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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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Written by MOTHERS volunteer Kelly Coyle DiNorcia (ahimsamama.blogspot.com)
I work from home (as a paid employee) for a youth sports organization. I have an almost four-year-old daughter and an almost one-year-old son. Though we have a sitter who comes once a week so I can have some undisturbed time to work, I am mostly juggling my caretaking and wage-earning responsibilities all at the same time. Most of the customers I speak with are, by definition, parents, so when I have to interrupt a telephone call to remind my daughter for the ten thousandth time that day that she will have to wait until after Mommy is done with her phone call for a cup of juice/something to eat/help changing the channel/a playmate, or to soothe my crying baby, I am rarely met with impatience. More often – particularly if there is a mother on the other end of the call – I am asked how old they are, and told how lucky I am to be able to work from home and be with them while earning a living. And I agree. I am lucky. I work in an extremely family-friendly environment (which included two sixteen-week fully paid maternity leaves) and for this I am grateful.

The most recent issue of Mothering Magazine contains an article by Laura Ulrich called “Home is where the job is: A savvy mother’s advice on loving, money-making, and leaving the laundry behind”. This article ends with the statement, “The more we as mothers take ownership of the right to integrate our lives, the more society at large will evolve to support such work arrangements.” However, all but one of the mothers interviewed for the article were self-employed, and found ways to carve out a self-designed (and defined) niche where they could meld caregiving with wage-earning. Absent were mothers who were able to achieve this sort of synthesis while working in professional or traditional jobs.

When we bought our house, the seller’s attorney was a WAHM. She brought her young daughter to the closing, and although the young girl made nary a peep during the very lengthy transaction, our realtor commented on the way out, “How UNPROFESSIONAL to bring a baby to a closing!” We were childless at the time (I was pregnant with my daughter), but I had no problem with her presence. She was not disruptive, and I had respect for a woman who tried to juggle career and parenting in this way. Apparently, I was in the minority.

I wish it were so easy for women to gain a degree of integration between family and employment, that we could just show up and demand “Hire me, accept my kids!” and suffer no ill effects from it. Alas, I think it will be quite some time before the vast majority of workplaces offer their employees that sort of flexibility. For those of us who have the opportunity, we should make the effort to include our children in our work, if for no other reason than to show that it can be done thereby paving the way for other mothers to have greater options. In the meantime, we still need to join together and demand widespread political support and respect for family-friendly policies that support the caretaking work we do.


Comments

  • Tainask8

    Kelly hit the nail on the head. It is becoming more and more acceptable to work from home – but children are still not considered part of a professional life. I work as an independent contractor from home and once lost a client in part because he heard my son in the background and thought it unprofessional – what would clients think if that happened? Never mind that I assured him my son was not allowed in the room during client time and was only there because I didn’t feel the need to hide from him the fact that I worked from home.
    For most mothers finding the niche job is difficult if not impossible – they give up. Having children and doing valuable work are not mutually exclusive. When we can erase that stigma we will have come a long way towards combining motherhood and work into a balanced life.

  • jiapet

    I agree wholeheartedly with my woman in Washington. I work at home and don’t get paid, taking care of a disabled child plus two more. When I am on the phone with WHOEVER, if one of my kids needs something (ok REALLY needs something as opposed to ‘mama mama mama mama! then when I answer wandering away…) whoever is on the phone can wait.

    9 times out of 10, if I say to the person on the other end, “oh, hang on, my 2-year-old just dunked my cellphone in juice” they are very understanding about waiting, and will often identify and empathize.

    I am lucky and grateful that my partner gets paid to work outside our home…but both of us also regret that it HAS to be that way, that I cannot both raise children in a manner we see fit AND bring in income.

    Thanks for all you do.

  • GoodReason

    So we are all curious–was the realtor a man or a woman?

  • Kelly Coyle DiNorcia

    The realtor was a woman. :)

  • evision