Barbara. Working Mothers and the Male and Female Experience

posted May 28th, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Barbara whether she had any regrets about being a working mother and how she balanced all of the competing demands on her time and whether she had any advice or secrets she could share with a young woman who is attempting to do the same thing.  She said: “I honestly do not have any regrets about being a working mother.  When my kids were very little, I was often torn. I wanted to spend more time with my kids but when you’re working you can’t. What I found is that the period of time when they’re very little and at home is short. Once they’re in school, between school and their activities, they suddenly have their own lives. As a result, I am glad that I stuck it out working during the early years, despite being torn.  The early period was the hardest because now I just don’t know what I’d do with myself all of the time, if I didn’t have a career. In many ways, having a career didn’t hurt my relationship with my kids, for example, one benefit to being a working mother is that, if you have support at home, you’ve got somebody doing a lot of things for you, so when you do come home you’re actually spending more time with your kids.” 

 

She continued: “I am as involved in my kids’ development, as my friends who aren’t working.  I haven’t really sacrificed that.  What I feel I’ve sacrificed is that I haven’t been able to spend as much time at their school. Many women that don’t work get very involved in the school and the advantage to that is you see more and you get to know the teachers better, you are simply more involved in everything. However, at some point your kids don’t want you involved in the school and the schools don’t really encourage it. In the early years, when the kids are little the schools do encourage it, however, later on at a certain point they don’t.  I like the balance between having kids, working and having other interests. I believe I am a good role model for my kids who see that I’m working and that I can handle the family and household responsibilities. If your husband or spouse is very helpful that makes a big difference, without this support it is more difficult.”

 

“In terms of advice, first of all don’t worry about what other people are doing or thinking or saying.  Every person has to make the decision that’s right for them.  Over the years, I’ve had people make comments to me about it and I could take offence to it but when you do what you feel is right, you can’t worry about that other stuff.  So I would give that advice and I would also say, make sure your spouse is pulling their weight because I have seen situations where that isn’t the case and it makes it a lot tougher.” 

 

“I used to feel that when you had kids it would automatically hurt your career and I don’t think it has to.  If you’re really committed to having a career and you’re very focused on that, I don’t think it hurts it.  I think when it might hurt it is when you’re not very focused or when you’re torn and you’re not really sure about working and you’re not fully committed to it.  In my situation, when I’m working I’m totally focused on work. I’ve been able to compartmentalize my life in a way, and maybe not everybody’s like that so they find it more difficult, but when I’m at work, I’m at work and when I’m at home I focus on being at home.  So it’s definitely possible to do but you have to really know that it’s what you want to do because if you’re not really sure or if you feel guilty, you probably shouldn’t do it because you’re not going to be happy in that situation.”

 

“However, if you’re committed to doing it having role models really helps.  When my kids were very young, I went to one of those Women of Influence events and there was a woman speaking whose mother had been a working mother. Somebody asked her about it and it was interesting because there aren’t a lot of people of that generation who had a working mother and she very clearly felt very proud of her mother and didn’t feel that it took anything away. For me, it was interesting to hear somebody say it because like most people of that generation I didn’t have any experience with it, so it was good to hear that.  Our kids’ generation will have a lot more role models so it will be easier.  It was harder for us because we didn’t have a lot of our own mothers as role models and now there are a lot more.  Hopefully, for our own kids, it’ll just be what they choose to do.  I find a lot of men are more involved with their kids today and so they understand.  Men are leaving early to go to see their kids play baseball or whatever.  The one thing I have found is that men can openly talk about that or say I’m going to my kid’s function at school which is still a bit harder for a woman.  I was always conscious of not bringing my kids into my workplace in a sense because I was worried that people would see it as a lack of commitment.  I think over time people won’t worry about it and it will be easier and I don’t think it has to hurt your career.”

 

I asked Barbara to describe her impression of the difference between her experience and the experience of a male peer or colleague. She said she honestly doesn’t think there’s a lot of difference.  She said there are men, including men she works with whose wives don’t work and they don’t have a lot of responsibilities at home.  She says: “There are some people like that but I don’t find many.  I don’t think the experience of men and women is any different.  I haven’t found it to be.  The only thing I see as being a bit different is that I probably have more friends and keep more in touch with other women than my male colleagues do.  In terms of the actual work itself, I don’t see a lot of difference but how we go about doing the job is a little bit different. I rely more on my network.  I find there are a lot of men who don’t have any friends, who don’t do anything outside of work and their work becomes their social environment whereas I’ve always had other friends. It helps a lot to have people you can rely on. It provides an outlet too, if you’re really stressed out or work is particularly demanding or difficult. It’s great to be able to go out with some friends and talk about it or not talk about it and just get a different perspective and that’s been very valuable, not as many men have such good networks. Women tend to be better at developing relationships and maintaining relationships and men are not as focused in that way.” 

 

“I am definitely more of a planner and longer term thinker than a lot of men I work with who are just thinking about that day or maybe a few days ahead. They’re not thinking about a month or six months or a year down the road or simply what has to be done a month from now. It’s all of a sudden, we’ve got to do this for tomorrow.  I find that’s one of the differences between women and a lot of men and it is beneficial for me  because I bring that planning piece to the table.  I think  ahead, making certain we think about everything and men rarely do that. They’re very task oriented and I’m looking and thinking about down the road.  I think the men I work with respect me for that and they have come to rely on it.”

 

What Strikes Me?

 

One benefit to being a working mother, if you have support at home you’ve got somebody doing a lot of things for you, so when you come home you’re actually able to spend more time with your kids.

 

Don’t worry about what other people are doing or thinking or saying. Every person has to make the decision that’s right for them.

 

Make sure your spouse is pulling their weight

 

Role models for working mothers are important.

 

Women rely more on their networks than men. In fact, a lot of men don’t have any friends and don’t do anything outside of work. Their work becomes their social environment.

 

Women tend to have friends outside of work. It helps a lot to have people you can rely on and it provides an outlet too, especially if you’re really stressed out or work is particularly demanding or difficult.

 

It’s great to be able to go out with friends and talk about work or not talk about work and get a different perspective. That’s very valuable.

 

Very few men have good networks. Women tend to be better at developing relationships and maintaining relationships and men are not focused in the same way.

 

 

What Strikes You?

 

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