- Posted July 30, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Work and motherhood
Supermom: Can career moms have their cake and eat it, too?
Only they seem to be sending mixed messages. Marissa is pregnant (expecting her first child in October) and left the Google giant (net worth pushing $200 billion) to take on the hefty job of turning Yahoo around (net worth $20 billion). She's also the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The world is watching for nothing short of an Apple miracle, and I for one am excited for women that pregnancy is no longer a barrier to positions of power. At least not in the United States.
But there's a chorus of women who are asking, "At what cost?" and . . . "What about the baby?"
Anne-Marie Slaughter essentially asked herself that question 18 months into her job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department. Slaughter realized she could no longer “have it all” and wrote her epiphany in the cover story of the Atlantic Monthly, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." The photo of the baby in a leather briefcase flanked by a skirt and heels caught my attention. Because yes, I can relate.
I came out of full-time motherhood to begin a new career when my third child was barely two. The joke in our home is that when I was working in another state for a month my husband stuck gum in our toddler's mouth every time he asked for Mama. He still loves gum today. It's funny, but it reminds me of the sacrifices we made. Fortunately, I had a husband who was between work assignments and did a super job caring for the children while we sorted out our new lives.
The reality is that most of the jobs out there are created with schedules that don’t accommodate those with care-giving responsibilities. And that can be a real problem. According to one survey of working moms, some of the health-related issues associated with multi-tasking working parents are: higher stress, increased illness, fatigue, depression, anxiety. "A whopping 491 people out of 560 (88%) reported at least one health problem they’ve experienced since becoming a working parent." What did parents ask for to alleviate these symptoms? Flexible schedules, telecommuting, and on-site childcare, among other things.
My career as an editor (and now as a health blogger and Christian Science practitioner) meant I didn't exactly have to choose between work and family. I worked hard that first year to earn a flexible schedule so I could be home in time for the school bus, prepare dinner, and help with homework. I got less sleep, but I found a way to handle my increased responsibilities and stay healthy.
Advancements in technology allowed me to work remotely when I needed to and my iPhone was a game-changer with my work. (Thank you, Steve Jobs.) The elegant interface of Google searches changed my life as an editor, too. (Thank you, Marissa Mayer.) I also had managers who were willing to promote me while knowing that I would continue to put my family first. This made me a better employee and gave me the incentive to give more to my work.
But the biggest game-changer for me is something more and more people are acknowledging: the connection between my mental state and my physical health. When the stress of maxed schedules and multi-tasking began to take its toll, I saw how taking time out to calm my thoughts paid big dividends.
I attribute any success I achieved in my job and the corresponding peace and health of our home to a daily prayer practice. Without a solid place of spiritual comfort to go to--sometimes hourly--I could never have accomplished my job. I got comfort from the simple recognition that there is an infinite intelligence governing my life and giving me the ideas I need to find solutions to daily challenges. And I could rely on this intelligence just as my children rely on me.
When life got crazy and I felt like I was running from one activity to the next, I trained myself to stop and take an inventory of my thoughts. This verse from the Bible summarizes that guidance: “You won’t need to run. No one is chasing you. The Lord will lead and protect you from enemy attacks” (Isaiah 52: 12) To me, the "enemy" was the thought I should expect to be stressed, depressed, or anxious by trying to work and make time for my family. I regained my calm by acknowledging that I was engaged in a selfless activity and that this could only benefit my children and me.
Surprisingly, a University of Maryland study "shows that today's working mothers actually spend slightly more waking hours with their children than at-home mothers did a generation ago."
Perhaps we're more aware now of the time we're spending and the value it has on the health of the family unit.
So is it possible to be Supermom? That's a question each of us needs to answer individually. As Yahoo braces itself for the birth of a new era, I think I'm more interested in its CEO's balancing act with her new family. And I'll be cheering from the cake plate.