Passing The Baton

Many women opted out of the workforce to raise families – hopefully the next generation will find more flexible options to combine parenting and a career.

Lisa Endlich Heffernan landed on The Today Show in response to her recent article featured on the Huffington Post, “Why I Regret Being A Stay-At-Home Mom.” She says the decision to leave the workforce was one of “the most expensive decisions of my life’” and “at no point did I calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects.”

These are powerful words and words I have thought of often. Like Heffernan, I decided to leave the workforce when I had my first child because my husband and I were both working long hours, commuting and sometimes traveling. I was 33 years old and I waited a long time to have a baby and I was fortunate that I could leave the workforce. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy leaving the fast-paced lifestyle of working in New York City for the sleepy suburbs.

The rhythm of life hummed away and I had another child. I have had many of the same feelings Heffernan cites such as missing the different mix of people, over-worrying about my children, losing confidence and loss of income.

Through the years, I too have felt embarrassed at giving up a career. I remember my husband filling out an alumni yearbook survey and I was listed as homemaker. I recoiled at the word.

Staying home with my children has been the most rewarding experience of my life yet it has been a doubled edged sword.

My mother’s own experience as a young widow, taught me that not everyone has a fairy tale ending and not having a source of income is a gamble. I gambled and it worked out for me but for my daughter who will be heading to college next year I hope she will find an easier road to combine a career and family.

Heffernan calls her decision flawed, I believe she is being hard on herself. I left the workplace at a similar time and technology was in its infancy and job sharing or even part-time work was very limited. Her advice to keep a toe in the water would have been difficult but I think its excellent advice for girls coming up in the world now – and it’s never been easier due to technology.

I sometimes tell my daughter to look into work that is more flexible so she can balance a career and a family at the same time. As I pass the baton to the next generation I do think there will be less of an “all or nothing” approach.

It’s promising that San Francisco is considering a new family friendly workplace policy. The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia have similar policies.

Hopefully, our country will recognize the importance of supporting more flexibility in the workforce to make it easier for parents to balance work and parenting.

 

 

Comments

  1. I negotiated a 4 day work week once I was pregnant with my 2nd child and it was a great way to be able to be more involved with my kid’s lives by engaging in volunteering at their school and with Scouts and to spend time in the garden. 4 days did slow down the career growth, but it allowed me the balance I was looking for. Highly recommend it.

  2. Thanks Karen. Another area women need to improve in is negotiating and learning to ask for what they want. Sheryl Sandberg even had to be prompted to negotiate her first offer with Facebook.

  3. Thanks for this post. So well said – exactly what so many of us are thinking. If women had been in the workplace first, it all would have been structured differently. Following your blog now.

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