At work, we don’t have to cloak ourselves in shoulder-padded man suits and pretend we’re not moms. And we’re far more unapologetic about wanting to find a balance between being mothers and being workers than the women who first made their way into the boardroom. As one friend who works part-time from home told me, “We are past the point of needing to prove something and can try to do what we want. We want a bit of everything. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. A mom I know said, “I don’t know anyone who does it elegantly.’ “ Still, it’s a pretty amazing thing to be as confident as many of us are to ask for a four-day workweek or to telecommute. Or to decide to leave our careers for a while because we feel like there’s a good chance we’ll pick back up where we left off in a few years. Another mom pointed out, “It’s important to recognize that the choices we have about how we approach paid work — opting out, going full throttle, working atypical or part-time hours — are all thanks to the groundbreaking work not only of working mothers before us but also of female workers without kids.” Thanks to them, we can ask to have that bit of everything.
When I invited some of the incredible women in my life to share their thoughts on being mothers in 2007, many brought up the things moms have always seen as on-the-job perks. They spoke of early morning cuddles and peering at sweet, sleeping faces, the inspiration our kids give us to slow down and enjoy the moment (even if we’d like just five more minutes to finish cleaning up after dinner), the way they bring out our creativity (on a good day, even more than they try our patience), the unconditional love, the incomparable hugs around the neck. Those who had been parenting for longer mentioned feeling privileged to be a part of their kids’ lives, confronted as they were with just how short those 18 years can feel. Compared to our pre-child selves, we may have grown-out highlights, infrequently shaved legs and not not nearly as much time at the gym time as we’d like, but it’s still so worth it, they said.
When it comes right down to it, maybe motherhood is both completely different yet pretty much the same as it was for our moms and Grans. Maybe we analyze what we do more (and maybe we do it in the cutest yoga pants on earth), but we end up experiencing many of the same pleasures and pitfalls of those who went before us. And while there are plenty of moments that aren’t easy, we have to conclude — especially when we’re enjoying the company of friends, sipping a latté while watching the kids play at the park — that it’s a pretty wonderful time to be a mom.
Tele-registration meltdowns aside, former senior editor Brandie Weikle is largely ambivalent about competitive parenting.