I have vivid memories as an elementary school child in the 1980s, participating in what I believe was then called “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.” It was at that time I got to sit in a 10th floor boardroom with my father during a business meeting, envisioning the day when I’d get to wear a business suit, take notes on a yellow notepad, and point my finger in the air with something important to say.
So much emphasis is being placed right now on the career choices women make once they have kids that I think we sometimes forget the magic that surrounds mom and dad’s places of work, to eager young children with career aspirations of their own. We’re so focused on whether to lean in or out, that sometimes we forget to just stop, take a breath and honor the choices we’ve made.
Now that I am a working parent, preparing to bring my three-and-a-half year old to work with me on this very special day, I decided to reflect on exactly what it means to be a working mother today. Here’s where I am.
I am a working mother. A working mother who: cried on her first business trip and gets homesick every time I have to miss a night with my girls (thankfully, there aren't many); is in awe of the immense responsibility and honor that comes with raising two daughters who are so much better than I'll ever be; has my own goals and aspirations, separate and apart from motherhood.
I am a working mother who: sometimes wonders what my life would be like if I chose to stay home full-time; enjoys going to the restroom at work without a baby in the Ergo or a toddler at my knees; wishes I could set up a pack ‘n play at work because, really, babies sleep. A lot!
I am working mother who: sometimes feels sad that our daughters' teachers at daycare and preschool get to spend the whole day with them; feels delighted that both our daughters have formed such wonderful bonds with their teachers; landed a job I'd dreamed might one day be possible; delights at her daughters' every accomplishment.
I am a working mother who: gets to communicate with people all over the world on a regular basis; tries not to talk about my daughters too much at the office, but glows every time someone asks me about them.
I am a working mother who Has? It? All?
Yes. That's me.
Today, on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day, I remember why I wiped away tears during my first business trip after having my eldest daughter and why I push myself to work 24 hours a day when I need to.
Because when my daughters are all grown up I don't want them to have the debate about working or not working. I want to raise little girls who grow into women who have a much clearer vision than I did when I was first pregnant that if they want to work and have a family, they can. I work because I like to have a Plan B (and a Plan C), and in our house, that means having two incomes.
I admire parents who have chosen to exit the workforce after having kids. Sometimes I envy them. Sometimes I don't.
I also admire parents who, like me, have wiped spit-up off their business suits and pretended the breast milk stains on their pants due to pumping malfunctions were in fact coffee stains. Because when you say breast milk at work, people get uncomfortable.
In the nearly four years I’ve been graced with the title “working parent,” my once very porous skin has tightened up a bit. Now some of the judgments hurled my way slide off my skin without seeping under the surface and making their way into my psyche. Perhaps I now have the confidence in the choices I made back when my eldest was an infant. Perhaps I simply have perspective and confidence as a mother and as a working-outside-the-home mother.
But I still have my days.
My days of guilt and questioning and conversations with my husband when he has to remind me that, "All babies cry. It's not because you work in an office." I still put up a shield when I use the words "day care" because let's be honest: those two words spoken in tandem elicit judgment. I have my days and my moments but for the most part, I have a new level of confidence in my choices. As I celebrate Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work with my oldest girl today (the little one is too young to appreciate it yet), it is my wish that whether you work inside and/or outside your home, you too have confidence that you're doing what's right for you and your family.
And for the record, my children’s amazing child care providers, who I am grateful for every single day of the year, are not RAISING. MY. KIDS. Believe it or not, that’s what my husband and I are doing.
**I realize this post is a bit off-topic for my blog, but it's where I am today so I'm sharing it**