One typical day at work, Kate asked Renee, “Hey, so what do you do with your kids for the three-week winter break this year?” Renee responds, “well, I have to fly in my parents or last year my in-laws. And now we are considering hiring someone to help out like a nanny.” Francine chimes in, “what?! I can’t afford a nanny and have no family that can help… what am I gonna do when little sweet pea starts kindergarten next year?” Kate responds, “is there an after or before school program? Do you think the school your kids will go to has a winter break daycare option? Or, did you consider….” Oh my, Francine thinks, how am I going to find time to visit schools, look into all of this, and the money to hire a nanny? I work 830am to 530pm and then have to rush to pick the kids up, then go home and with my wonderful husband, help feed them, bathe them, try to read to them, and enrich them, all the while trying to stay healthy and fit myself. Francine works two jobs (outside the home), not to mention a mom of two, a wife of one, and yet still manages to balance it all… or does she? And if you think that the only women having this conversation at work are Kate, Renee, and Francine- well think again! And our women in this story all have terrific husbands who do more than their share. Imagine, how it would be without that support and without the support of friends.
It’s a nationwide phenomena and has been since the 70s and 80s – moms working full-time or multiple jobs, whether single, or married, moms are in the workplace and what you do not know about Kate, Renee, Francine and the other moms like them is that they secretly think, almost on a daily basis, “what the hell am I doing? THIS IS SO STINKING HARD!”
Each day, thousands upon thousands of women who are in the same boat or even in worse situations than our working moms mentioned above deal with the same questions. Is this worth it? Can I break that glass ceiling and still raise a family? The answer is quite simple and may sound pessimistic but the the answer is MAYBE… and if YES, with a whole heck of a lot of guilt. And yes, I am one of the moms mentioned above. I am the mom who thought I could do it all but here I am, wondering daily if I made the right choices- the right decisions for my career and my family and each time feeling like I am failing at all of it – not doing any one thing right but trying my best to keep it together each day. And you are probably thinking, “well, why do you choose to work then? why not just quit and stay at home?” It’s just not that easy. Some choose to work because of financial reasons, some for personal and professional reasons, and whatever the case may be it is a choice that is true but that does not mean that the working mom is a victim or that she is a bad person. All this article is intended to address is the blatant gender gap that nonetheless still exists in the American workplace and may likely persist for sometime.
Now, let’s look at the husbands of Renee, Kate, and Francine – it is most likely the case that none of the husbands think about this. Very few men if any at all, would have the same conversations at work or talk with each other about how they feel like a failure or ask themselves and their friends, “what am I doing here? I should be with my kid.” Not to generalize for all dads out there, but I am sure very few men worry about the same things that the working moms do. And very few dads at work feel guilt almost on a daily basis – that sheer plain guilt day in and day out because they chose to have it all or because they chose to shatter the glass ceiling over caring for their kids full-time. But wait! There is no ceiling for men, for working dads …. it is just assumed even in present day society that they will pick their career and travelling for work in lieu of their kids because that is what is expected. In other households, the mother will “choose” to give up her career maybe because the husband’s career paid more or traditionally paid more- after all, women are still not paid the same as men in most career fields for the same work! Or, because women chose traditional fields like nursing, teaching, or administrative support, they simply earn less than their husbands who could be in IT, Engineering, Medicine, legal profession, or the military. So, the cost-benefit analysis does not favor the woman working in those fields to pay $20K+ in daycare costs per year.
But, these days, as women try to break the glass ceiling, they are assuming less traditional roles, and bringing home more of the bacon, some working even two jobs, and thus the question becomes, what price is she paying for continuing to work? Well, we hope none and we hope the kids will be alright but nonetheless it is hard to ignore the “gender gap” which is alive and well, and yes, I am willing to take the heat on this article but, I am confident that men are not having the same conversation that our friends, Renee, Kate, and Francine were having in the workplace, sometimes weekly or daily. I am willing to bet that men are not sitting around at work worrying whether they made the right choice- career over stay at home dad; and I am confident they are not feeling that unavoidable guilty day-in and day-out on not being home with the kids. The Gender Gap, in this humble working mom’s opinion is still alive and well and while we may not shatter that glass ceiling completely, I think women have made a significant difference at home, through writing, volunteering, in the workplace and the business world. In America, this is a great time to be a woman and who knows? Very soon we may even get to elect the first female President of the United States.
I need your opinion: Do you think the gender gap is alive and well in the workplace? Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace or just sheer guilt as our characters feel above? I would love your feedback, whether stay at home, work at home, or working outside the home mom, married or single, I would love to hear your feedback and input.
*Please note: the characters in the above story are based on real people the author works with but the names were changed to protect the working moms.