Working Mom?

“Women in your generation can do it all! Be wonderful wives and mothers and top-notch career women at the same time!”

Is this line as familiar to you as it is to me? And what do you all think? I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

Here’s our situation. I’m a lawyer, blessed with an ideal, flexible arrangement that allows me to work very part time and stay home full time. I work 10-15 hours each week, all in the evenings from home after my kids are in bed, except we hire a former kindergarten teacher one morning a week to do “preschool” with the kids while I get in about 3 hours of work.

Because my husband is in a half-decade stage where his income is much, much lower than it will be later, we need the extra income from my work to make ends meet, even when we live as frugally as we possibly can.

But I also love working. The content of the work is fascinating, my associates are a pleasure to work with, and it’s satisfying to help people solve their problems. I like sharpening my research abilities and legal writing skills, and I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done in something outside my family and homemaking vocations.

For better or worse, I also enjoy the credibility it gives me with others who tend to make assumptions about moms with lots of little children. At our Princeton reunions this past weekend, it felt good to say that I work, as it does out and about in our community. I’ll freely admit that a part of me is still overcoming the “working mom” brainwashing that we can… and MUST… do it all.

I think the key is to hold loosely to working. I continue to prayerfully evaluate how it affects my primary vocation. For now, my being slightly more sleep-deprived and slightly less relaxed don’t seem to outweigh the goods of working very part time, especially since my husband has to work on research and writing at his computer in the evenings also. We hack away side by side many evenings. However, if there comes a time when I’m formally teaching several children at home, or if I’m unable to accomplish household responsibilities in the nights I’m not working, or if we really don’t need the extra income, or if many other contingencies arise, work can be put on hold.

It’s a disservice to tell women that they should do both motherhood and full-throttle career pursuit perfectly. Rosie the Riveter sporting a Baby Bjorn is a recipe for disaster in both spheres. Something has to give… and it’s the career.

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