but I choose to be. I try not to judge SAHM, and really respect them for what they do, it's just not us. Our family is happy, Lallie is well adjusted and taken care of and it's not for anyone else to decide on anyone elses family choices. After all, you may know people outside their homes, but no one knows what goes on inside a home (even family and close friends), so unless you can see the whole picture, one can't judge. Therefore, I don't judge SAHMs and ask they no do the same to me. I do agree with Cricket though, I think she's maybe just trying to be nice and all inclusive. That way if you found out they were all doing this you wouldn't feel left out. I think suggesting a Sat play date is a great idea though!

LIN said...

Oh yes - Loved this post. I've been on both sides of the teeter-totter. I have seen this from a working mom's perspective and a teacher's perspective. I don't think it's malicious behavior, but rather unthinking behavior, although I have seen the judgment factor enter the conversation at times from both sides. A big shout out to working moms like us and for those SAHMs who want to schedule after school, mid-afternoon events, remember to carefully craft your invitation and to add a weekend or evening event for those moms who can't make the date. Thanks for the reality check!

About Last Weekend said...

This is a great post. I have been a Sahm for 10 years and I wonder if I should have pushed myself more to get out and get back to work. After a couple of those after school get-together now I now ignore them (though I do have loads of evening gatherings for all Mums at my house) Maybe the difference is I want to get together with others, but without kids and with a glass of sauvy in hand.

elle & em said...

I loved the post! I think its a struggle for most women. Although we aren't quite at that stage of life yet, I see the female leaders in the corporate environment where I work with this struggle. Greatly appreciate the honesty, and now I really do want to read the book!

Tessa said...

hmmmm.... I read his book years ago when I was working, climbing the corporate ladder with a stressful job, and wanting to be a SAHM. I rationalized I was a better off working, we enjoyed a higher standard of living, I was more balanced, why else did I go to college, yadayadayada... It was all a farce. I'd always wanted to be home. I still have nightmares about returning to work. I had a good job, good pay, etc. but I wasn't happy. I felt SAHMs judged me, I wasn't living up to my full motherhood potential, etc. etc. I read a few interesting non-ficiton books on the whole working vs SAHM debate too. THey made me feel worse. What it comes down to i realized is this...when women have the "choice" wether to work of stay home, they figure out who they are, make peace with their decision and get on with it. their isn't all this guilt and measuring up. they don't worry about what others may or may not think (as much). when it gets troublesome is when women don't have the choice - the case for most of us. I remember sitting at a mom's group mtg when I still worked. it was the first mtg of the year so there were about 300 women in attendance and the topic was sign ups for play groups. The organizer stood up and said all playgroups will be during the day. we've tried to accomodate times for working mom's but it never works. there just isn't enough interest. i felt daggers. but i looked into it waaaay more than i should have. b/c working mothers, like I was at the time, don't want to go to pay groups at 6:00 in the evening. nor on weekends. anyway, all this to say hang in there. we are all full time moms. we all worry we somehow don't measure up. what matters is your family is happy, you are happy, and maybe next time you can send out the email and make it on a Thursday night call it a playdate + mommy happy hour. trust me you'll have SAHMs and working mom's attending!! xo, Tessa

carolina postcard said...

I can totally relate to this post. I'm somewhere in between since I have my own business. Kinda flexible, but basically not available for playgroups and lady lunches during the week. All I know is it's a hard balance, but I wouldn't want it any other way!

Tiffany from HOLIDAY said...

Well, like you, I'm a working mom and I don't forsee that ever changing. Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd then want to strike out on my own and create the company I always wanted to. Oddly, I don't feel guilty...yet. Perhaps, like you said, this won't come until Stella moves out of daycare and into Kindergarten. But I'm also not the kind to participate in all the mommy groups and am not a big playdate kind of person...again, maybe just not yet b/c to me Stella's day at daycare is one big playdate. I do, however, have a date to see that movie w/ a friend. (ok, maybe i do believe in playdates) I wish, as moms, we didn't feel judged in some way or another every now and then. But it's human nature, I suppose. We are all wanting the best for our little ones and we do what is right and comfortable for our families...and that's all that matters. See you at the water cooler...xoxo

LPC said...

I was both, at one time or another. I wanted terribly to stay home with my kids but it wasn't possible. There's such a wide spectrum of good parenting, most of all, know when to allow people to do what they need to do. And support other mothers. We're all in it together.