Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on the Times article

The article. It's good. It's getting lots of us talking. A mom at my daughter's school sent it around, and her mom wrote back (no names, you know I'm into the privacy thing...) Here's my response. I've been feeling all this from such a different perspective, as I'm working through my new daughter's infancy. I don't get paid family leave, and have a mortal fear of debt, so I've been struggling, once again, with working the shortest, fastest, most productive number of hours I can. I feel that old tug of wanting life to be calm, wanting lots of baby time, wanting good time with my older daughter, and not having enough of the time left over to do the public writing and speaking that also gives my life meaning. I know that life's rhythms change over time, and before I know it the little one will be in pre-K and at school the day long. I do feel committed to writing about these tugs, once again, in visceral and detailed ways. Our public debates about work and family life are missing the texture of the details: of who makes the lunchbox sandwiches, who crams her lecture notes into an hour's preparation, who makes sure the heating guy can get into the house, and above all, the corners of the day where we talk with each other, have conversations about the big things that matter, and imagine life the best it can be. This article is a watershed because it's the first of late to really dig in to some real issues and offer real data. It's getting us talking, on different terms (despite the terrible and argument-diminishing last paragraph). The hubbub has renewed my commitment to talk about these things, in their detail, because politics (and high-advance book contracts) aside, what we need is the honesty born from our real lives.

Here's my response.

Hey, thanks for sending this around, it seems like it's all anyone's talking about today. Boy, Thursday's my working mom day, and as I rushed around the house preparing to teach, pulling my baby out into the cold without her bunting, rushing into class ten minutes late, well, you get the idea. A crazy day. I think these things are so complex. I liked the article, up till the end, where they say, we got equality at work, but not in the family. I feel like it's my family where things are good and complementary, and it's the workplace that isn't. I kept working through my new baby's early days because I don't get any paid family leave, and because this time around, I didn't want to start from scratch five years later rebuilding a career. After class today I was talking with a friend. I told her the working mom thing was really hard--and I just do it one day a week. She, the single mom of a 4-year old, looked at me ruefully, and said yes. It's really hard. She's doing important work, and shouldn't give it up, but it's very hard, and I want to cheer her on, and support her. This article cheered me because it gets to the ways that life is harder when we women are stretched so thin. I feel caught, as many of us, because I want to be near my kids and very active in how they grow, and I have other desires about being part of public life too, but on part time terms that still let me be at home. I'm determined to do this, even though it just feels hard. On my more optimistic days I feel like we're in the midst of a big change, and we can't quite see the contours of it yet, and maybe things will start to shift and make it easier for all of us to do the things we want to do.

I don't feel like I was raised to be self-oriented, [note: this had been another person's suggestion, that we are self-oriented and didn't appreciate our mothers' work] necessarily, I don't think that's it (though I definitely appreciate my mom and dad's parenting more than I did as a kid!). But I do feel like somewhere along the line from my childhood in the 70's till now, life took on a rollercoaster quality and moves way too fast, and I do my best to resist that.


radmama said...

I think we're all tired. Whether at home or at work outside the home, or the insane juggling act in between that most mothers fall into.

As Bitch points out, we're tired and irritable so we're defensive and cranky.

There has to be a better solution.

Jane said...


Reading your commentary was like reading my mind essentially, so thank you for doing what you do. I feel relatively lucky to have only a 40-45 hour a week job as an attorney that I like, and I just wonder why no one really thinks I could be of value at 20-30 hours a week.

Seems like with the legions of experienced, educated moms who want this level of work (in spite of Lisa Belkin thinks), it would behoove employers to offer it. I think we'd be better, happier workers; we'd be less likely to leave our employer and drop out of the workforce, taking our valuable training with us; and we'd be better moms and members of the community.

That last part is what suffers for me in this balancing act. I'd love to come to Mother Talk tonight, for example, and meet the Mothers Movement founder (from whose website I get vicarious community), but my husband's getting home late from a business trip.

Thanks again.