Aaahh maternity leave. Oh how I remember those days of bonding with my little angel and learning the ropes, little by little. Watching my daughter's every move opened my heart to the miraculous moments that seem so small, yet are signs of a little life growing before your very eyes. Then BOOM! It happened. My 12 weeks of bliss were over. Soon I was to realize the harsh reality that most mothers face juggling motherhood and a career.
I had nightmares prior to my first day back on the job. One in particular had me in a cold sweat. Picture it: A cold, raining day in November. It's my first day back in my classroom, a classroom I didn't decorate and students I did not know because my maternity leave started in the summer. I oversleep, waking up in sheer panic. "WHAT DO I WEAR?! Great! Now everyone is going to think I really don't have it together! I CANNOT do this Mommy and career thing!" So I throw on one of my school t-shirts and some work pants. My car wouldn't start so I start my 20 mile marathon run (in the rain) to my school. I arrive at 9:30am (teachers are to arrive by 7:45am at the latest) and I am greeted by my 2 principals (who just so happen to be men). They look less than amused and had been angrily awaiting my arrival.
Ok, so that was the dream. The reality went something like this: My principals are great family guys who are more than understanding and supportive of my growing family. The substitute teacher had done an amazing job of preparing the students academically and socially. I arrived to a dream classroom environment and barely missed a beat...BUT I was miserable! I missed my little princess in ways that I couldn't put into words. I cried during my planning and lunch breaks and couldn't help but think, "What am I doing? I am spending time with other people's children and missing out on precious moments with mine!" There was the guilt. There was the stress of juggling so many balls. There was just plain confusion in my heart and mind. You see, I had been a career woman up to that point. I was super ambitious and had grandiose plans of moving up the educational ladder at lightening speed. At the same time, I also had a deep desire to become a mother. All was going as planned until I gave birth. Reality indeed set in and I quickly came to know myself in a way I had never known before. Being a mother was my top job, at least that's what I felt deep in my heart.
So let's fast-forward to today. I am a mother of one child with another in the oven. I am working from home as an online instructor and a writer. And as for my career in education? I still have a deep passion for it. However, I cannot see myself moving up that ladder until my children are in school themselves and I have laid a solid academic, social, emotional and spiritual foundation for them. Would I say I have it all? Well, when it comes to having my beautiful family and the "dream" career I had crafted many years ago, the answer is "No" and that is more than ok with me!
There was definitely sacrifice involved in me being where I am today, and I am not alone. Ann-Marie Slaughter became the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department under then Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, and that job came at a great price. Check out this excerpt from her article "Why Women Can't Have It All:"
Eighteen months into my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him.
She ended up walking away from that job after 2 years of service to return to her more "Mom-friendly" position as a tenured professor at a prestigious university. According to Slaughter, the average woman cannot have it all. The way she bluntly puts it is, “the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.”In order for women to have both a flourishing career and a strong presence in the home, the following needs to take place according to Ann-Marie Slaughter:
1. I've Got This: Women need to have the ability to set their own schedule on the job.
2. Changing the culture of face time: In other words, society needs to re-think the you need to be "in the office" mentality and instead offer more opportunities to utilize technology, such as teleconferencing and e-mailing, so that women, and men, can work from home more often.
3. Revalue family values: In the article, Slaughter compares what a boss thinks of his employee who runs marathons as a hobby compared to another employee who's primary gig outside the office is to care for her children. She sites that the discipline, organization and endurance that it takes to care for children is often overlooked and therefore undervalued in our society.
4. Redefine the arc of a successful career: The metaphor of "climbing the ladder" is often used whenever discussing the rise and goal of one's career. Ann-Marie Slaughter challenges that though process and proposes that "women should think about the climb to leadership not in terms of a straight upward slope, but as irregular stair steps, with periodic plateaus (and even dips) when they turn down promotions to remain in a job that works for their family situation; when they leave high-powered jobs and spend a year or two at home on a reduced schedule; or when they step off a conventional professional track to take a consulting position or project-based work for a number of years." She uses the high profile example of First Lady Michelle Obama who was a successful career woman in her own right prior to her husband becoming President of the United States. However, she made it clear that her role for his term(s) as president would be "Mom-in-Chief." It is almost certain that she will return to some type of career once her family leaves the White House and her daughters move on to college.
5. Rediscovering the pursuit of happiness: Women need to come to grips with what they really want. Women also need to take the time to seek a healthy balance in their lives in order to make sure they are not missing out on those precious moments with their child or children.
6. Employers need to get with the program: Slaughter points out that “organizations with more extensive work-family policies have higher perceived firm-level performance” among their industry peers.
The article goes much more in depth and I highly encourage each of you to read it. Please let me know what you think! I want to hear about your personal experiences with this subject matter. In the meantime, I will continue to be that happy-go-lucky Christian girl who believes that all things work together for our good. I firmly believe whenever your values are in the right place, you may have to make sacrifices, but ultimately God will bless and provide in ways that will exceed your wildest dreams. I am hopeful that that will be the case, not only for me, but for you as well!
"Why Women Can't Have It All" By Ann-Marie Slaughterhttp://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/?single_page=true#comments