The conversation has been going on for the past fifteen years. Are children at a disadvantage when both parents work full time?
I’ve come to believe the bigger impact is on the former executive mother, but many fathers are opting to stay close to home for their kids as well, so gender is now just an ancillary factor, but I can only speak to my own experience.
As a Marketing Director in technology, I loved developing new products, lunching with the PR and advertising people in San Francisco, and making a decent amount of money. All of this was not exactly torture. I like to know how things work, I like being an early adopter (still), I love the stress and fast pace of a launch or rush to market. I like being competitive and I like to lead, manage and win market share. I possessed, at the time, a rare innate sense of what made people want to buy technology. During the years I worked South of Market and in the Financial District, I was able to compartmentalize my family. I knew my children were home and safe in pre-school, grade school or with a reliable nanny, so I was able to focus on my work. Now my children are teens and the landscape has changed dramatically. They are on the move and when they aren’t I don’t exactly want the party at my house. I have good kids, but they are also well supervised kids. I will save the gory details of the 90 days I spent as a contracting Business Analyst in San Francisco last summer for another time.
I was told today, by a well seasoned mom (four kids out of college), that I have five tough years ahead (my youngest is 13 years old). I kind of freaked. No, let me be honest, I really freaked. Because as the days go by I am increasingly longing for a life that is my own again not just one that is subjugated by carpool schedules, house work, dinner preparation and laundry. If you’ve read the inspiring, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, you know that it is possible to have a version of it all. However, Sandberg fails to mention that if you have it all you are likely doing it all.
I woke up on Monday, trying to figure out how to fit it all in. One of the nastier tasks on my list was to pick up the iPhone 6 that I had pre-ordered for my daughter from the Apple Store (the reason why is another blog post). I was the first of my friends to own an iPhone and everyone in my family has an iPhone and we upgrade often. So being in the store and talked down to by the store employees was especially annoying. Every time I asked a question the employee looked at me blankly and couldn’t give me an answer. I was gently ushered to a seat where they tried to teach me how to setup my 11th iPhone. I asked a complex question about my iCloud network and the employee just stared at me and kept repeating my question. I can’t blame her. I looked totally helpless wearing mommy sweat pants, my hair in a pony tail, perched on a stool with the other moms and senior citizens. Plus, I was literally squinting at the iPhone 6 like it was a foreign object, so it is probably not her fault (note to self: wear real clothes to the Apple Store). By the way, it’s not complicated to setup (with cloud backup) an iPhone, but it is more complex to use the iCloud to it’s full advantage, especially when the kids turn off the tracking devise feature and the calendar (the reason for the cloud). In the end, I took the phone home and set it up myself (plug and play). And, I was able to multitask while I did the house work.
How did this happen?
Sandberg failed to mention in her book the life of women entrepreneurs. She didn’t address the never ending days of a parent who works from home. Where there is no time off, but just one task followed by the next and many fun and wonderful moments and memories sandwiched in between. The five hours I spent in the car yesterday with the teen volleyball team and driving my daughter to soccer practice truly created some priceless moments. Because of these moments, I thank God for my small consulting business (minus the Business Analyst contract), my blog and my cookbook Real Food for Real People. I am especially grateful for the fun and exciting things that I can do from my home office to help others and keep myself entertained while keeping a close eye on my teens. I would, however, love for it to be more than something I squeeze into my already busy day.
After the Apple store incident, I started to question why I’ve worried how my working or not working would effect my kids, but didn’t consider how it impacted me. Unlike Sandberg, I have chosen a middle road to having it all, but it has not been without losses.
Please let me know what you think. I welcome your thoughts and comments on this topic.
P.S. I would love for Sheryl Sandberg to be a secret shopper at the Apple Store, preferably wearing sweats and a pony tail.