'You Can Have it All, Just Not at the Same Time'
A humorous look at a recent panel discussion on working mothers.
Last week was a doozie. I had two writing assignments due, three volunteer commitments at my son’s school, and two doctor appointments I couldn’t miss (because there is nothing I would rather do than hang around a freezing exam room for an hour in one of those breezy hospital gowns, hoping someone would come and smash my breast between two ice cold pieces of glass.)
Amid this hectic week, I moderated a panel discussion called “How Does She Do It? A Symposium for Working Moms” at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
There were four mothers on the panel, all of them self-employed or with flexible schedules and understanding employers—otherwise, how could they be on a panel at 10 a.m. on a weekday?
The panel discussion was billed as a venue to explore balancing work and children. The room was crowded with eager moms hoping to find the secret of having it all—a happy family, a nurturing home, and a satisfying and lucrative career, all without sacrificing anything. After all the moms on the panel stopped laughing at this idea, the conversation got started.
The panel revealed a few basics that make working and having a family possible. Perhaps most important are a passion for their work, a strong support system (generally a combination of family, community and paid help), and a powerful microwave oven.
Every panelist mentioned that she often worked long, odd hours to complete assignments at work, but each said she wouldn’t give it up. Working outside the home is rewarding and stimulating. It contributes to a woman’s worth not just monetarily, but emotionally as well.
During the discussion, one audience member complained that government and society need to do more to help women get into and stay in the work force. Taking off on this idea, I asked panelist Missy Carr, self-employed owner of GoFish, if she thinks working mothers make more compromises than working fathers.
“Of course,” Missy replied. “Next question.”
She’s right. When was the last time you saw a symposium called “How Does HE Do It?”
“When my husband disappears to play golf on Saturday morning, none of his friends ask who is watching the kids,” concluded Missy. Even with great life partners, mothers often shoulder much of the parenting responsibility.
The wide-ranging discussion lasted for an hour and a half. The conclusion reached by a room full of educated, intelligent, ambitious women with a strong command of their life choices was: It’s really hard.
As one panelist put it: “You can have it all—just not all at the same time.”