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work, kids, priorities, bad mom stuff

Random question for my mom friends: If someone asked you "What do you love more, work or your kids?"

You're supposed to say "your kids" right?

Yesterday I got to thinking I'm flawed or something because honestly, I'd probably give some fucked up "well there are different kinds of love" answer.

Or put it this way... if someone told me "For the next eight hours, we're shutting you in a room to design & certify airplanes. We'll slide food under the door. You can move around but don't get more than five feet from this computer." I'd say "challenge accepted!"

If someone else told me "For the next eight hours, we're shutting you in a house with your infant and three year old and toys and colors to just play with them, all day! You can go outside but don't get more than ten feet from those kids, and they have to get your full attention." I'd say "uh... that long? no break? please can I have a break?" like seriously, I think I'd make it two hours.

is that fucked up?

tooby3 said this about Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In:

She just didn't convince me of any value for women in leaning in...unless you happen to be a woman motivated by power and achievement where your title and salary is what fulfills you... staying connected to work while on vacation may feel fulfilling to Sheryl Sandberg, but to me it's a sign capitalism is a higher priority than my family and that's not what I want for my kids or me. I just can't relate to wanting to spend extra time making Facebook a better company when I could be with my kids or husband.

the problem is, I totally CAN relate to wanting to make a better company! (and I am motivated by power and salary... a little. okay maybe a lot.) I feel like the work I do is unique. Lots of people there depend on me. I work on a project for a few years, and there's this set of accomplishments in the bag forever, and a thousand people fly on that model and I played a little part in it.

I'm not saying I love work so much I never want to unplug. I am not a workaholic, I rarely hit 50 hours a week, I like breaks. But even my breaks aren't just to rush home to my family, they're all different - I come home and blog, clean the house, snuggle the kids, walk the dog, do my yoga, sew, all kinds of stuff, then the next day I'm refreshed and ready to dive enthusiastically back into work. And I've heard "work doesn't love you back" which I've always taken to mean you can get laid off at any minute so don't give your company your life, I accept that. And hey maybe that's a sign I'm an okay mom... if I lost my job I'd shrug and say "eh, I'll find another job." if I lost my kids I would have a much more dramatic reaction.

maybe I just feel really lucky to have a job I like. it doesn't happen to everybody. everybody has kids they like, that's a given... I don't feel like that makes me unique. oh but even that sounds terrible. I am totally treading the bad mom line.



( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 9th, 2014 10:32 pm (UTC)

everybody has kids they like, that's a given...

I have to say, I strongly disagree with you here on multiple levels. Trivially, lots of people don't have kids. Some of them by choice, some of them not. Nontrivially, lots of people have kids they *don't* like. Some even have kids that are fundamentally unlikable -- psychotic, criminal, abusive, and so on.
Mar. 10th, 2014 01:35 am (UTC)
okay you got me again... but I was thinking more like, most people who have kids like them. you can't say the same thing for jobs! plenty of people hate their jobs.
Mar. 9th, 2014 10:54 pm (UTC)
It's not fucked up... I don't know how anyone is a full time parent without going out of their mind. Though, some kids are obviously easier than others, and I suppose one acclimates to any given situation. Still...

I also find it annoying that anyone who wants to confess to liking work or being a working mom is supposed to also be all like "I love my children more than anything..." It's in the first paragraph of practically every article on being a working mom ever written. I mean it's TRUE but it bothers me that people act like it's unthinkable or unfeminine or something to not be saying it every 5 seconds in the working mom conversation.

Mar. 9th, 2014 11:15 pm (UTC)
I think thats the logical engineer brain- there ARE different kinds of love.

When you describe your joba nd work environemnt, your schedule sounds quite easy going. My engineer husband typically works 50+ hours a week, plus a half hour or two here and there on his weekends and evenings. That culture is part of what scared me off from trying to juggle work and childrearing- it is hard to fight that expectation that you will work extended hours.
Mar. 9th, 2014 11:18 pm (UTC)
As a stay-at-home mom, I think that moms who like their kids more than work should work less if they can. As a person who spends all my time with my child, I would prefer to interact with other adults in a child-free environment on occasion.

