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Entries in working mothers (6)


{Book Review} Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All

It's a discussion we have often here at Salt & Nectar. How do moms of all types (and dads) find more balance at work and at home?

Authors and working moms Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober tackle this eternal debate in their book Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All. What struck me from the first chapter of this book is that both Meers and Strober approach this discussion with a really holistic vision. They spend a lot of time establishing that working parents who are happy at home and happy at work benefit everyone - the mom, the dad, the kids, the boss. 

From this vantage point, the emphasis is no longer on the moms and the changes they need to make. (Can I get an amen to that!?!) In fact, the authors address in great detail the importance of having an involved and active spouse who doesn't let mom to become the CEO of the house.

Of course, this suggestion isn't new. Many books talk about equal partnerships in marriage to create more peace and balance in a home. However, Meers and Strober go beyond advice with real tips and tricks to make your marriage 50/50 before baby and once the kids have arrived.

One particular insight affected me, which is surprising considering just how much time I've spent thinking and writing about this topic. The authors make the incredibly valid point that it's not enough to focus on your perceptions of your role as a mother or even what your husband sees as your role. What is also important is understanding how you perceive your spouse's role in the home and at work. 

The challenge is what wives and husbands believe about each other. 

I have spent so much time thinking about my role as a mother. It never occured to me that I need to have some honest self-reflection on how I viewed Nicholas's role as a father. Do I keep him from comforting because I think fathers are more for encouragement and motivation? Do I let him rough house instead of discipline because I see fathers as playmates?

I'm not sure of the answers but this book definitely helped me to ask the questions.

If you'd love to read an excerpt on why no one wins when mom feels guilty, click here

Getting to 50/50 Book Giveaway

We're giving away a copy of the Getting to 50/50. Simply leave a comment telling us what you do to get to 50/50 by this Friday, November 22nd at 12:00 PM PST. We'll pick a winner at random (must be within in U.S.) and send you the book!

All opinions expressed are our own. We were only provided a digital copy of the book for review purposes. 

~ Sarah Stewart Holland




Sarah's Favorite Things

Image by Elizabeth Antonia of the littlest.

Elizabeth Antonia of the littlest created a beautiful ongoing series looking at parenthood/childhood month by month starting at birth.

An ode to siblings (and a good case for making babies).

Chic but pretty cheap sunglasses

I could wear this everyday (and the fashion police wouldn’t cite me for public display of pajamas). 

Work v. Family: When will corporate America see the light?

Slumber party, anyone?

I like thinking of goal getting as an art.

~ The Other Sarah


The Mommy Accords: Going from Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Mom

At first they said it wouldn’t happen. Then they said it would never last.

Yet here I am, one year after submitting my resignation to the corporate America and I’m still loving life as a stay-at-home mom.  

After working for 13 years at the same medical clinic, first as a receptionist, then later the Assistant Administrator, then ultimately as the Practice Administrator, I honestly never imagined I’d quit my job career. I loved it. I hired many of the 50+ employees and they were family to me. I worked very hard to make the clinic a place where patients could obtain care every day of the year. I took pride in being able to interview a skeptical physician who couldn’t picture himself working on weekends (hadn’t done that since residency after all), and turning him into a physician employee who championed patient access above all else. My husband and I even bought our house within one mile of the clinic so we’d be close to our jobs. Forever. Healthcare wasn’t just my job; it was my passion.

Then things changed. After a long and trying journey, I finally got pregnant (yeah!). Similarly, after a long and trying journey, Congress passed Health Insurance reform. Politics aside, the reality became that smaller, independent clinics are a thing of the past and ultimately must join with larger hospital systems in order to continue accepting Medicare patients. Between the birth of my son and the inevitable changes to health care delivery, I gave serious consideration to my future. 

