Tag Archives: Working mom

If I see one more irresponsible gender wage gap article, I’ll scream!

Link: These are the 30 office jobs with the biggest gender pay gaps

The link above is from Business Insider, but there are a ton more totally superficial, uninformed, and infuriating articles like it. (And from reputable sources. See Fortune, and USA Today, and Washington Post.)

Is there a reduction in income when women take time off to have kids? Sure! No one (I hope) debates that. But I’m not sure it’s such an awful thing. Articles use words with negative connotations, like motherhood “penalty” or “tax” to describe it, and some articles and organizations promote the idea that adjustments should be made to make up for the lost income. I don’t agree. If someone is paid appropriately for valuable contributions in a job, and that person takes time off and gives up experience and opportunity to do something else, I would not expect that person to be paid equally upon return to the work force. Simply put: value in = pay out.

Many oversimplify the issue by pointing to the woman who took five years off to raise kids and not work professionally at all during that time (which by the way, is probably rarer these days than people think given the economy and what it costs to raise a family). However, I think a large part of the gender wage gap explanation that isn’t discussed is about the woman simply choosing to work more flexibly (off hours, fewer hours) which translates to less pay. And that’s OK. I’m not sure that’s a “problem” that needs to be “fixed” as many (including President Obama in his State of the Union speech) argue.

Put it this way: If you asked me whether I would prefer (a) a job that will always pay exactly what my male colleagues get for valuable contributions but allows very little flexibility, or (b) a job that will pay for my valuable contributions but gives me all the flexibility I want, I will pick (b) every time. And I bet if you asked around, most women – especially moms – would do the same. And they do.

Gaps in pay are generally attributable to some common-sense factors, and these include things like experience, skills, educational background, standard of living where the job is, and risks involved with the job (hazard pay).

Beyond these factors, however, there is one other that helps to explain the gender wage gap that these frustrating articles never talk about: gender wage differences exist in jobs with the highest degree of what Claudia Goldin out of Harvard calls “temporal flexibility” – jobs in which women can control their hours more, still do valuable but scaled back work, opt out of certain traditional office hours in order to work off-line earlier or later, and so on. Goldin found that a lot of professional jobs where the wage gap exists do, in fact, allow for people to run individual practices or otherwise be self-employed, and it is in those types of professions where that temporal flexibility exists.

Here is a great interview with Goldin from Marketplace’s Freakonomics series:

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-true-story-of-the-gender-pay-gap-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

The temporal flexibility concept is very hard to control for in studies and analytics because (1) the data collection systems do not account for it, and (2) it is difficult to define appropriate proxies in the existing data to try to account for it. Really, all I would like to see is the mere mention of this very real factor in the reporting of the “flat” income numbers that are thrown out by the media all the time!

 

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Mommy Wars to the extreme

In Germany, the Mommy Wars are taking a turn for the worst.

Regretting motherhood’ debate rages in Germany

When the societal pressure to keep up a ridiculous standard of motherhood, in large part defined by men who are biologically incapable of having children, becomes the norm, something just isn’t right.

The notion that children’s well-being depends on their mothers and not on the society around them or their fathers, is deeply entrenched in Germany and creates real obstacles to women’s careers. … A mother who returns to the office without taking maternity leave for a year — or often three — opens herself up to being branded a “Rabenmutter” (raven mother) — women who dump their kids in childcare so they can pursue their personal goals.

Women regretting having children because they feel they can’t do it the way they see fit? It’s a sad day.

 

Patience when on the road with inexperienced travelers

I travel for business. I have my TSA pre-check, my second set of toiletries that I just throw into a bag and go, my favored car service to and from the airport, etc. It is a beautiful thing, being prepared and having this travel thing down to a science.

And tomorrow, I will be traveling with a husband who only travels occasionally for vacation, and a 3-year-old. I’m already feeling my impatience pulsing through my veins, and we’re not even packed yet!

