Hatred & Happy Motherhood.

I recently stopped by my husband’s company for the first time in about two years. To my endless dismay, in his industry the majority of the women are secretaries and HR personnel, most executives have stay-at-home wives, and visits by children and spouses are not exactly encouraged. The men work long hours in quiet, wood-paneled rooms. Contrast that to my workspace -- in the corner of our noisy kitchen, where children, welcome or not, are seldom more than six feet away.

As I waited for my husband, my eye wandered around his office. I was shocked by the décor. My husband had turned his office into a museum-worthy tribute to me and our three children. Photos covered his desk, the walls, the screen saver on his computer. There were over 30 framed pictures of our family (I counted). Our son playing basketball. Me nine months pregnant with our third child. All of us last summer at the seaside village where we honeymooned 12 years ago.

 

Standing there, my stomach unzipped. How could any man adore his wife and children so openly, so effusively? How did I get so lucky to have him?

 

Why then, do I hate him so much sometimes?

 

We met through Wharton business school 15 years ago. He’s a finance jock and went into private equity. I launched Splenda around the world for Johnson & Johnson. Five years after graduation, well established in both our careers and our marriage, we decided to have a baby.

 

The early sacrifices were innocent. I negotiated two days a week at home so I could keep breastfeeding once maternity leave ended. Shortly after our second baby made the scene, Johnson & Johnson let me work long-distance when we moved to Minneapolis for my husband’s career. We moved back east two years later, and I took a job that required zero travel and minimal client entertaining, so I could be there for our kids. We decided to have a third, and that meant another maternity leave.

 

I was so blissed out by early motherhood, I hardly noticed that no one was asking my husband to make the same kind of sacrifices.

 

Ten years into parenthood, my life is fall-off-the-chair different from what I predicted when I got my MBA. I write and consult, and fit my work around my kids and my husband’s career. I’ve discovered through 10 years of working motherhood the politically incorrect truth: well-educated working mothers have a far harder time juggling work and family than equivalent working fathers.

 

Ambitious women tend to marry ambitious men. Throw kids into the mix, and something has to give. More often than not, it’s women, not men, who give -- unless you are that rare woman who can comfortably delegate childrearing to others for years. Most of my friends from b-school are stay-at-home wives. Our kids would starve – emotionally, not physically -- if we worked and travelled the way our husbands do.

 

Mom_of_3
05.20.08

I have a different kind of envy - my husband is the stay-at-home parent. We made this choice together, but it's difficult with most of the support for stay-at-home moms. My sons have school events with mom during the day, but the dad events are at night. I make these events a priority so I take the time off, but it sometimes causes conflict with business meetings or trips. But, with this choice, my husband gets the benefits of being with our children. I'm left with trying to find a balance between work and family because I don't want my relationship with my kids to be just pictures on the desk.

katycassel
05.20.08

It took me nearly three years, two babies, and a couple of job changes to find the right mix of work and time off to really understand what it meant to juggle. It also took me that long to realize that as much as my husband and I had thought that we would be equal partners in the child rearing area, that the reality was that we aren't equal and I don't think we ever will be. Despite me having the greater potential for earning with an MBA in tow, I have been the one to find alternative work arrangements and give up the management track. I envy my husband at times that he can so easily stop off for a beer after work, and not give a second thought to the decision. I know that from time to time, I need to throw him a curve ball and switch places so that he might get a glimpse of what I deal with on a much larger scale. However, so far, I don't think that he really gets "it". The perfect example of our roles is when we met in the lobby of my building to swap the baby and car so I could go to a cocktail party for work and he innocently said, "You are taking her (the 4 mo old baby), aren't you?" I calmly said no and tried not to LOL. I agree that it would be ideal if we could raise the awareness for the challenge that we face on a daily basis. But, I think that this awareness would be purely superficial. It wouldn't be felt and lived to the degree that we as women do.

leslie morgan s...
05.20.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Well, thank you for the welcome! Very excited about writing for the Mommy Track'D audience.

I too get kind of infuriated (and alternately, jaded) about the lack of support from gov't and employers. Solving so many work/family problems could be soooo easy. As a country, we provide sidewalk, fire departments, public schools...why not support for working parents? To me, it's a public good that everyone would benefit from.

actionjackson03
05.20.08

Welcome to Mommy Track'd, Leslie! I enjoyed your first post and look forward to future ones. As for choices, I get angry that women are saddled with the burden for making them, and that employers and the government are so anti-family.

leslie morgan s...
05.20.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Also agree that all of this was a big blur to me before I had kids. I think much of moms' lives are still a blur to dads who haven't experienced firsthand the pressures of working fulltime and being the primary childcare provider for multiple children...

leslie morgan s...
05.20.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Have to agree -- I've always said that if men tried to write a "Daddy Wars" book it would be pretty brief, since there is far less inner-angst over their work/family decisions. Very few men complain about this lack of "choice" for dads; interesting in itself.

tsquire
05.20.08

I would like to comment that I am most fortunate enough to be amongst so many varied circumstances in family lifestyle. In Ontario, Canada, our year long paternal leave allows for the year absence to be split between both parents. Dependent upon financial status, I am aware of several families where the woman stayed home for the first six months and the husband took the other half of the parental leave.

