I had two calls with fellow business owners this week. Both happened to be male.
In both calls, I found myself relating the tale of how and why I decided to start my own business – and as part of that story, I mentioned my daughter and the desire for flexibility to be able to help with her schooling on her at-home days.
On neither call did the other person mention anything like this. In fact, their kids didn’t come up at all. I only noticed because I’m trying to be more mindful, curious and observant these days.
Once I noticed it, though, it did give me room to ponder. I’m trying to figure out if I need to pull back a bit on talking so openly about balancing family and work, or if men need to talk about it more. What do you think?
Balancing motherhood with work is a struggle I’ve been open and honest about since I started this blog. It has never been easy.
When I was a new, nursing mom I returned to work full-time after an all-too-brief, 12-week maternity leave. I had a big, exciting career and motherhood wasn’t going to change that.
Oh, who was I kidding. Motherhood changed everything. I couldn’t bear to be away from Z. Traveling for work – something which I had always adored – became an almost unbearable agony. I hated being away from her – I still do.
I also hated pumping and dumping, but the logistics of packing my milk on ice and dragging it back through TSA was close to untenable. I only managed that feat a couple of times.
That particular new mom issue is something that working dads simply do not have to contend with – and could certainly be a reason why working moms have such a hard time continuing breastfeeding once maternity leave ends.
Many offices do not have dedicated pumping or nursing rooms, and even those that do can be somewhat weird about it. The firm where I worked when Z was born had a dedicated new mom’s room, but refused to call it that; the company simply wouldn’t take that stand. Even though I and others spent hours in there a week pumping milk, officially, it was just a multi-use room. That always bothered me.
I’m not a new or nursing mom anymore – I’m the seasoned mom of a 10-year-old. So surely, there shouldn’t be any major differences in how parenting shows up for me at work vs. my husband, right?
But it feels like there still are. E is amazingly leaned-in and always quick to offer to take Z to a doctor or dentist appointment, even if it means taking time off work. He once took her with him to a business conference, not unlike the dad in this piece.
Yet he’s not the one tracking school calendars and schedules like a hawk, or figuring out childcare on days when she has no school but we both have work. That has always fallen to me.
As for whether E talks about parenting as much at his work as I do at mine, I don’t know the answer. I’m guessing he might because he’s a super engaged dad. But I’m not sure that all dads talk as much at work about their kids as moms do. My gut says that they probably don’t.
So which is right? Should working moms talk less about their kids and parenting in the office? I’m sure there are some who would say yes.
But maybe, instead, we should normalize ALL parents talking about their kids and families. That way, neither dads nor moms feel odd when they bring up needing time off for childcare, school events or other parenting responsibilities.
It’s crazy to me that our culture pushes parenthood on young people, then expects parents to be all business while in the office. The simple truth is that parenting changes most people. Parenting takes up a lot of our time and energy, both outside of work and, occasionally, within work hours. It’s only natural that the topic should flow into our office conversations as well.
If you have thoughts about the lines between parenting and work – lines which have become even more blurry in 2020 thanks to so many of us working from home – I’d love to hear them in the comments below or over on Facebook.