The hot parenting topic du jour centers on moms, the economy, and the workforce. I don’t really want to discuss Mitt Romney’s conversational partners (or make this a political debate), but I do want to discuss what you think about the term “working mom.”
It’s been thrown around quite a bit in the last 24 hours and I’ve heard it interpreted in various ways.
By chance, I’d also come across an article on an upcoming book called The Conflict. The author indicates that the current expectations of modern motherhood conflict with the goals of personal fulfillment. You could say that for many women in Western cultures, building a career is part of their plan for personal fulfillment.
So, with both of these ideas in my head, I felt it was appropriate to throw them both out there. First, I think the concept of a working mom is becoming more fluid over the last several years.
It isn’t just a woman working a traditional 9-5 job (whose husband also works). It also includes women who work off-shifts. It might also mean that a full-time working mom has a husband with a flexible job (she’s working but the flex allows kids to be at home more with a parent). With the popularity of online jobs and telecommuting, many women also find work that doesn’t involve them going to a specific location on a set schedule. And also, some women truly have full-time jobs taking care of a family with a lot of kids or with lots of needs.
Are all these women doing some kind of hard work? Absolutely. Would everyone (other than the moms themselves) consider them working moms? Does it absolutely have to do with whether you earn income or not? And what would the moms think about that label?
I have kind of a weird situation in that I do several flexible things but mostly stay at home. At times, I’m required to be somewhere, but it’s infrequent. So do I work? Yes. Is it constant or full-time work? No. Am I highly personally defined by my job(s)? Not necessarily. They certainly reflect strengths I have, but I see myself as a mosaic where these parts don’t necessarily stand out in front.
This is just me and it might not fit what how you see yourself.
What I’m trying to do here is start your thought process on this, just stimulate your brain about your own circumstances. Sometimes we just plod along on the same path and hardly think about what we’re doing. Other times, we get very caught up in what other people think we’re doing. I don’t think either situation is ideal.
To some degree, you just need to do what you need to do. Regardless of your personal fulfillment, food needs to get on the table every night. If your family is strapped for cash and you need to work, or if you (the mom) are the sole breadwinner, so be it. If you have the opportunity to do part-time or flexible work, great. Your “working mom” profile may really vary at different times in your life.
Sometimes moms who work can feel like they are missing out on lots of personally fulfilling activities they could be doing. I understand this feeling and I’ve been there myself. However, I don’t know that personal fulfillment and good motherhood need to be mutually exclusive ideals. I’m always leery of any sort of ideal that pushes people towards such all-or-nothing thinking.
I’ve worked full-time, part-time, no time, and flex-time. I think some people still feel like once they make a career choice, or a career status choice, that they have to keep it that way for decades to come. That doesn’t reflect what often goes on in the workplace now for men or women.
I don’t think that being a full-time working mom makes you a bad mom. I also don’t think that staying home with your kids automatically makes you either a better mom or someone who’s given up on personal dreams. You’re doing what you need to do as a mom at the time you’re doing it. That’s OK – and it can change when your life changes. Even your personal dreams can change along the way.
There’s more than one good way to be a human being, a mom, or an employee. If you can allow your own interpretation of “working mom” to matter the most to you, more than society’s view of a working mom or stay-at-home mom (or any mom for that matter), then you can be at peace with whatever you do.
So readers, these are my personal opinions. I’m curious what yours are.
1. How much does your status as a working mom (however you define it) personally define you?
2. How concerned or content are you with your current status?