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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

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In Kids & Family Commentary

Are you ready to become a mother?

Juggling motherhood and a career is no easy task


Motherhood is a journey for which I am not yet ready. In fact, the idea pretty much scares the hell out of me. Maybe it's because I was so terrible to my parents during my teens, maybe it's because every time you see a woman giving birth on TV she's screaming like her legs are being eaten by fire ants or maybe it's just the knowledge that a child is way more responsibility than my brain or lifestyle can embrace right now, especially considering that some houseplants seem to be beyond the realm of my loving care.

I do want to be a mom someday and now that more and more of my friends are having babies, motherhood is obviously a more prominent topic around the brunch table.

There is so much to think about when deciding to have a child. Are you financially capable of caring for the health and well-being of a growing, living thing? If this living thing gets sick or injured can I take on the financial and emotional burden of supporting it? What if my kid turns out to be a total bitch like I was from ages 13-19!? (By the way, all of these questions should also be taken into consideration when considering purchasing a pet.)

In 1950 there wasn't much question about what role a woman (wife) was supposed to assume after she and her husband began having children. Women stopped working outside of the home (if they did prior to parenthood) and became housewives and mothers.

That certainly isn't a given today. More and more families have dual incomes or sometimes dad follows the lead of those adorable Emperor Penguins and he stays home to raise the young, but many women still do choose to take a break from their career once they start a family.

I read a book not long ago called "The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?" It's a really interesting, if a bit long-winded, look at the issue of women giving up a career to raise children. It's made up of many stories of women who gave up high-paying, high responsibility, up and coming careers to raise their children, even if they were the primary bread-winners in the family.

Some of the stories are about women who had the opposite experience. They either didn't have successful careers or didn't have advanced education and still made the choice to stay home. Most if not all of the stories are cautionary tales of the American Dream or having it all gone awry. It's very eye-opening.

One of the issues addressed is the precarious position that a stay-at-home parent can find herself/himself in if s/he gives up a career and then the marriage doesn't work out. You can't usually jump back into the workforce where you left off, particularly while trying to raise children. And too often the non-career spouse is in the dark about the family finances.

Even if you are not bringing home the bacon, you need to be nose-deep in your family's financial information. You need to know how much your spouse makes, your family budget, etc. Because if your marriage falls apart, guess who's going to know how to screw you out of alimony and child support and who's going to be sitting there with a resume in hand and no current job experience. I'll give you a minute to think that over.

You are putting a lot of trust in someone when you decide they will be the sole provider. And don't get all dewy-eyed on me about having complete trust in your loving spouse; about 50 percent of married people find out otherwise. Yes, of course being a mom is really hard work, but at the end of two weeks, no one is providing you with a check, benefits, a retirement plan, etc. No one but your spouse. You need to be prepared for the unthinkable - besides divorce that includes when your spouse gets fired, laid off or God forbid, they die and you are on your own.

I'm not suggesting you run out and get a huge life insurance policy on your spouse, but don't be stupid about the money flowing in and out of your house. If you agreed together that you would stay home, then you have every right to know the most minute details about your family's financial situation.

As so many people are learning these days, when you are out of the workforce for any amount of time, you lose ground. It's naïve to ever think you're going to leave a position, raise your kids for five years and then waltz back into a job at the same rate or experience as the people that have been in the market while you were gone. Prepare yourself to be working at entry level positions no matter how irreplaceable you thought you were ten years ago.

Another reason for continuing to work is that you build something that is yours. You participate in bringing home that oh so valuable bacon. A career is something to be proud of and a lot of people, both men and women, want the satisfaction of working for a living and feeling important to an organization, despite what Republicans say about us lazy, working-class people.

A few of my close friends have gone the route of stay-at-home mom. Their reasoning made a lot of sense for them. Good childcare is so expensive that half of their family income was going right back out the door to daycare. On top of that, a lot of parents like the idea of being around fulltime for those first few years before kindergarten. That's terrific if they can afford it and want it that way.

Personally, I like the idea of having a career to call my own. I have never had the desire to be a housewife or stay-at-home mom. I liked being a kid that went to daycare and after school programs throughout my childhood. I learned to share really quickly, made tons of friends from very early on and I had two parents who were very hard working and successful. I look up to them both to this day because of it.

Every parent has to think about and make this decision based on what makes the most sense for their own family. It's a complicated issue. Certainly there are downsides to dual-career families as well. The amount of stress and the lack of time left available after everyone arrives home from work and school adds some chaos to everyone's lives. And the pace allows for some serious missed opportunities. But when you get to that point, if you decide to take a break from the work world, don't make the mistake, whether it's a feminine or masculine one, of thinking it will all be sunshine and roses. No one will know just how hard you work to take care of your children. Stay-at-home parents rarely get the credit they deserve.

Lastly, be prepared to start over when and if you decide to restart your career. In other words, make sure it's what you really want.

For now, I'm going give it my all not to kill anymore house plants and we'll see where it leads.


Talkbacks

wiscoleeds | Aug. 2, 2010 at 7:49 a.m. (report)

...."A career is something to be proud of and a lot of people, both men and women, want the satisfaction of working for a living and feeling important to an organization, despite what Republicans say about us lazy, working-class people." Really? I'm a Republican AND a working-class person and I don't say that to anyone. But then again it's far easier to continue to perpetuate hateful stereotypes than it is to try and bring people together. The comment was completely uncalled for in the context of this article and only showed to demonstrate the authors own personal bias and hatred. Cheers Wiscoleeds

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dezmom | Aug. 2, 2010 at 7:43 a.m. (report)

Thanks for stating how much you enjoyed being the child of 2 working parents. I love my job and am grateful to be in a position that I feel passionate about my work (makes it easier to to abandon other tasks) but it is still really challenging to juggle it all. When doing both you always need to be at least 3 places at once, hopefully though, when my children grow up they will feel the same way you do.

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wiscoleeds | Aug. 2, 2010 at 7:38 a.m. (report)

...."A career is something to be proud of and a lot of people, both men and women, want the satisfaction of working for a living and feeling important to an organization, despite what Republicans say about us lazy, working-class people." Really? I'm a Republican AND a working-class person and I don't say that to anyone. But then again it's far easier to continue to perpetuate hateful stereotypes than it is to try and bring people together. The comment was completely uncalled for in the context of this article and only showed to demonstrate the authors own personal bias and hatred. Cheers Wiscoleeds

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momof4 | July 31, 2010 at 3:58 p.m. (report)

I read your article and my first thought was, why would we have a non-mom writing a commentary about life as a mom and juggling (or deciding not to juggle a career)? Sure the author may know people/friends who are new moms, stay at home moms, career moms, whatever, but to write an opinionated article on juggling a career with kids and family without the expertise or experience is really a stretch. While I agreed on some of the points, I really thought the editing lacked when this statement was made...."A career is something to be proud of and a lot of people, both men and women, want the satisfaction of working for a living and feeling important to an organization, despite what Republicans say about us lazy, working-class people." What the heck does that mean? How about a statement from a mom as to the rewards of being a parent? Juggling work or not? Please consider using writer with some years of maturity and professionalism in journalism, especially when commenting on being something they are not...a mom. From, a college-degreed once young career woman, to a new stay at home mom, back to professional working mom, to corporate down-sized/workforce reduced mom, to unemployed/full-time mom, to entrepreneur work from home mom. Thank you.

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theloneranger | July 31, 2010 at 3:54 p.m. (report)

Well said! Having done the stay at home route, then helping my ex through medical school... you never think of the ramifications of putting your career on hold. My advice to new moms now - either keep working or keep taking classes.

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