Is There Such a Thing as a Corporate Mommy?

June 9, 2011

in Business, Relationships & Family

 

It’s 10:13am, and my phone rings. My boss’ name lights up the screen. I’m watching Princess’ swimming lesson while entertaining Monkey with books and lollipops.

Hi Boss”, I say, hoping that she doesn’t notice the background noise. I know I’m not supposed to be working since I’m part time, but I still have that “caught at the local
Walgreens during class time” feeling.

“Hey- can you look up such-and-such factoid for me by my 11am meeting with our VP? I know you don’t start until 1, but I don’t have time to get it together, and I know you’ll do a great job”.

“I’d love to help, but I’m at swim lessons, won’t be home until 11:15, and my nanny doesn’t come until 1.”

“Oh, ok. I’ll figure it out. Bye.”

The phone goes quiet while I earn another demerit on the invisible board of job performance. I feel badly about my inability to do what’s being asked of me, and hate the fact that I can’t rise to the occasion because of my choice to be a mommy, but if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

"corporate mom"

 

When we walk through the doors of the corporate world, we’re expected to leave our mommy selves behind. Excuses like, “I’m cutting out early to go watch my son’s soccer practice” or “I’m working from home so that I can meet my daughter at the bus stop” don’t earn you any points in many corporate cultures. While some bosses can act like they understand or support you putting your mommy-self first,
they want you available when they want you, despite agreed upon schedules, sick children, or child care conflicts.

How many working moms have put a sick kid in front of the TV for endless hours while they took calls and answered emails? How many of us dread school breaks because we have to figure out plans to keep our children occupied while we get our work done? How many of us take calls on mute while hoping that nobody hears our children playing in the background? Being a working mom is tough, but being in an
environment where being a mom isn’t embraced makes the balance even tougher.

When we welcomed our daughter, my life was changed forever. All of my previous roles were second to my role as mommy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I went back to work, 10 months and a cross-country move later, I gave a clear message of “I’m a mom first, and will only be able to work 20 hours per week.” I felt blessed to have this type of flexibility, but I’ve since realized that it comes with a
price.

Since I’m the only part time person in our department, I feel a need to always be on top of emails and voice mails, even during my mommy time, so that I don’t slow anyone else down with my alternative schedule. When a mandatory meeting comes during my off hours, I try to fix my plans so that I can attend, even if that means Elmo is babysitting my kids, and I can’t remember the last time my time card read
only 20 hours. When I answer the phone during my mommy time, I do it knowing that my kids may have a fit demanding my attention and the person on the other line is going to question my professionalism.

Ever since coming back to work, I feel like I’m constantly being pulled between my mommy world and my working world, and while I know my priorities, it’s hard for me to find the line when I’m responding to co-workers. When I put myself on the job market, I’m constantly told what a good gig I have, and that I should hang on as long as I can. As good as it is, I want more. I want to be a mom first- no explanation
or justification required. I want to make good money. I want to love what I do, so that being away from my kids comes with something that brings me pleasure. I want to be a good role model to them as someone who has pursued a career that makes her happy. I don’t know if what I want exists, but I’m doing my best to find it.

 

How do you find career happiness and balance?

Is there such thing as a mommy-self in Corporate America?

weekdaysolomommy June 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

@Mywritingworld Thank you so much for your perspective, Fran. I often feel like I’m missing out on moments when I take a phone call or check my emails while with my kids. Not that magic moments happen every second, but if I spend 30 minutes on the phone, that’s 30 minutes where we could be doing a project or having quality time vs “play” time. Play time is important, but I’d rather have that time be with our nanny than with me. Thanks for the reminder that the choices I’m making today will effect all of us later. And yes, being the woman behind the man sometimes feels like it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Mywritingworld June 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Weekdayssolomommy:

You are talking about today in your life. I have my first child almost forty years ago, I still dream the days that I am going through a rough time frustrated thinking about little children and work to finish at work and I wake up sweating in the middle of the night today. I do not want anyone to feel like I did. But it is a hard battle. Plan it better. Money does not stay, it is spent, If you can cherish love family and togetherness in the next generation you have done a job that is hardest to do, these days. Productive females work very hard to achieve goals, behind every women there are some men who are getting fame and success and no one ever get to know that.

