This week, a little shameless self-promotion. In case you haven’t seen it plastered all over the website, this Thursday (that would be October 18th), Mommy Track’d  is co-hosting an event in San Francisco called New Formulas for Success  (from 5:30-9:30 at the Mission Bay Conference Center). It’s supposed to bring together working moms for a chance to network and to talk about, well, being a working mom and all the challenges that come with it. There’s going to be a book signing (Notes From the Underbelly , on sale for $12.95!), but the main attraction is a Q&A with a panel of women who will be discussing “strategies that have helped them navigate motherhood and career.” I’m one of the panelists (and I’ll be appearing on ABC’s View From the Bay on Wednesday afternoon to promote it).
I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m nervous about doing this event. After all, I am a working mother and I have had several careers, ranging from full time to part time to no time, including experience in an office and working from home. I know I have stuff to talk about. But the other women on the panel are pretty impressive: a host of a top-rated radio morning show; a consultant with Levi’s; VP of Human Resources at Pixar; a solo lawyer who works for clients like Gap and Williams-Sonoma. These are real, no-joke, working mothers, and as I’ve been preparing for the event this week, I can’t help but feel that maybe I’m not quite worthy enough to sit on the panel with them. Now, before all of you lovely, encouraging Mommy Track'd  readers go posting about how proud I should be of my accomplishments, let me just say that my, let’s just call it insecurity, has nothing to do with what I have or have not accomplished in my life. Rather, my lowly self-esteem has to do with whether or not I can truthfully call myself a “real” working mother. Or, to put it another, blunter way, it has to do with whether or not my job actually counts as a job.
I’ll be honest, I do think that writing is a job. It requires discipline, it requires focus, and most of all, it requires hours and hours of quiet time away from my children. But at the same time, it isn’t a job, at least, not in the way that most people think of jobs. I don’t have a boss, I don’t have set hours, I don’t have meetings that can’t be missed or clients that call me at all hours of the day or fires that unexpectedly arise and can be put out only by me. In my daily life, I consider those aspects of my work to be a huge plus. I’m lucky as hell, and I know it. But when it comes to sitting on a panel and talking about being a working mother, I have to wonder if those same aspects don’t disqualify me. I have to wonder if I’m not totally out of touch with “real” working women.
The rational part of me keeps saying that I’m not. I worked part time, in an office, for two years after my daughter was born. It wasn’t that long ago, and many of the issues I had then are the same as the issues I have now: what to do when our nanny calls in sick, how to get dinner on the table after working all day, how to manage the guilt that I feel for not picking my kids up from school every afternoon. But the other part of me – the voice in my head that keeps insisting that I don’t really work – is definitely worried that I’m going to get up in front of all of those people (the event sold out at 600) and have nothing of value to say.
But even if I do fall flat on my face, I’m still looking forward to it. Because as much as I love that my job doesn’t require me to interact with anyone, sitting in a room by myself all day does get old after a while. I’m excited to meet new people – to meet smart, ambitious women (and many Mommy Track'd , readers, I hope) – and to hear their experiences and the issues that matter most to them. I’m also hoping to be validated. I’m hoping that I’m not the only one who feels that working part time, for yourself, puts you in a strange, no-man’s land category of working motherhood. But most of all, I’m looking forward to being on a business trip. Two nights away, in a hotel, while my husband stays home and takes care of the kids? I don’t care if you work ten hours a week or eighty, if you work on the 50th floor or out of your basement, if you work for a giant corporation or if you work just for yourself. I think everyone will agree that that is something we can all relate to.