It's Working Project

Working motherhood is a process and nothing was normal or predictable until my kids were in school full days!

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?

Don’t fetishize the pregnancy and delivery too much. It’s what happens after that matters most! I wish I hadn’t stressed myself over whether I was doing pregnancy perfectly, and over childbirth being some kind of proof of my fitness as a mother. What we call “intensive motherhood”– the pressure to make motherhood a competitive vocation in which we are constantly enriching our kid’s lives on every measure–is unique to the industrialized west, and harmful for moms and kids alike.

What was your primary motivation for deciding to return (or not) to work? How early did you tell your employer?

After six months or so at home full time, I started to feel frustrated and anxious. By a year, it was REALLY obvious that as much as I loved full time motherhood, it was time to get myself back into the world of full time work. As a writer who could work from home, I had to concretize that commitment to my work by getting myself a workspace OUT of our home. Working from home is, in my view, the worst of both worlds masquerading as a solution. Women who work from home frequently tell me they end up being the “household concierge”–dealing w/everything from the dog to the dry cleaning–and boy can that be frustrating and hold you back professionally!

FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? If you breastfed, how did you decide to continue? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby? Was it specific to your manager or larger, whole work culture?

I nursed each of my kids for a year, and during that period I was working from home.

How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it?

It’s all gray for a writer working from home. But with each child, I was going to an office outside our home by the time my child was 2 or 3. By then I was torn, yes, but eager (even desperate) to have a working room of one’s own!

How easy was it to put a childcare arrangement together and did it work for your family?

Childcare is never easy in a country that places so little value on it. We struggled, but also lucked into some wonderful caregivers who remain important in our lives.

When did the “new normal” set in for you?

Working motherhood is a process and nothing was normal or predictable until my kids were in school full days!

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

Childcare. Some caregivers were wonderful and reliable but others weren’t. It is an unregulated industry and mothers really bear the brunt of that here in the US. The second biggest challenge was guilt. I still feel bad when I have to travel for work, but my husband is very supportive and it has been great how my work related travel has strengthened his bond to our kids over the years. In many ways, he has been the primary parent as I work long hours and travel for work. I do the same when he has to travel or work long hours. We both had to explicitly commit to that.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work? What was your biggest pregnancy indulgence?

Our various caregivers and my husband.

As a working parent, a bad day is when _____ and a good day is when _______.

Childcare fails and you are the de facto backup. It makes women feel like their own careers are more expendable and less important to be the de facto backup plan. My career as a working mom took off because my husband committed to being backup 50% of the time if childcare didn’t show, was on vacation, etc. That changed everything!

I can work on a chapter uninterrupted by calls about some issue relating to my home or my kids. It’s much easier now that my kids are in school full time and my husband is committed to my career as well as his own.