The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Dec 9, 2009

The Truth About Balancing Children and Career

If the wealthy have that much difficulty, with all their "help", how indeed, do the common folk do it? We no longer live next to family. Those that I know that have family, have active participating parents in their lives, if not actually in their homes, helping care for kids while the parents work. We have 5 and we do it on our own and it's an incredible amount of work. I am thankful during the period of unemployment so one of us can concentrate 100% on home & children. It's a blessing for now.

MSN Article:

Recently, many in the media and wOwosphere have been debating whether a mom with young children has any business having a demanding job. Some say it delegates the responsibility of raising the children to other people; others have argued that it actually ends up benefiting the kids, who in turn are more independent.

What is the truth about the difficulties of balancing children and career? What are the true sacrifices? Rewards? What lessons have you learned? What would you do differently? What worked? What is your advice for women going down this path?

Candice Bergen: OK. At the risk of being politically incorrect, I think if you are going to commit to the decision to have a child, you owe that child your best. And I think the old saying "Quality time is better than quantity time" is a self-justifying adage that over-worked women use to assuage their guilt. A guilt I think is valid.

When I was doing "Murphy" and my daughter was little, I would do nothing else but her and the show. Take her to school, drive carpool, put her to bed (which took hours), take her everywhere on weekends. Sometimes just the two of us would go to Santa Barbara, or Carmel. Dates, we'd call them. The night she got chicken pox, thank God, I was with her and we sat up all night, watching movies, giving her baths in Aveeno. I went to work the next day exhausted, but thank God I was there when she needed me.

With work roles changing so drastically over the years, I think women's options have expanded while children pay the price. I was there for my daughter as much as possible. This was selfish on my part. It was where I wanted to be. But I was raised in a time when parents put their kids in the trust of nannies, and I didn't bond with my mother till very late in my life. I was always envious of caricatures of warm, close, tumbling families. Italian families. Jewish families. Unafraid to express their feeling.

I always made a point of showing and telling my daughter that she was the love of my life and I think she benefitted from that. Obviously I made huge mistakes. And there were times I wasn't there when I should have been. But not many. I do not think you can have it all without someone paying the price and that shouldn't be your child. I do think we can have A LOT, and I am grateful for that. And I didn't work till my daughter was four (and then because my husband and friends pointed out that I was getting nuts just being with my child). So it's delicate. And of course there's a balance. But she always came out on top. She always will.

Whoopi Goldberg: The truth is it is very hard to balance career and family. If you have money, of course it's easier. But it doesn't compensate for birthdays, graduations and the like. If you don't have money it is incredibly hard and you are constantly worried that you can't cover whatever costs you have. The truth also is that each family is different and it may be easy for some, except for the guilt of not fitting the perfect mother pattern.

Mary Wells: I had two daughters while I was working around the world, flying home weekends. I didn't worry about it. I took them everywhere I went when I could and when I married my husband, Harding, he involved them in everything he could. They grew up flying Braniff, my husband's Dallas airline, with the Dallas Cowboys, and are still such fans they fly to at least one game a year. They sometimes grumbled that their weekend house was in France while their friends' weekend houses were just a hop someplace but they grew up speaking French and one married a French man. My mother was their guardian angel as well as my own but my girls and I have been together on the same wave. I can't imagine two women I admire more. They, too, have two children each – great joys – and work very hard and long hours in their own ways.

Everybody has problems sometimes. Everybody has confusions and misunderstandings and hurts and furies. We had our share. But we loved each other deeply. There was never any doubt between my girls and I know that. And that mutual love got us through our share.

There are small moments I regret but would have trouble remembering. They are my greatest gift in life. Recently when I told my daughter that I love her she said, "I know you do, mom." So good. And recently, sitting in a car between the two of them I had a feeling of stunning satisfaction. I couldn't get that any other way, I know. I'm lucky.

They're lucky. We are meant for each other. There was no mistake.

Liz Smith: I am definitely a working kind of woman, always have been, since age 16. Married several times, I have never been gifted with children–However, all of my friends have children and I am the active godmother to at least one little boy in Manhattan.

So even though I only "have charge" of him sporadically, I just puzzle and wonder how women everywhere do it. His mother is one of the hardest-working women I've ever met and also one of the best mothers I've ever seen. But, look, does the average woman actually have any choice?

