Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Monday I bought this week's issue of Time with the cover story "The Case for Staying Home - Why more young moms are opting out of the rat race." I picked up the magazine around noon, but didn't read it until much later at night, almost afraid that doing so would swing the doors of doubt and sadness wide open again. These past two to three weeks have been tough enough already, I certainly didn't need the media to tell me I was making the wrong decision. But, I was relieved that the article was 'mostly' a commentary about the numbers - how the trend for moms to continue working has actually been declining over the past couple years, a reversal after it had been steadily increasing over the past several decades. They point out more and more women with advanced degrees, professional titles, and high profile jobs are going through the same struggles. And at this point in time, many of these Gen Xers are making different decisions than their boomer parents. I was dismayed to see a commentary viewpoint from Amelia Warren Tyagi (co-author with her mom of "The Two-Income Trap") because the two of them seem to be showing up everywhere these days and blaming a whole host of socio-economic factors for making these kinds of decisions so tough. They argue that the rising cost of homes, especially those in good school districts, and the cost of private pre-schools require two incomes. These are no longer viewed as luxury items for your child, but rather basics. Despite these arguments, the Time article continues, more and more women are choosing to take 'time out' from their careers to stay home. They struggle with putting a $100,000 law education "to waste" and hope desperately that the economy turns around to find space for them to return in 2 or 3 or 5 years from now. Their is a spot of hope, however, as big businesses such as Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu are recognizing this significant brain drain among high-performing women. The company is taking steps to develop a program for new young moms to take a few years off, and ease back into the workplace. Right now, corporate America has few flexible work options - not many "on-ramps" and "slow lanes" for these women when they return. Included in the reasons for my choice to continue working are indeed some financial ones, such as using the additional income to provide for Spencer's college tuition. But the flexibility of my job which allows me to work effectively from home, and an organziation which values a healthy work-life balance are the most important factor in making that decision possible. Being able to pump during the day from the privacy of my own home allows Spencer to go off to school and continue to receive breast milk. Being able to unload the dishwasher and prep dinner during lunchtime is important because it allows me to focus my precious time after work with Spencer during the limited number of hours he is awake. Being able to temporarily turn down travel so that I can be at home during the next few months of adjusting to a new routine. All of these thing contribute to my overall happiness with my new role as a mom, and, as I have heard many times already: a happy mom is a good mom.