The truth is, we are just overly fulfilled.
This perspective, glib and yet also sincere, was shared with me soon after I returned to work following the birth of my first daughter, and I thought it was a rather nice way of putting it.
For indeed, pulling ourselves up the professional ladder by our own bootstraps (be they Prada or Payless), we have arrived, or are arriving… And somewhere in the middle of this we got married (or not) or remarried (or not) and kept working, and in the middle of this found our way to bring a new life or two or several into this wide world. Not even the best PDA accessories on the planet could have made us adequately organized and prepared. Yet regardless, our hearts burst open and soared as we realized that most primal desire, to be a mother…
Put the two together and here we are: working mothers. Or as I prefer to think of us, “Executive Moms.” It wasn’t that we set out to “have it all,” (too presumptuous and kind of ‘70s-sounding). We’re simply trying to do the things that define us most and mean the most to us. Make more than one kind of mark on the world. Raise children, and land the raise that will help pay for their education. Provide. Create a family and still create ourselves.
As if that wasn’t enough (overachievers that we are), we still wonder, how can we do it all better? Here’s the truth: there is no 5-step plan to utter equilibrium (and I’d be a bit skeptical of anyone who purports to have one).
However, we can FEEL a lot better about the lives we lead, particularly by surrounding ourselves with the positive examples of other great women like ourselves, and by taking solace in these thoughts:
- Being a working mother is the norm across history and civilizations. It seems like a modern notion, but throughout the ages, most women have in fact worked (peddling the family wares in the market, for instance).
- As for the children—it’s supposed to “take a village.” In spite of the pressure today for the mother to provide most-to-all of the care-giving, sociologists agree that the more exposure a child has to different sources of love and care, the better it is for the child.
- Women who fulfill themselves have more to give their children. Not to minimize the role of the mortgage as an underlying motivator to work, but consider this: an Executive Moms survey revealed that 97% of executive moms believe that having a career actually helps make them a better mother.
- As time is our most precious commodity, don’t apologize for shortcuts that buy you more of it. No child I know ever suffered malnourishment from regular consumption of Chinese take-out (and hey, there are generally vegetables involved).
- Embrace the enemy—technology—and gain some much –needed flexibility. The unfortunate reality of work today is its unrelenting pace. However, in the scheme of practical tradeoffs, some late evening emailing can be worth leaving the office earlier and first enjoying dinner together as a family.
- Let your children feel connected with and proud of your work. Those occasionally soul-crushing days at the office not withstanding, let your children see you take satisfaction in your work. Fear not that this will make them resent the role of work in your life; rather they’ll appreciate it, and you, even more.
- Take the time to connect with other women like you. If you do one thing for yourself, find routes like the organization Executive Moms to enable you to experience your own, “Really? Me too!” moments. They can go a long way to feeling like, while you may not be doing this all perfectly, you are really doing it—just fine.