Fran A

weekdaysolomommy June 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

@LeighAnnTorres Thanks, LeighAnn. Some days I find pleasure in both, and some days I want to grab a bucket of ice cream and hide under my covers, but doesn’t everyone feel that way? I think we’re all always searching for “getting it right”, no matter what “it” is for each of us as individuals.

LeighAnnTorres June 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Great piece, Liz. I can’t imagine how hard it can be sometimes to juggle your personal life with your professional one. But I’m glad that you seem to be able to find pleasure in both, even if you are still searching for that balance.

weekdaysolomommy June 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm

@closetwriter Thanks, Christina! You’re so right about taking it day by day. Yesterday I was near tears all day because I just missed my kids and wanted to be with them (see my post about it here- http://bit.ly/iZ9Rxl). Of course, when my 9-5 day was done and I went to get them they were tired and it was time for dinner and bed… This morning I woke up and we had a great at home morning making cupcakes, doing art projects, reading etc. When it was time for my 11:30 meeting I didn’t feel rushed and I felt like I had had some great quality time with my kids which makes my work time a lot less upsetting. Every day is different- some days are awesome, productive and filled with mommy memories, and others are slow, whiny and completely frustrating. The best and worst news is that every day is only 24 hours, and tomorrow we get to try it again.

weekdaysolomommy June 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

@Tia Peterson Hi Tia! It’s so smart of you to prioritize and “just say no” in order to preserve your mommy time. I would love to change careers, and am planning on mixing things up when my daughter goes to kindergarten so that I can work in the mornings and focus on her in the afternoons. For me, the issue is the amount of money, risk etc, so for now, I’m going to try to save this year in order to be more entrepreneurial and flexible next year. The part time/full time thing is tough, because you want to do well at work, but you feel like you can’t unashamedly tell work that they come second. Hopefully this discussion can help us get some solutions or understanding. Thanks for your thoughts!

weekdaysolomommy June 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm

@College Stress I love the idea of an awareness week- I think that people don’t talk enough about different mommy situations (like being a mom in the corporate world or having a partner who travels), yet there are so many of us in the same situations and we could all help each other out with suggestions, support etc. I also think that awareness would help people who support us know what we’re going through. Thanks for your idea!

College Stress June 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

This has become a big issue these days with more moms in the corporate world. My Sister has had the ability to to it quite well, and there neighborhood has an after school lady who is awesome with the kids. But when she needs to be home they allow her. She can work from home with out any problems and still get the work done. She does have a husband so that helps as well and he works in a different department, but he has a child as well, that doesn’t live with them. So it really can get tricky with sick kids and the like. Great piece. There should be an awareness week, i know it sounds corny, but moms make us who we are.

Tia Peterson June 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

I am in your shoes a lot, Liz. So I really get this! My son is small like your kids are. I’m trying to do the part-time work from home/all-time mom thing and I haven’t quite found the balance yet, either. Maybe we are balanced, but it just sucks, and we have to deal with that.

One possible solution is to change the type of work that you do. Again, I’m in the same boat. But having the kind of job where people need to talk to you on a whim or need you to do something during your proverbial time off isn’t conducive to being a full-time mom. :( I’ve decided to not take on any more consulting clients for the rest of the summer – to save myself the massive headache of trying to deal with them and my son at the same time.

closetwriter June 9, 2011 at 9:45 am

Such a great post Liz! I have felt the same way numerous times. I think there are times I am in the groove and feel on track with my work. Other day, oh my gosh, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Like everything else, it is a daily refocus and evaluation of what is important at that moment.

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