I’m trying to internalize the fact that a business trip is fundamentally different than a family trip, even the getting-there and coming-back parts.

No: priding myself on how closely in time I can make it to the gate before actual boarding occurs.
Yes: leaving enough time for the toddler to walk slowly and explore all the parts of the airport she will inevitably like to see.

No: throwing some travel-friendly stuff into a bag, and voila! Done.
Yes: thinking about kid gear, and helping my husband remember some things that infrequent travelers might be prone to forget.

No: zipping through the priority security lane.
Yes: going through the regular lane as a family.

That last one is a heartbreaker, but it’s important to my husband. I get it.

Patience, patience, patience!

How my business thinking (and talking) changed between ages 30 and 40

30: I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I agree.
40: I don’t agree with you.

30: I should change what I’m doing because of their feedback.
40: I considered the feedback and will change only the parts I need to.

30: I should do it his way.
40: I’m going to do it my way because I think it will be more effective. If he doesn’t like it, T.S. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

30: If I make the wrong decision, I’m done for.
40: If I make the wrong decision, I have a plan to course-correct.

30: I’ve got to figure all of this out on my own to prove I’ve got the chops.
40: I’ve mastered what I know, and I’m aware of my blind spots. I’m going to stop wasting time and instead talk to people more informed.

30: I have to dress very formally and conservatively to be taken seriously.
40: I can combine professionalism and style and feel great.

30: I’m in competition with so-and-so.
40: My work will speak for itself.

30: I wonder what my boss will think of me.
40: I wonder what my daughter will think of me.

Have any to add? Share in comments!

Coming into the light

I went through a dark time a few months ago where I felt like my kid needed 50% of me, my husband needed another 50%, my job needed its 50%, my other family and friends needed 50%… so I was either doing fantastically at a few aspects of my life and failing miserably at everything else, or I was failing at everything at once.

Also, notice how there was not a percentage of demands made for myself. Every day, I made choices to sacrifice my own sleep, emotional and mental well-being, diet, exercise – forget about fun and relaxation, ha! – for someone or something else. I went days and days without a chunk of time for myself – or, if I did have a moment to myself, it was clouded with guilt and indecision.

And people from different aspects of my life were not kind. I was told how I was failing and in what ways. People disappeared from my life instead of hanging in there. More importantly, I got no offers of help. Maybe it’s because I tried to shield people from how hard it was for me.

These conditions resulted in occasional emotional blow-outs to my loved ones or having to take mental health days from work with no notice to my colleagues because I. Just. Can’t. Take. It. Anymore!

Then, something happened. I started to communicate what I needed. (I’ll be honest, I did not often do it in the most eloquent of ways – yelling and breakdowns and tears don’t often fall into the category of optimal communication in my opinion, but if I’m at least stating my needs through it all, I say: whatever works.)

I’ve read that one should push through the inconvenience, the discomfort, the conflict of communicating your needs (should I say, especially women?) in order to realize balance in life, but I couldn’t, I just couldn’t… until I had no choice to do so because the alternative – the status quo – hit such a level of unacceptable that there was nothing else to do.

Was it inconvenient, uncomfortable, and conflict-generating? HELL YEAH IT WAS. And on the other side, I have the support of a loving husband, a happily dancing-tantrumming-singing-tantrumming-laughing child, more respect in the work place and among clients, and sleep.

Y’all, I said I’m getting some sleeeeeep.

Who knows how long it will last? Life will throw another curve at me, boy do I know it, but I will relish what I can for now. And if I need something from you, you’ll hear about it.

 

Forget about having it all. I would rather not have to DO it all.

Oh yeah, I have a blog. All of those good intentions to create a thoughtful space for executive moms juggling various aspects of life was put on the back burner in favor of keeping some measure of SANITY.