It was very difficult for me to even consider quitting my job. In fact, I lost nearly 10 pounds in the two weeks leading up to my resignation (I played the noticeable weight loss off as finally having “gotten serious about losing the baby weight”). As the director of the largest Family Practice clinic in Southwest IL, I had become very involved in the community. I routinely attended political, educational and business forums. Even with an 18-month old son at home, I spent a few nights a week outside the home at various events related to my job as well as my position on a local Board of Directors. 

My point is, I always considered myself a working professional and never a stay at home mom. Other people viewed me that way, too. So when circumstances changed and I began wanting to stay home, I feared the reactions of others. People who had helped me achieve professional success-- what would they think? I can handle a lot of things, but disappointing others ranks among the top on my list of things I strive to avoid. The achiever in me doesn’t allow that. 

Ultimately, though, my fear of disappointing my son overwhelmed me. Work had changed so much for me (due to a corporate transition) that even when I was at home, I wasn’t present. I wasn’t fun. Ryan and Craig weren’t enjoying my company. That realization sealed the deal for me. After that, the decision was easy to make. 

I’ll always remember my 32rd birthday as the day I left corporate America; that’s the day I resigned. Five weeks later, I walked out the clinic door and haven’t looked back. 

No one is more surprised than me at how much I enjoy being home. My Type-A to-do-list personality excels at home just as much as it did in the office. The day-to-day rewards others seek through employment are evident everyday in my life as a mom. 

Something I’m very proud of throughout this transition from professional laborer to SAHM is that I’ve seemed to maintain the same level of respect from others; in some cases, I even sense more reverence. If I’m being honest, I feared that others would view me much differently as a SAHM, and not in a good way. I envisioned whispers of “I can’t believe she’s only going to stay at home” or “such a waste of talent.” I thought conversations would revolve solely around childhood developmental milestones and the surprisingly variable shades and consistency of baby poop.  

The reality couldn’t be more different. People, while still kindly asking how my little guy is doing, engage me just as fully as they previously did. In fact, conversations now involve more than just healthcare. Maybe as an employed professional, others limited their interactions with me to mainly medically related topics. The flood gates have opened and now no discussion point is off-topic. 

Case in point: a local school district was asked to invite two community leaders to represent them at an intense retreat aimed at tackling the budget deficit facing our schools. I’ve been told I was the first person they called (the other community leader, as it turns out, was a project manager for a Fortune-500 company in St. Louis). 

My first thought was, “don’t they know I’m just a stay-at-home mom?” 

Apparently that doesn’t matter much to them. I’m still respected as a bright, effective, contributing member of society. 

What I can’t figure out is: was the stigma shattered years ago and it was my own perception of SAHM moms that feared my social demise? Or, does some stigma still exist and in my own way, I’ve (inadvertently) advanced social perceptions of the unemployed domestic engineer? 

To those who ask, I always recommend making the change to SAHM if it’s within their family’s ability. We’ve made changes to accommodate the decreased income, but the satisfaction and happiness we have is worth every material sacrifice. The other night at a social outing, a friend told me that I look like I’d lost weight. When I assured her I haven’t (trust me on this), she commented that maybe I look thinner because I’m so happy. “But I’m always happy,” I said. Her response? “I know. Yet you’re somehow happier than I’ve ever seen you.” 

~ Jessica Lotz lives just outside St. Louis, MO with her husband and 2 year old son but rarely cross the mighty Mississippi River into the city. Her family completes her life, but NFL football and traveling fill in the gaps nicely. She is married to a clinical psychologist and doesn't own an iPhone nor is she on Facebook. Judge accordingly.


The Mommy Accords: Are Working Mothers Bad for Kids?

As reported in Café Mom, recent research claims that children with two working parents are at a disadvantage compared to those with a stay-at-home parent—increased chances of obesity, misbehavior, and health problems are in their destiny if you work from 9 to 5 during the formative years. Is this outlook bleak and misdirected, like it's just another way to malign mothers and make them feel more guilty than they already do? Or do you think there's validity in the study? Perhaps the proof is in the pudding, the kids themselves. As daughters of working mothers, who have worked as mothers, we can say that we turned out better than well and lived to tell about. 

