Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moms Dishin’ Truth About Work and Family

There were some who work full-time, some who work from home, some who are at-home and hoping to return to the paid work fold some time the future. The one thing they had in common – aside from being parents – was their honesty. And for the 600+ women from the San Francisco area who came to listen to the panel of women dish about work and motherhood, they did not leave disappointed.

After six authors, myself included, signed our books for attendees of the Mommy Track’d/Flexperience “Mother+Professional=New Formulas for Success” event, we filed into a large conference hall to hear the Washington Post’s Leslie Morgan Steiner read from her book, Mommy Wars and then moderate a panel discussion on careers and parenthood. Some of the choice excerpts:

-- “I think we’re exhausted, multi-tasked out,” Amy Keroes, Mommy Track'd founder told the crowd, many of whom nodded in agreement. “. . . There’s no one-size-fits-all way to do this.”

-- Steiner said that when it comes to figuring out how to handle one’s profession while trying to maintain a marriage and raise children, “We don’t have any clear role models.”

-- Urging moms to find camaraderie with other mothers, Steiner said, “Every single thing changed for me when my child was born . . . [My husband] took three days off from work and then went back.”

-- Sarah Clarke, co-host of the Bay Area’s morning radio show “Sarah and No Name” who told the audience she tried broadcasting her program from home after having her first child (nursing the baby while on air), said she regularly tries to dispel the myth of perfect parenthood on her radio program, openly admitting to her listeners that her kids can drive her crazy.

-- Kirstin Hoefer, a senior director at eBay who works part-time and has three kids, said she loves her work and was thrilled that she was able to negotiate a four-day-week work week AND still get promoted despite not working full-time. She also added that since she’s been on board, other mothers who wanted to work three days a week have been hired.

-- Lin Stillman, mother of two who has run a solo law practice from her house for seven years, said she was able to find sanity by establishing a separate, designated place in her house for her work. When her son comes home from school, he joins her in her office, sitting at the desk right next to hers and does “his” work.

-- Meanwhile, Lori McAdams, vice president of Human Resources at Pixar and mom of three, said working from home and part-time employment wasn’t for her.

-- Many of the panelists burst the “perfect mom” bubble – thank God! -- by admitting that, in an attempt to balance their work and home lives, they’ve had to let many things go, like housework. They order groceries online. They let home repairs slide for a while. They send e-mail thank you notes instead of paper ones. They’ve given up cooking. They take a pass on volunteering for school activities until their kids are old enough to be left at home alone without having to hire a babysitter.

And while we’re on the subject of volunteering, a day after the seminar . . . Steiner blogged about her struggles with trying to politely refuse requests from PTO folks at her children’s school because she simply cannot fit volunteering in right now. Her blog entry is provocatively entitled, “Volunteer Vampires.”

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