The Elusive High-Achieving Working Mom: Unwilling to Sacrifice For Her Kids….Really?

Hey Econ-Mom (EM), I found one! A high-achieving working mom! (HAWM.)

The following are my favorite quotes from the linked article above:

“When you have multiple passions, a perfect balance becomes an unachievable ideal.” –> EM, you and I have already said this. So, even HAWMs agree with us.

“My life could easily descend into chaos; I use my routine to establish some semblance of order. That routine begins at 4:30 every morning with a workout while my house is still quiet.” –> Yep. I have noticed, us working moms are often super-early birds. I wish I always used my time to workout, but it’s pretty rare. I usually drink coffee and read articles for an hour. I am so grateful, however, that the days my children woke up at the same time that I did are over. The very thought of a child coming down the stairs right now and disturbing my quiet time sends me into fits of PTSD from the marathon that was their younger years. (I am only slightly exaggerating.)

“2. Compartmentalize effectively.” –> This is why I actually prefer working in the office; although, I LOVE and am so grateful for the days I don’t have to commute. It’s a mixed bag. But I do compartmentalize much more effectively when I have office days. Today is an office day, and I will need to get moving very soon. (Sigh.)

“To be clear, this is a goal; I’m not perfect and this is not every day. There are days when my professional goals require me to trade time at home for more time at work and vice versa.” –> Yep. I can relate to this. It’s also nice to hear it happens to HAWMs.

“My imperfect balance would never work if I was afraid to ask for help. Being a working mother has taught me that it’s not only acceptable to ask for support from colleagues, friends, and family – it’s imperative.” –> Yep, again. Though I still don’t like to. Fortunately, I have found other moms who also are not afraid to ask for help. So, we help each other out. I am very, very grateful for them.

“I realize that a large part of my imperfect balance is good fortune. I’m fortunate to work at a company that cares about my professional and personal aspirations and encourages the unique path I’ve chosen. I’m fortunate to have colleagues who support me beyond the call of duty. And I’m lucky to have a husband, friends, and family who are just as dedicated to my family as I am.” –> I am so glad she said this, or I might have wanted to reach through the computer and slap her, as EM once quipped.

To transition poorly: Today is the 10th anniversary of the day I went to the hospital for a tri-weekly appointment — they were monitoring me that closely — and instead of being sent home, was induced. SC1 was not born today. Or tomorrow. She was born on Leap Day. How’s that for an almost 48-hour labor story? It wasn’t as bad as you would imagine. The induction didn’t work, and I barely had contractions. But it did begin a chapter of my life I like to call: “Well, That’s Not Quite What I Expected.”

I have written about this before, but the first five years of SC1’s life were very hard for me. She didn’t have any severe, debilitating disabilities. But she had disabilities in the sense that we could not lead a “normal” life. Between food allergies, literally constant illness that devolved quickly into bad asthma, including one hospitalization, severe speech impediments and delays, coupled with tri-weekly speech therapy (which also applied to her younger sister), and sensory processing issues: Every day was like a battlefield for my sanity.

There is zero way of knowing how SC1 would have fared if I had been a “C-suite” mother. But I strongly believe she would not be the extremely articulate and well-adjusted almost 10-year old she is today, if I had not been willing to sacrifice for her. And here is where I absolutely cannot relate to the featured HAWM in today’s blog post, who began her essay with this paragraph:

“I’m the head of marketing for a 950-person consulting firm. I’m also the mother of a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. Both roles are demanding, challenging, and enormously fulfilling. I’m committed to each of them. And I’m not willing to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.” (emphasis added).

Really? Are you sure? You wouldn’t sacrifice your job for the sake of your children?

I find that hard to believe. And obviously, you have also had the good fortune (she has admitted she has had it, so I will not be too hard on her) of not having to. If you had a child with special needs, you would have had to. I have seen it in my own life. I have seen it in friends’ lives. I know EM has experienced it in her own life.

I am not trying to elevate or applaud myself for accomplishing what I have with my child(ren). I am just once again pointing out that sometimes, “having it all” or “doing it all” is JUST. NOT. POSSIBLE. And it doesn’t have anything to do with a woman’s ability to wake up at 4:30am; or compartmentalize well; or have a great support network. Sometimes, circumstances are what they are that make working just downright impossible. It could be because of the woman’s own health issues. Or her kids’ health or developmental issues. Or a combination thereof. If you yourself have never had to deal with it, just be grateful, and don’t for a second think that it’s just an excuse. It’s not. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.

And I am also grateful for my good fortune that – today – I can work to help support my family. Even though, there are also days, I wish I didn’t have to.

Econ-mom: UGH, that article.  I can’t decide if I find it annoying, because I’m jealous (since, as Law-Mom rightly points out this woman clearly has easy children) or because the article is just supremely unhelpful.  Allow me to paraphrase that entire article:

“I have a high-power career and two young children. How do I do it all? The same way men have been doing it all for decades. I don’t do very much parenting.”

Sorry if that was too snarky… I’m not trying to criticize her parenting.  (And really, who even knows how much parenting she and her husband do, given how vague that article is).  I’m sure her children are doing fine, and, if at some point they are not thriving for whatever reason, she and her husband will re-evaluate their lives and, likely, at least one of them would scale back their careers.  (By the way that is essentially what happened to Anne-Marie Slaughter which is probably why I like her so much. Read her book it’s so good.)

Honestly, I would not be surprised if this woman has never considered what her life would be like if she had a child with a disability. Who does though? I didn’t, until I was forced to. That’s part of what it means to live in an ableist society.  Disability is something to be hidden away and not discussed. That way, when you find out you are joining the Disability Moms Club your first reaction is likely fear, because you have no role models, no point of reference.  And then you get to hear from women whose children have never had so much as a runny nose that it’s all possible if you just “lean in” more!