Sarah Stewart Holland shares....

Growing up I didn't have a single friend whose mother stayed home. Every mother I knew growing up was a teacher, except one who was a beautician. My own mother stayed home with me until I was 18 months old and then returned to her job at Highway Department where she worked as a secretary. After my parents' divorce, she returned to school and became a high school librarian.
During elementary school, we lived next door to a family with two young girls whose mother was home in the mornings and afternoons. As a latch key kid, I would go over in the mornings to wait for the bus. She would serve us Pop-Tarts cut in half with butter on top. I still remember being jealous of my friends and wishing my mom was home in the mornings for breakfast. I always felt awkward in their home and knew that I was walking a precarious road paved with the mother's generosity. Perhaps I picked up on my own mother's guilt and her constant admonishments to behave while I was at their house and not to stay too long.
Of course, once she became a librarian, there was never a time I was home that she was not. I never felt deprived or missed parental involvement. Mainly because I knew no other way. It wasn't until I went to college that I began to realize there was another way. Several of my close friends had mothers who stayed home. Most of these friends came from wealthy families and I began to associate that choice with wealth itself.
Still, I never saw staying home as an option for myself. Not only had I grown up with a working mother - surrounded by working mother - but it was practically written in my DNA. The women in my family worked. Period. My great-grandmother and grandmother had returned to work after their children were grown but it always seemed to me that work had brought them so much happiness. They never spoke of their years at home with longing, instead it was merely relief that that time was over.
I had always thought I would stay-at-home for around a year and a half like my mother. When we first moved to Paducah, I immediately got Griffin on the waiting list at a local daycare in the belief that I would return to work after he was born. And in a way I did, I began studying for the Bar when he was only two weeks old. Believe me, that is a job. Once I took the Bar in July, there was only six months in which my only role was a stay-at-home mom.
By January, I had taken a job teaching part-time at the college and started Salt & Nectar. Still, all of my jobs add up to barely part-time hours and those hours are extremely flexible. I know most people (including perhaps my own mother) see me primarily as a stay-at-home mom. I wonder sometimes how her and my grandmother view my decision. After all their emphasis on independence and financial freedom, do they wonder how they raised a woman who depends on her husband's salary to live?
I don't know. What I do know is that when I needed my mom she was there. All I can hope is that when my children are grown, they can say the same thing. 

The Other Sarah remembers...

A mother who worked full-time, but was always available.

During the early years of my life, my mom stayed at home and volunteered for a local assistance league. When my parents separated (I was 3 years old) and later divorced, my mom returned to work. For most of my childhood she worked as a visual resources curator for the art department of a state university. 

I always assumed I would work, not because I had a working parent, but because I loved school, learning, and the thrill of mastering things. So, the idea of being a career woman (whatever that meant to me then...I don't know) seemed a natural extension of what I loved.

Of course, it didn't hurt that I was surrounded by women who pursued all walks of work whether it was stay-at-home, work-at-home, work-out-of-the-home, or any combination thereof. And they were all supportive of each other and fantastic role models for the daughters. While I can't truly comment on whether they were stressed, dissatisfied, or felt limited in their choices (I'm sure there were moments where they felt off balance and it was difficult), to a growing girl they seemed fulfilled and grateful for their lives. And even though they were products of the feminist movement, there didn't seem to be any ongoing or underlying feelings of resentment, questioning, or us versus them mentality. It was all good. And this perceived sense of satisfaction with life in general translated to a sense of security which in turn always made me feel my choices would be supported.

