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September 2009

The Curse of Too Many Blessings

Sep 26, 2009 2:37 PM
Jane Thompson

It seems to me that it is really hard to be a working mom. Of course we are lucky to have jobs, and of course we are lucky to have kids, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to manage the whole damn mess. I have just finished writing a book on this, Resilient Woman: Weaving Together Work, Family and Self in the Twenty-First Century. While I keep working on getting the book out, I thought I would start this blog.

I don’t know about you, but I usually feel better when I know why something is happening to me and how it's going to affect me in the future. I woke up yesterday with a funny tingling in the fingertips of one hand. If I recall that I slept with that hand in an odd position, I will probably conclude it will go away in a few hours, and not think about it again. If I think it might be the precursor to a possibly fatal nerve disorder that will just get worse and worse until it kills me, I feel a little different.

I think women are in the same kind of bind when they have children and go back to work. You love your kids and you may even love your job, but there are lots of things about having them both that make you feel just awful. It’s terrible when your child cries when you drop her at daycare. It’s hideous when you discover a less brilliant colleague was promoted while you were on leave. It’s very uncomfortable the first time your boss asks you to stay late to work on an important assignment, but you have to leave to pick up the baby. And when your child gets sick on the day of a big presentation? Don’t get me started.

The book explores all the different forces in history and society that have brought us to this point, where we are finally able to have careers and have children, but also looks at all those things that mean it is still really hard to manage both. And of course, it makes a few suggestions to help you make your way through these tricky times. This blog will talk about all of those things, but will also look at things in the news and popular culture that have something to do with the state of working mothers today.

By the way, when I say working moms, I mean that in the broadest possible sense. Of course all moms work, very hard, including those mothers who are at home full-time. But I am really interested in the way women manage to move between the work someone pays them to do, apart from their children, and the work that no one pays them to do, caring for their children. Some women move back and forth between those two worlds every day. Some women work for pay part-time. Some women move out of paid work for months or even for a few years, to look after their kids. But most women worked before their children arrived in their lives, and most will work again later on. And including both of those worlds in our lives and moving back and forth between them is both a blessing and a curse. I think it’s a challenge worth meeting, and finding better ways to help women manage that challenge fascinates me more than anything else on Earth.

Jane Thompson

Founder, ResilientWoman.com

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