Most of the women I know are wage earners and always have been. Most women feel they "have" to work nowadays to get by. The stay-at-home women of my mother's "housekeeping" era are now rare. Today, the women I know who don't work and have children are usually married to big money-making guys. They can pick and choose, hire multiple nannies and help.

The lesson I've learned in making a choice between my godchild and my work is – he has to come first. This sometimes makes for sacrifices and hard choices. But children are very sophisticated these days and quite adept at understanding mom's problems and making their own adjustments. Honestly, I don't think it's much different from when my mother opened the screen door in Texas and let us out to go our own way in the summer. We never checked in back home until suppertime. Nobody suffered and we all survived and loved each other.

When a woman has inordinate work responsibilities, plus a lot of children to worry about, I am sure I don't know how she pulls it off. (Women who don't believe in birth control have to make huge adjustments and sacrifices.) With kids and work, I am certain that a woman almost always feels somehow the child is getting slighted. I know I can never "be there" enough for my little boy; I can never come up to his own mom, I am always checking my shortcomings and trying to do better for him.

So maybe that's all there is to it. I don't presume to give advice to real mothers. You just have to do the best you can if you "want it all" and most of us do "want it all."

Joan Cooney: I did the kids and career thing in stages. During my first marriage when I was building my career, I had no children. My husband was a virtually disabled alcoholic during the later years of my marriage so there was a lot of balancing, trying to run a company, travel to business meetings and cope with him. In my second marriage, I inherited five stepchildren, the youngest two of whom divided their time between their mother and father. By then I was at the peak of my career which made it a lot easier than it would have been for a woman at an earlier stage because by then I could control the amount of travel I did (as little as possible) and I could make my hours somewhat more flexible than when I was younger.

On the other hand, I didn't have the children full-time (I used to say that God actually intended for there to be two mothers so when one got sick of the kids, the other took over) and they weren't very young (nine and 14 in the beginning). My stepdaughter who eventually became my rock was hostile to me underneath a veneer of pleasantness, and my youngest stepchild, Michael, was and is one of the great loves of my life. It broke my heart when he went to boarding school in his sophomore year of high school but we remain closer than ever. I was continually distracted on the job and decided at 60 to step down as CEO of my company and become Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board. Maybe I grew up in the wrong generation but I found it very difficult to have a demanding marriage, career and children. I don't think I'd do anything differently except I wish I'd been more relaxed about it all, but I was very anxious trying to do everything well at work and home, and be available to husband and children. Having it all ain't a walk in the park.

Judith Martin: I have been answering these very questions for more than 40 years. During that time, there was a great wave of feminism, and middle-class mothers entered the work force in large numbers. (That poor mothers have always worked is usually overlooked.) Wouldn't you think that conditions might have changed just a little?

Then, as now, the working world was designed for people with no personal responsibilities, which originally meant men whose wives ran the entire domestic side of life for them. So both were short-changed: the mothers, who did unrelieved child-care during the years that they might have been building careers and were considered unemployable when the children had grown; and the fathers, who had little time to develop close relationships with their growing children. If anything, the work place is now worse, with ersatz socializing after hours and constant technological availability expected in many jobs. And then, as now, women who take care of their own children full-time were venerated but offered no help, while women who did it professionally were given little money and less respect.

Individual women must still cobble together whatever arrangements we can. I had a full-time job, a well-run house and two children who had plenty of time with un-frazzled parents and round-the-clock loving adult care. But when I was asked how I "juggled" (sometimes with admiration but more often with suspicion), I had to dispel the idea that it was because I was a clever little super-charged manager.

It took four of us adults living in the house and dividing our time between regular jobs and home: myself, my husband, our housekeeper and her husband. They were a child-loving but childless couple with whom we have had a lifetime relationship. (My daughter's fiancé is aware that their engagement is provisional until our next trip to North Carolina, when he can ask approval from our housekeeper's widower, 96 years old and living in retirement on the farm he now owns, where his parents had been sharecroppers.)

A rich couple's solution? When the children were young, we were living on one government salary and one journalism salary, which was not only pitiful in those days, but adjusted down for women. Most of it went into paying decent wages and benefits, the first our housekeeper had ever heard of – let alone received – paid sick leave and vacation and a retirement pension.

Why can such an arrangement hardly be found at any price? People who envied us often asked if our employees could find them anyone equally warm, reliable, intelligent, hard-working and devoted. But when I inquired about the salary that would be offered, the reply was always the same: "What's the minimum wage now?"

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