Was my mom at every major event? Yes. Did she always pick me up from the bus stop? There was a time I had to climb through the doggie door because she was late. And I did get a key to the house at an early-ish age to let myself in after school. Did we have homecooked meals each night throughout high school? No. I think there was year I ate a lot of Burger King. But I quite liked the Whopper. Did I die, end up in prison, or feel cheated because my parents weren't present at every moment? Absolutely not. I think seeing my mom work, as well as having my own breathing space as a child inspired my independence and self-confidence. Similarly, having to spend time with others in their own homes, taught me to be adaptable and showed me that there were different ways to live and unique family routines than our own.

As an adult, I think that what made the difference is that all the women and caretakers in my life—my babysitters, my friends' moms who watched me after school, and my mom—loved me. If you're nurtured by those close to you—even it's with the help of the village—I suspect things turn out pretty good in the end. And it really doesn't hinge on if/when your mother works.


The Mommy Accords

The Mommy Wars—stay-at-home moms vs. working moms in a fight to the finish over which decision is best. According to many a front page feature, this is the only topic of conversation between modern moms. Well, due to a recent (and exciting!) career change, the modern moms of Salt & Nectar have found ourselves on both sides of the battlefield with stay-at-home mom in Kentucky and a working mom in California. There’s only one small problem.

We’re not fighting.

What we are doing is talking (a lot) about the good, the bad, and the ugly of each of our roles and we wanted to do the same with you. We call it The Mommy Accord and the premise is simple. We will each respond openly and honestly to a prompt from each of our unique perspectives. No guessing what the other “side” is feeling or apologizing if our choices offend someone else. There won’t be any controversial covers or screaming headlines, only a stay-at-home mom and a working mom talking to each other – and all of you – about their lives.

What I love about being a…

...stay-at-home mom.

I recently read a brilliant and touching commencement speech by Patti Digh entitled The Geography of Verbs. At the beginning of the speech, Ms. Digh tells the story of a touching moment from The Oprah Winfrey Show that (not surprisingly) I remember very well. During a show on grief, Oprah interviewed Kate Collinger, a young girl who had recently lost her mother to cancer. Oprah asked Kate her favorite memory of her mother. Despite the family taking big vacations and trips to Disneyland, Kate recalled a bowl of Cheerios she had shared with her mother in the middle of the night.

In her speech, Ms. Digh called them the bowls of Cheerios in your life – quiet moments shared with those you love. As I read her speech, I realized those moments are what I love most about being a stay-at-home mom.

I always imagined the best part of staying home with your children would be witnessing those milestone moments – your child’s first step or first word. Little did I know it’s hard to pinpoint their actual first step or first word – not to mention I’m often too busy trying to document those moments to enjoy them.

No, I love the everyday moments that aren’t unique or momentous: the way Amos’s face lights up when I pick him up from his nap, talking with Griffin over lunch and then playing an impromptu game of Candyland, watching the boys giggle together over a silly made up game.

Feeling the magic of those moments, I know why young Kate enjoyed that middle of the night snack so much. There is an intimacy is sharing the everyday – the mundane– with the people you love most in the world even especially if those people are your children. It transforms something as simple as a bowl of Cheerios into something special.

THAT is what I love about being a stay-at-home mom.

...working mom.

Since becoming a mom, I've worked full-time at a law firm, then stayed at home to care for my son, followed by working at home as a Jane of All Trades and consultant, next as a part-time attorney, and now as a full-time employee at a start up company. Needless to say, my work has taken many forms in the past three years. And throughout it all, I realized that I loved (and sometimes missed) the collaborative process of working with my peers.

I was especially aware of this once my son started school. Staying at home alone, without my Little Dude to spend my day with, sometimes proved isolating and uninspiring. So, I've enjoyed returning to an environment where there is a lot of creative energy and passion generated by working with a team. I really love sitting down with my colleagues to brainstorm novel social media or editorial content, refining it, creating it, and seeing it come to life. Acting as a contributing member in this larger procress makes me feel productive, energized, and inspired. Plus, it's great to have more social intereaction with adults. How else would I learn about the literary importance of reading 50 Shades of Grey or finding the best dessert spot in town?