I have noticed a pattern.  Most of my friends who return to work after becoming a mom, even the ones who really want to work, hate their jobs.  Some of them hate their job because it keeps them away from their child.  Some of them hate their job because they find going back to work to be anti-climactic (it isn’t the relief and distraction they thought it would be).  Some of them hate their jobs because they hated their jobs to begin with.

Each of my friends has handled this dilemma differently.  Some have opted to become stay-at-home moms.  Some have powered through.  Some have opted to quit, stay home for a little while longer, and then look for a new job.  And some have held out and found that once they get into a rhythm, they are really happy to be back at work.

But all of this leads me to ask: why is there so little support for moms going back to work?  There is a ton out there about how hard it is to be a working mom, and that is great, but there is very little out there about surviving the first few weeks/months.  And it just strikes me as unfair that these women who are doing what is best for their families are struggling so much without substantial support.

Obviously employers should be doing more (transition plans, flexible schedules, part-time options, support for nursing mothers, etc.).  But I think there is something more needed.  Now, obviously, these moms don’t have extra time for a support group or anything like that, but maybe there should be chat rooms or lunch groups or, at least, an open dialogue about the fact that the transition is going to be really hard.

Has anyone else noticed this trend?  Found good ways to handle it yourself?  Supported other moms who are struggling with this?

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Back in the Saddle

July 6, 2009

After taking a couple of weeks off due to travel, house guests, and work, I am jumping back into the saddle.  The past couple of weeks have been utterly insane and exhausting.  But I have also had a lot of fascinating conversations and interactions about parenting, working, balancing, and feminism.  Sometimes I am amazed at how many people are struggling with these issues and it is both reassuring and depressing that I am not alone.

I had a really wonderful conversation with one friend the other day as she prepares to go back to work after four months of maternity leave.  She was telling me how she is both excited and nervous about going back.  Excited because she is looking forward to using her brain professionally again, to spending time with adults, and even to having a break from her son (and, honestly, who among us haven’t wanted that sort of a break at one point or another).  One thing I really appreciated was that she said she thought she would value the time she had with him more once it was limited.  But she is also nervous about this transition.  She is nervous about leaving her baby with other people, about how it will change her relationship with her son, and also about how her ability to do her job will change- not that she won’t be able to do her job, but that her attention and priorities are different now.

I also read this wonderful letter on Motherlode that talked about similar struggles with going back to work- definitely also check out the comments, some of them are incredibly thoughtful and interesting to read.

Both of these women’s struggles really brought home to me how no one, not even the person who is absolutely clear about their child care situation- whether it is staying home or going back to work- escapes the angst, the sadness, and the insecurities that go along with these decisions.  I just deeply hope that we can support one another through those decisions, no matter which way they fall.

Beach Bound…

June 15, 2009

We leave first thing tomorrow morning for our second beach vacay of the season!  This will be the first time that I am doing the stay-at-home mom thing of going off with another mom and having our husbands meet us for the weekend.  I am super excited for the trip but am feeling a bit like, “wait? how did this become my life?”  But I am determined to embrace the trip for all of its relaxing potential- bring on the sun, the drinks, and the sandy fun!

I’ll be back in about a week…

The Dangers of Apathy

June 4, 2009

This doesn’t have a lot to do with what I normally write about but I just had to write something…

The Post had an article today that really shook me up.  It was about a new book that is coming out which is the result of a ten-year project that sought to create an encyclopedia of all of the Nazi concentration camps.  They expected to have a total number somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000, instead they found that there had been over 20,000 camps and ghettos. 

20,000 is a mind-blowing number.  Just to give you a reference point, there are approximately 11,000 Starbucks in the United States.  So within the Nazi empire there were twice as many camps as we have Starbucks.  When you think about it in that way you begin to realize that there is no way the average citizen didn’t understand what was going on.  Now, granted, the camps and ghettos weren’t just what we think of when we think of concentration camps, they were also detention centers for teenagers who listened to jazz music and brain-washing camps for foreign children who’s racial make-up was appealing to the Nazis and camps where unwed pregnant women were sent to get forced abortions.  But the idea that these camps and ghettos were so ubiquitous and people didn’t do more to stop them is just terrifying to me.

I know that people were, in many cases, just trying to survive the war and I know that these things happened slowly, that the changes were incremental.  But it makes me wonder what it takes for someone to take a stand against injustice.  How does that apathetic mind-set take hold and how do we combat it within ourselves?

The Advocacy Dilemma

June 2, 2009

A friend recently read my blog for the first time and emailed to tell me how much she liked it.  She said that she and her husband are starting to think about having kids and she is starting to realize the hard decisions that are ahead of them.  Her comments reminded me of my thinking about these issues before having kids was a real thing.  I always knew I wanted kids but I never really thought about what that would mean to my career or to my marriage.  

I think that this inability to see ahead to the difficult choices that are to come is part of a three-pronged dilemma that we face when it comes to advocating for remedies to the work/life balance issue.  Those of us who are not yet at that stage of life aren’t really able to see how it is going to effect is.  Those of us who are past that stage are more focused on other issues.  And those of us who are in the midst of it are too busy balancing work and life to have time to advocate for changes in organizational and public policies.

So the question then becomes, how do we mobilize the whole feminist base to work on this issue?  How do we make it relevant? How do we make it interesting to those that aren’t directly effected by it?

A study recently came out that showed that fathers of daughters tend to be more liberal (supporting reproductive rights, public service programs, etc.), while fathers of sons tend to be more conservative (supporting lower taxes and less spending on social services).  They argue that this shows that men become more liberal as they see the world through the eyes of women, that through experiencing the female perspective they become more interested in the public good.  Are you serious??!

Now I know I am an uber-liberal and am, in general, surrounded by guys who are pretty enlightened, but I refuse to buy into the idea that men need to be exposed to the female perspective in order to wish better for the world.  Nor do I believe that men who are surrounded by men are more likely to support individual good over greater good.

If I am being naive and this really is the case, then I worry for our kids even more than I already did.  What does that say about the messages we are sending our kids, especially our sons, about how one relates to the world?  Are we teaching our sons that they should only look out for themselves?  Are we sending the message that supporting the community and those who are less fortunate is not masculine?  And what does that then tell them about gender roles and how they should treat others? 

I would hope that as parents we are able to teach our sons and our daughters the importance of the greater good, but also the importance of self-advocacy.

I was flipping through the channels last night and came across the Biography channel’s biography of Janis Joplin.  It was an all around depressing viewing experience, but one point struck me as especially poignant.  

They were talking about a vicious review of her that had been done by Rolling Stone where they criticized her for expressing her emotions during the interview, for not being rock’n’roll enough in her answers.  Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan, they said, would not have talked about their emotions like that.  This review apparently devastated her and was followed by an radio interview from which they played footage.  In it she talked about how difficult it was to be a female musician, that if you were going to truly make a go of it you had to sacrifice everything else- family, meaningful love relationships, a home life- and that took an emotional toll.

Hearing her describe it like that got me thinking about how far we have come.  Even if you just look at the music world, female musicians now not only are able to have families and still become superstars, but they are able to take their kids on tour with them (Dixie Chicks).  Even cooler, perhaps, is the fact that male musicians are also stepping up as active father figures, even when they are on tour (Gavin Rossdale).

While we still have a long way to go in terms of finding the right balance between work and family, at least that is a discussion that is now on the table.