Is Halloween Sacred for Working Moms?

Two years ago, I sat on a panel of women with MBA degrees ranging in age from 25 to 60. It’s pretty rare to have significant age differences among women MBAs, since most business schools didn’t admit women until the 1950s. The panel focus was balancing work and family. The conference room was packed with younger, mostly unmarried, mostly childless business women seeking advice from us older, jaded, power mamas.

 

One audience member asked what it felt like to miss significant events or milestones in our children’s lives due to career conflicts. We panelists all smugly agreed we hadn’t missed anything.

 

I was thinking of my job at the time in the advertising department at the Washington Post, juggling clients and publishing deadlines Monday through Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, leaving each afternoon to pick my three kids up at school, working from home after they were in bed. No, really, I didn’t miss anything -- on the work or family end. I had incredible clients and interesting responsibilities, good pay, regular promotions. My kids were all in school full day. Occasionally I had to call upon a former babysitter with a flexible schedule when I had to work on a Friday or one of the kids got sick; almost every day I had to shoo a chatty co-worker out of my office so I could make carline. And every minute I was aware and grateful that my MBA degree, years of long hours at work before I had kids, and a generation of glass-ceiling-busters before me were EXACTLY why I had the leverage to have a killer part-time career without missing anything at home.

 

A rude realization of the high price my female predecessors had paid came to me on the panel that day. On my immediate left, an older fellow panelist with three 20-something kids and a resume chocked full of consulting and Fortune 100 managerial positions shrugged. “I’ve never been home for Halloween, but it hasn’t been a big deal.” She blinked, waiting for the next question.

 

I stared, open-mouthed. I felt like bursting into tears. A mom who’d never trick or treated with her kids? She’d never seen them zip up their sweaty costumes four hours before the jack-o-lanterns were even lit? She hadn’t sifted through Candy Corn and mini 3-Musketteers looking for apples with razor blades hidden in them? And she thought she hadn’t missed anything?

 

I was shaken by the huge gap – more like a chasm -- between her nonchalance about sacrifices that were routine for her, and my visceral horror at the prospect of making those same compromises. Each mom makes her own choices about what kids’ events are sacred and what’s optional -- but we have choices today that ambitious working moms have not always had. As for me, I didn’t know if I could bear missing ONE Halloween, much less all of them.

 

This year I found out.

 

powder1370
10.08.08

I was horrified last year when my company held a mandatory all day meeting on Halloween in Columbus, OH (my office was in NYC). I found out about the meeting about a month in advance of the date, and I tried to convince the powers that be that having the meeting on Halloween was not a good idea, especially for a company that was purportedly trying to improve morale and work/life balance. The meeting was not cancelled. This was one of the many reasons that led me to the decision to quit my job and begin consulting. It was the best decision I've ever made!

mommycita
10.01.08

I was fascinated to see this article - Thanks because it made me feel more normal! Due to a major announcement happening at work, I had to miss last year's Halloween (and my preschooler's first Halloween parade). My husband videotaped and took photos to email to me across the country, but I really missed being with them. This year, I also arranged to return home from a week of travel the night before Halloween. My direct report will be covering for me instead! Beyond all the other fun stuff, I find Halloween to be the best community building event in our neighborhood and a time to reconnect after busy summers.

traceytax
09.30.08

I agree with the other comments...what a bad idea to have a conference on October 31! I have not, thankfully, had a work conflict arise in the 4 years I have been a mom, but I can assure you that I would not consider ANYTHING that was optional and would try VERY hard to re-arrange anything mandatory that was scheduled on Halloween.

leslie morgan s...
09.27.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Yes, I think the organizers (most of whom don't have children) didn't realize the mistake they were making by scheduling the conference on 10/31.

I also agree that Halloween is not just a working moms' holy day -- dads leave early too, and like your manager, even some people without kids recognize that it is a good day for "balance."

westchestermom
09.26.08

I am really surprisd that they would schedule this for 10/31. Most MEN and women in my office leave early or take the entire day off. My male manager doesn't even have kids and he encourages everyone to get out early to be with their kids. I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, but Halloween has turned into a big deal in a lot of towns. The events for younger kids take place during the day and you need to be there during working hours. I am really surprised that they picked this date and I agree with your choice. I am scheduled to travel that week and I mad sure to get back on Thursday night.