It's not that I do not love him. It's just that I want to pee with a door closed.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 10th, 2014 02:17 am (UTC)
there's something I hate about the phrase "work-life balance". I think you might have nailed it.
Mar. 10th, 2014 03:56 am (UTC)
I was about to write something much like this but less well said, so I'll just heartily agree!
Mar. 10th, 2014 01:41 am (UTC)
Everyone wants to make women feel like bad moms if they don't x, y, and z, a good part of which involves acting martyred ("How could I possibly take time FOR MEEEEE?") or acting like if you don't spend every waking minute with your kids handcrafting Valentine's for your INFANT's Valentine's day at school (because the other infants really give a shit about your handmade Valentines) there's something wrong with you. That's crap. That's just society putting women into more boxes, expecting more of them, judging them if they don't fit in, and all that other nonsense that the patriarchy loves. You love your kids? Check. You spend time with your kids? Check. You provide for your kids? Check. You leave your kids with someone whom you love and trust? Check. You're doing fine. To hell with what society tells you you should be doing.
Mar. 10th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
you are not kidding about valentine's day! we got that for josie's two-hour, twice a week church group when she was 18 months old... "everyone bring valentines!"

the funny thing is, even though I knew it was totally stupid I still felt a twinge of guilt when marc neglected to provide anything for the day, and I was too busy. I was like "well the teachers know she's with her dad during the day, he's a guy, they'll give him a pass." then I realized they should give EVERYONE a chance to pass because these kids barely have two-hour memories, they don't get excited about holidays! WTF!
Mar. 10th, 2014 01:51 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure not many men with children feel guilty about wanting to do well at their jobs.
Mar. 10th, 2014 01:52 am (UTC)
*I'm also pretty sure no one would ask a man, "Which do you love more, work or your kids?"
Mar. 10th, 2014 02:16 am (UTC)
well, or if they did, he'd say "My kids!" and they'd then ask "Well then why do you spend all your time at work?" and he'd say "To provide for my kids. DUH."

it's like there's just no issue or contradiction there.
Mar. 10th, 2014 01:58 am (UTC)
unless you happen to be a woman motivated by power and achievement where your title and salary is what fulfills you

Well, yes, that's EXACTLY who Lean In is for. To me, this commenter's issue isn't with relating to Lean In, it's that she can't relate to the entire idea of wanting to excel in your job and valuing achievement & responsibility there. (and the issue is achievement and responsibility, not "title and salary" which is a pretty judgmental, or at least uncomprehending, way of putting it).
Mar. 10th, 2014 02:51 am (UTC)
I sucked up Lean In - loved it! Recommend it! But my sister wouldn't read it past chapter 1, I'm sure. She's not wired the same way I am.
Mar. 10th, 2014 02:11 am (UTC)
I don't really love my job so it wouldn't be a contest for me, but at the same time I appreciate getting time away from the kids. I think I'd lose it as a sahm.
Mar. 10th, 2014 02:50 am (UTC)
I could have written your post nearly word for work - well except for the aeroplane part, and I generally work about a 60 hour week and do wonder if I'm a workaholic sometimes.

My kids are great, but when people say "on your deathbed, you won't be thinking about the work you could have done" I'm thinking "yes, I will". There's papers to write, research to share and create, a difference to make, promotions to get, money to make. A lot of my self-worth is wrapped up in my work, my status, my salary, etc and I'm *sure* that on my death bed work will take a lot of my thinking time (assuming on your death bed you have the luxury of thinking through your achievements etc)

Actually a child social worker I know gave up work to be a mother and I was thinking "totally her choice, but 'what a waste'" This woman could benefit X children by working or 1 child by staying at home. All her training, all her knowledge, now being channelled into just her daughter. As I say, it's her choice and I would never *force* someone to work, but I think if you're able to benefit society by working, you shouldn't be made to feel guilty for working. If you're a scientist that can find a cure for cancer and outsource your child's care, then I want you working!

Society lays a lot of guilt on mothers!

Edited at 2014-03-10 02:52 am (UTC)
Mar. 10th, 2014 03:07 am (UTC)
I think it's the silliest question. At least for me. The love for work is very different from the love for your child. I love the time I am getting with my child right now. I also can't wait to work again! It doesn't mean I love her any less!
Mar. 10th, 2014 03:56 am (UTC)
Given the scenario you described, I would have the same reaction. Please, dear God, don't make me spend 8 hours alone within 10 feet of my kids. But do I love them more than any job, I promise!
Mar. 10th, 2014 04:14 am (UTC)
I don't personally think there's ANYTHING fucked up about what drives you in life (or her). But neither of you need a book like Lean In unless it's to validate that how you are is not just OKAY, it's the right way. (As though there is such a thing.) It's almost as though the women who do not naturally Lean In will kill themselves trying to follow its advice and the ones who already do will look around saying, 'what's the problem?'

At the end of the day only you can answer whether your life is where you want it to be. But isn't there a bit of Lean In that reads like 'why are there not more women like me?' and ASSUMES it's all the other women that are doing it wrong because we're all too worried about having babies? Instead of hmm... maybe some of us really are kind of obsessed with babies even though we have careers and that's totally cool too.