The past year has been hell, I’ll be honest. And not for any particular reason. On paper (read: Facebook), everything is fine. We celebrate birthdays, we see friends and family, we work, we even go on vacation. And you know what? It’s sucking the very life out of me.

Here’s the breakdown for me of what the time requirements FEEL like in a given week – maybe it looks familiar to anyone else out there?

  • Child = 30%
  • Husband = 20%
  • Work = 40%
  • Friends and extended family = 10%
  • Chores, errands = 20%
  • Sleep = 5%

You don’t have to be an executive to figure out that adding up to 100% is a complete figment of the imagination. Things haven’t felt manageable within the context of a 100% ceiling in a long time.

Instead, I have been working tirelessly to impossibly squeeze a 9 inch pie into a single, wee cupcake liner. As a result, two things have happened:

  1. The feeling of failure is my constant companion. Either I am not excelling in any area because I’m spread so goddamn thin, or I’m excelling in one area at the horrible expense of another.
  2. My sense of self is completely eclipsed by my sense of duty and responsibility to all other parties. (Ah! Maybe some of you noticed that “Me” didn’t make the bulleted list above.)

I felt like a drawing slowing being erased. My identity as a PERSON with my own interests, needs, wants, and experiences was being totally wiped out.

So I did something about it. I started taking steps to take care of myself. Here are some things I did in the last 4 months or so:

  • Became a member of a spa near my work
  • Joined a weight loss program
  • Bought art supplies for painting
  • Invested in individual therapy sessions

And you know what? I wish I could say that things have been going well. But the reality is, they haven’t at all. As a result of trying to focus on me, my marriage has suffered greatly, my child sometimes feels neglected and acts out (and I don’t feel as close to her), my numbers at work aren’t as great at last year, the art supplies are sitting there collecting dust, my therapy sessions have gone sideways because maybe the therapist is not a great match for me, and the weight loss program has been only nominally successful but significantly burdensome.

It’s not all bad. I have had a massage or two at the spa. And I have lost some weight. And I went to a couple of totally unsatisfactory, one-time painting “classes” where I produced pieces that I was going to trash if not for my friend insisting she could find someone else who would take them.

Is this progress? Is this being successful? Is this acceptable?

From here, we can pivot to discussing getting support to change and make a real and lasting difference in the life of working women and working moms – support from spouses, friends or extended family or the community, more flexible work environments, and dealing with the sometimes latent, but nevertheless lingering sexism that EXPECTS women to do it all, or that it’s just the woman’s problem to figure out and manage.

… But that’s another post.

 

Vacation that isn’t a vacation.

My husband went to LA for a week to visit family and old friends. He’s managed a major recent move for the family, has watched our little girl day in and day out with few breaks – he needed a vacation away!

So I decided to take a staycation – I took the same week off of work to care of our little one and relax. What a delightful prospect!

But: OH MY GOD. YOU STAY AT HOME PARENTS ARE OUT OF YOUR MINDS.

How do you do it?? I barely catch my breath running around after the little one during “down” time (ha!), and then it’s time to do something else. I don’t feel I can ever catch up. And the house was totally ignored. How does my husband manage to keep our daughter clean, fed, well-rested, and engaged (well, ok, maybe a little lax on the clean), AND also keep the house as immaculate as he does?

I think our plants are on their last legs from lack of water.

Our backyard is brownish rather than greenish.

The trash and recycling trucks come by once a week, but they will have two week’s worth the next time because I forgot to put the bins out.

Dusting? Ha!

Vacuuming? Hahaha!

Dishes? BWAAAAHAHA!

I was so stir crazy and lonely at the house earlier in the week that my daughter and I ended up doing wonderful day trips later in the week, but it was still a tremendous effort – the planning and packing, the mini tantrums while we were out, the fatigue – oh, the fatigue!

And SAHP do it all the time.

It’s Monday. I had a client meeting so early that I had to leave the house at 6:15 AM. And I was bright eyed and excited to go to WORK! Hooray for work!!