Veronica. Choices and Regrets, Working Mothers and Male Experience

posted March 18th, 2011 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Veronica when she considered her career in its entirety what she would do differently, if anything. She said: “I have no regrets, so I guess that means that I wouldn’t do anything differently.  When I left the bank, I did a year and half’s work with the Canadian Red Cross and I really liked the not for profit sector in terms of all of the things we’ve been talking about, values and all the rest of it and they offered me a job there and I declined.  I declined because it was a lot of travel going back and forth to Ottawa and my children were at a stage where I did not want to be away from home.  So I guess if I had any regret… and I really don’t… I would say that if that opportunity had come along today I would take it, but the timing and everything was off and I haven’t pursued that and I really don’t intend to pursue it but sometimes the choices you make are based on timing relative to other aspects in your life. And I think we have all faced that and we all make what seems to be the best choice at the time and I really, really have no regrets.”

 

I asked Veronica whether she had any regrets about being a working mother. She said: “No. I think it’s very healthy for children, especially girls, to see their parents being capable and functioning and independent of the countless, mundane, boring but necessary chores involved in child-raising, for which you need an army.  You need your own child-raising team because no man is an island, no child can be raised by a single parent. And if you’re blessed, as I have been, you have people in your life who will help. I have grandchildren now and my husband and I are picking them up from kindergarten when necessary and having sleepovers when their parents are traveling and working and all those things. A good friend asked me when are you going to get your retirement and I said I don’t know. I have to look back at the people who did this for me, my mum and dad, my siblings and my neighbours, so that I could go and have my career and not worry. I think it’s like everything else.  Whatever task you take on in life you have to figure if you’ve got the resources available to you to do it, and personally I had my child long before I had my career, nothing I could do about that, but today it’s a totally different situation when you’re making that decision because all these mums are waiting until later to have their babies because they’re building their career first and then all of a sudden what are you going to do.  You’ve got the boss who wants you working until midnight on some project and you’ve got the three year-old and the nanny leaves at six o’clock.  You have to have back-up.”

 

I asked Veronica 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’s trying to do the same thing she did. She said: “You can’t have it all.  You have to go into a mindset that says I cannot have it all. I can only have one thing.  So if the one thing is your career, don’t have children because you will always be conflicted like that and no matter how great the support system is there are times when that child has to be your priority and if you think it’s going to harm you in your career then I think the responsible thing to do is not to have that child unless you have a partner who is prepared to take care of that role.  So when Sammy gets sick, right, and is so sick he can’t go to day care, because he has got something contagious, who stays home. Right?  If you’ve got grandma to come in you’re set.  If you’re living in New York City and your nearest family is 200 miles away, then I guess it’s you and are you prepared to deal with those kinds of conflicting situations because there is a conflict between raising children and having a career and anybody who tells you that that’s not true hasn’t really lived it.”

 

I asked Veronica to describe her impression of the difference between her experience and the experience of a male colleague or peer.  She said: “I think that the expectations, even today, on men in our society is that work is their life and home and community are peripheral. So even in the most, let’s call them modern couples I see with no family responsibilities, which is where I think the rub comes in, where they are both out there working professionally in the world and there are no children or home front things to be taken care of because you’ve got the staff that’s stocking the fridge and cleaning and all the rest of it, then I don’t think there are many differences.  These women have the same ability to travel on work-related projects and everything else and there are basically two separate flight plans that meet on the weekend for coffee and a snuggle but I think that as soon as you throw the family into the mix, I have not seen one really, truly, 50-50 couple in all my years. If you are an ambitious woman, you have to ramp up your staff (which usually the husband appears not to see is necessary).  For example, Johnny’s home for two hours after school and then you get there but what if not, right?  You end up doing emergency planning around all that and that is destructive in your work day, right?  If you’re in a committee meeting at five o’clock in the afternoon, which seems to be very common these days, there’s nobody home to let the kid in after school.  Who goes?  Mostly the woman.”

 

What Strikes Me?


Sometimes the choices we make are based on timing relative to other aspects in our lives

 

It’s very healthy for children, especially girls, to see their parents being capable and functioning and independent of the countless, mundane, boring but necessary chores involved in child-raising

 

Working women and mothers, in particular, have to have back-up

 

You can’t have it all

 

There is a conflict between raising children and having a career and anybody who tells you that that’s not true hasn’t really lived it

 

The expectations, even today, on men in our society are that work is their life and home and community are peripheral

 

What Strikes You?

 

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