I reside in a middle class neighbourhood and it is not unusual to have many women in my neighbourhood whom make more than their husbands in work salaries. The men have no problem with this and of the men I have seen take advantage of the paternal leave, have enjoyed so immensely.

Afte my maternity leave, for myself and my husband, we both work 9-5pm, have had a most wonderful day care close to our work environment and once our son was 4 years old, was in elementary school with a most fabulous after school program. It is such a great program as it is stongly supported in a neighbourhood where both parents are working
9 - 5pm with an average household income of $100, 000.

We are all at the dinner table by 6pm each evening with the exception of a night of activity/sports or other committments.

Instead of one of us making numerous sacrifices, my husband and I, both with our college degrees, have opted for the middle of the road. 9 - 5pm office jobs, on the most part not too demanding with time, yet fair salaries and benefits, yet we both are home to pick up my son from the after school program and get to the dinner table all together.

We are not uncommon but it is just that we have "chosen" to be just middle class and with that comes a very modest home, not many big boy toys, one car and not too much name brand clothing in the closet.

But we travel to Disney each winter, go camping for two weeks in the summer and enjoy our quiet neighbourhood with a great school and watch our well adjusted and most social son play in our big treed back yard with his neighbourhood friends whom also have both parents at home by 6pm and on weekends.

It is a choice by both of you at all times of which lifestyle you wish to lead. To say that it is always a woman's sacrifice is an insult to the marriage and relationship. It is teamwork and mutual decision making that build a great life at home. If one of those two partners is not making the sacrifices required to make a happy home, than it is not a "man" thing, it is a relationship thing. I suggest to recheck that regularly and discuss much at the dinner table if and when some families get there! You would be surprised to find what exactly happiness really means not only to you but to many men....Some men feel that the paycheck and the big house and two brand new cars in the driveway defines them. And some men feel that is how their wives define them also. If you are unhappy, make sure that you make it clear what it is you also want vs. what you expect. For some women the sacrifice of the hubbie's big paycheck is not worthy either. Cant have it both ways, I suppose.

GillianDC
05.20.08

My little one is only 4.5 months. Where I live, I am able to have a one year mat leave, however I have decided to head back to work early (after 8 months). I felt guilty at first for making this choice, but I have learned not too. I knew from the onset of this little one's life that I need to work as much as I need to be home - not for the money but for the mental break. It's hard to watch my hubby head to work and know that he will be connected to adults through the day - solving problems, working hard using and sharpening many skills, putting aside home life. All the while I am at home making funny faces, speaking words and sounds in high pitched tones, focusing on our home life. Though I enjoy the many lovely moments with my little one - for instance today she bounced and laughed (with no sound - just wide open mouth glee) in her Jolly Jumper for the first time. But, I am going a little stir crazy with the lack of connection outside my home. All my time is too focused on my little person - I am looking forward to going back to work so that my mind can have a break from my little one . . . but I do plan to bring plenty of pictures for my office.

cindrac@hotmail.com
05.20.08

I love that response and plan on using it now on.
Having 2 kids (1 & 3), MBA, career.... I often resent my husband too for the lack of choices he doesn't have to make. Particularly the 3 am choice....get up and sooth the baby or stay in bed and sleep. And I resent him for not making as much as me and providing me the option to stay home (not that I even know if I would but I'd like the option to choose). As for him staying home, I don't think I could handle that as I'd feel slighted that it wasn't me. We're fortunate though, we have the next best thing to us watching our children... we have grandma care. (both sets of grandparents split up the week) W/out the extra family support I don't know if we could do it even though many working parents do. It is so different for Mom's than for Dads. I would have never realized the depth of difference had I not had children and experienced it and thus seen the office life in a new way. As for me, I will take my 4-5 hours sleep, chaotic schedule, 2 adoring children, 1 resented husband, 2 tired sets of grandparents & slightly neglected career path and be thankful for all that I have.

doyourbest
05.19.08

Agreed, we are lucky to have choices, especially when "compared" with other women trying to get food on their tables and make ends meet. But...let's compare apples to apples. As you stated, men and women with similar educational and professional backgrounds aren't in the same boat. Women have to make concious choices (work vs. at-home, fast paced work vs. slower-lane). The "choice" for most men is really no choice at all: return to work; no inner- dialogue; no questions asked. To underscore this point, when men ask me why I decided to return to work after having a child, I kindly and calmly respond with the following: "How did you decide to return to work after your child was born?" The response -- speechlessness! We need to create a level of conciousness about the lack of conciousness in their "choices" on work-life balance.