Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Can Women Have it All?

I know it sounds silly but I record Oprah everyday and watch it when I get home. If the show is about a topic I am not so interested in, I just don't bother watching it but that almost never happens. Yesterday it was about news anchor Elizabeth Vargas' decision to step down from her position at ABC News because she was pregnant with her second child. This apparently caused an uproar with the women viewers and sparked a debate between working moms and stay-at-home moms.

First let me start by saying that I have the utmost respect for mom's (and dad's) who make the choice for their family to stay home and raise their children rather than working a formal 9-5 job outside the home. I have a couple of very good friends who are "stay-at-home moms" one of them even home schools her kids. As far as I know, neither of them eat bon-bons all day. I truly believe it is the hardest and most important job on earth.

That being said, I must say that watching the show from my perspective (a working mom) the stay-at-home moms on the show seemed to be attacking and judging the working moms for not raising their kids. Almost as if to say we just drop them off and have no concern for what they are doing all day while we are at work, and are letting "other people" raise our kids for us. Like we love our kids less because we choose to work outside the home. In my experience, that could not be further from the truth. Do I feel passionate about this subject? Of course, because I am passionate about my kids.

As it was said on the show by Dr. Robin, you can be a stay-at-home mom and be exhausted and checked-out and not be doing your children any good at all. The mere fact that you stay at home does not make you a better parent than one that chooses to work outside the home. The important thing is that you are emotionally connected to your kids when you are with them. In my opinion that does not necessarily need to happen between the hours that a working mom is away from the home. If you really think about it, small children nap several hours of the day and then school aged children are away from home several hours of the day. That does not mean working moms do not miss important moments with their children, but they do not miss everything.

My own experience was that I worked several hours of overtime while pregnant, some times 10 hour days so that I could stay at home for 12 weeks after my daughter was born. I then had my mother watch her for the first 8 months of her life. I realize that was not working out when she had every commercial on the TV memorized and knew all the characters names on All My Children. It was at that point that I made the decision to place her in daycare to interact with other children and have some healthy stimulation. I also made a choice when she started school to change jobs to one that was more flexible and closer to my daughter's school to allow me to volunteer in her classroom and not miss any of her school activities. She is 9 now and seems to be a pretty healthy, happy, independent, and well adjusted kid.

While watching the show Brent asked me if it was making me feel guilty. My answer was absolutely not. Staying at home was not an option for me. I was the breadwinner and financially we could not afford to live on one income. Bottom line, you can not be a stay-at-home mom if you are homeless. But I must admit that if it were an option, I think I would still choose to work outside the home. It is what works for me, my daughter, and my family.

It struck me that one of the stay-at-home moms was claiming to be a feminist yet she was being so judgemental toward the working moms on the show. That is not feminism to me. Women need to realize that they need to support each other and the decisions that they make and not judge each other.

Can women have it all? I think the perception of having it all is a bit skewed. I did have to sacrifice my career because I wanted to only work 40 hours a week with no commute. I would have had a higher paying job with more responsibility but that is not my priority at this time in my life. My family is my priority. I work to live not live to work.

I believe that I do have it all. I have a good paying job, a beautiful daughter, a beautiful stepdaughter, a husband who loves and respects me, a great circle of friends, a wonderful extended family, my health (for the most part), a nice home, a bunch of bikes, and a dog.

Who could want any more than that?

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