Girl Uninterrupted

It’s a dirty secret in my social circle. Not only do I work, but I like it. I actually choose to do it.

It actually never occurred to me not to work. I got a degree, had a career and then had kids. Family is a big part of my life, but I was never defined totally by it. I got intellectual stimulation, validation and motivation outside of my relationship with The Wiggles.

As the oracle Beyonce said, “All the honeys makin’ money throw your hands up at me … depend on no one else to give you what you want.” It’s not just about the money, either, it’s about fulfillment, contribution and personal worth. I enjoy knowing that my efforts sustain the family in an economic sense, but I also like the message I’m sending my boys: women can rely on themselves.

Working moms are rich in the guilt department. We leave our babies with strangers to pursue self-interest. We bring (gasp!) store-baked goods to the cookie exchange. We stay up all night making homemade Valentine cards to make up for the fact we had to miss the field trip. And yet, somehow we are always elected room mother. (I’m sure that’s because we couldn’t make the 10 a.m. Wednesday morning sign-up coffee.) And the reason we do it is because on the whole we are more stressed, but happier.

According to the Pew Research Center:

  • 59% of women work or are actively seeking work
  • 66% of women with children under the age of 17 work full or part-time
  • 42% of parents with young children say the ideal situation is the mother doesn’t work outside the home

And yet

  • 34% of women say the biggest reason they aren’t working is they can’t find a job; 27% say that child care responsibilities are the reason
  • 85% of working moms say they are pretty to very happy, while 80% of at-home moms say the same

My stay-at-home friends would argue that their children are only young for such a short time, they should enjoy it. True. And blessed be the person who can survive Mommy and Me Tai Chi. In my view, my children only have to abide me for 18 years. If, after that, I have defined my life by them, who am I when they leave? And what lesson have I taught?

I think employers feel they give working mothers a “pass,” meaning they know they will be more distracted and less productive than their male or woman-without-kids counterpart. I look at it the other way, if a mom is working, it’s because she probably really wants to be there. Is she busy? Heck, yes. Is she fulfilled by the challenge, motivated by intellectual stimulation, and wholly invested in the outcome? Now, throw those hands up at me.

Barbara Milhizer is a Partner with PeopleResults. You can reach her at  bmilhizer@www.people-results.com or on twitter @mother_zen. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.

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