I think that's where the backlash you previously spoke of stems from. It takes a Sheryl Sandberg to want to have that lifestyle --and by that I don't mean affluent / white / harvard grad. I mean that woman was who she was practically from birth. You either are that way or you're not.

There were some great points in that book too (i.e.: taking a seat at the table and how challenging it is for women to find mentors because of the lack of women leaders and awkwardness that comes with trying to mentor someone of the opposite sex.) I think it was important in so far as getting new conversations going. I don't know what the statistics look like when it comes to saying whether there are more potential Sheryl Sandbergs out there, or more that react to her as I did. I just would love to see us start to consider that different types of people can succeed, contribute even innovate if we're willing to let the workplace look different instead of expecting the people to all act the same.

That goes for men and women. My husband (like yours) Leaned Out because it made sense financially. He is not especially interested in a career but we would both love for it to be easier for us to take turns being the breadwinner. It's tough to make that work so I do the career mom thing while he's stay at home dad. It's all good but it's not ideal.

Mar. 11th, 2014 09:04 am (UTC)
I just would love to see us start to consider that different types of people can succeed, contribute even innovate if we're willing to let the workplace look different instead of expecting the people to all act the same.

Mar. 10th, 2014 07:00 am (UTC)
Asking whether you love your kids or your job better is like asking if you love your kids or your husband better, or one kid or the other better.

I love my job. It follows me home in the evenings because I don't really understand any more how not to do research. I appreciate being able to share interesting things with my husband (and my kid, though her contributions are somewhat limited still). I would be miserable if I had to give up doing my job. But like you, this particular job is give-up-able (good thing too, as I'm on a 5 year contract), whereas there is no way I'd give up my kid (even if I'd rather spend 8 hours at my office than 8 hours with her).
Mar. 10th, 2014 03:44 pm (UTC)
Eh, a friend of mine has a really hard time with that many hours in a row with her kids. She loves them, of course, but it takes a very different level of mental and physical energy to be with kids that long. She also very much loves her job (set builder and staff member in the theater dept at my university) and wouldn't trade it for the world. So no, you aren't alone. I think society makes it so you feel guilted for not wanting to "parent" and love your kids and be with them 24/7.
Mar. 10th, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
Nothing whatsoever to do with Lean In, just relating to the "8 hours non-stop with kids" aspect... but personally, the whole dynamic of "you [particularly mothers] must "play" with your children [if you really love them]" has always seemed kind of messed up to me, just like entire theme parks centered around entertaining kids seem kind of messed up. Not in every culture are adults expected to "play" with children, or "entertain them" constantly at the expense of getting adult things done. In other places, kids play... with other kids, not with adults. And that's normal. But it's a different community structure, different priorities on a social level...

There is a lot of pressure here in the US to do so, but I don't really think it's healthy to constantly teach kids that adult lives revolve around keeping them entertained. Keeping them quiet and out of danger, of course, is something else entirely, but that ties in more with "getting adult things done". Just one more reason I'm scared to become a parent.
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:54 am (UTC)
Interesting great point. Just last night at dinner I was relating a story of my sis and I spending our typical summer day during childhood. (My daughter is 3.5yrs). And I shared how we spent the whole days with friends and the only time at home was for food and rest. Afternoons we were home as it was too hot outside and my mom would be taking a nap then. Evenings we would be out and our parents would be off for a walk.

My daughter asked, "but how can you play without mommy or daddy?" That's so sad. I realize she will not be able to have that living in the city we do. Even my city-kid husband hardly spent time with parents growing up.
Mar. 11th, 2014 09:16 pm (UTC)
I don't think there's anything wrong with inherently loving your job and your kids in different ways. I mean, what if someone asked "do you love your husband or your kids?" or "your parents or your kids?" They are inherently different kind of loves; and in Chinese culture, you actually use different words to indicate the different types of loves: a parent-child love, a husband-wife love, a love for your country, a love for your work, etc.

"maybe I just feel really lucky to have a job I like. it doesn't happen to everybody. everybody has kids they like, that's a given... I don't feel like that makes me unique."
Agree with first commentor though; umm, not everybody has kids. I feel really really really really WAY luckier to have my kid than my job. I know I'm qualified and well educated and I can pick up a job anywhere that I will probably enjoy. But having a kid took years of waiting, hours at the doctors, countless consultations, medications, surgical operations, and injections! And at the end of the tunnel, only 30% of IVF procedures are successful, so no, having kids is not a given for 7.3 million Americans.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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