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When Are Working Moms Going to Get Respect?

When Are Working Moms Going to Get Respect?

Brittany E. Hudson | Excelle

May 28, 2008

My columns are not for the faint-hearted and weak-stomached. In fact, my writing is borne of the fact that I am tired of countless articles out there telling me it has never been so easy to be a working mother. From my experience, this is quite factually untrue. The human resource departments of the world are telling magazines and newspaper columnists that they do a lot for their working parents. The women I talk to say, emphatically, “No,” almost in unison.

The term “mommy tracked” was something I never heard of until I was sitting in a circle with my newborn daughter at a new mothers support group. We were sharing our thoughts on how our work lives will change as we re-enter the work force, this time with diaper bag in tow.

I thought the experience I had with my supervisor was an exception to the rule. I discredited his sharp comments – “How are you going to handle the workload?” or “How are you going to make sure you’ll be able to take care of the clients and take care of the baby?” And my favorite: “We had such great hopes for you and now we are concerned.” – to the fact that he was a thirty-something single guy so he didn’t know what he was talking about. I was so wrong.

The “mommy tracked” term came out of the mouth of an assistant district attorney. She said she felt as though she was being very closely watched by her department now that she had her daughter. Imagine my surprise when almost all of the twelve women in my group nodded their heads in agreement.

The stories I have heard from other moms in the workplace mirror the stories I heard in my circle of new moms over a year ago. I continue to replay them over and over in my head.

I consider them, for example, when I think of the telecommuting craze. It’s great news for people who aren’t viewed by their employer as the primary caretaker of children, but for the rest of us, it makes juggling the work-life balance harder. Even if you can get those wonderful telecommuting schedules, it seems as though it’s giving your employer permission to ask for even more of your time.

Now it is way too easy for us to be brow-beaten into doing more when we return to our homes. We come home to see a bright-eyed little sweetheart anxious to spend time with us (sometimes for the first time all day) but keep checking the e-mail inbox one more time or making one more phone call for fear of being asked if we made some calls, wrote some e-mails by the boss over the next morning’s coffee.

One of the worst stories I have heard so far was a poor woman who left her job on maternity leave and promised to return to her job in 12 weeks with the agreement being that when she came back, she would work an abbreviated week. She returned just as she promised only to hear them say: “Sorry, there’s been a change and we need you here full-time”. She had two options: Work full-time or pack up her desk. Sad, isn’t it? No one even gave her the opportunity to see if she could have done the job just fine without being in the office five days a week.

Interestingly enough, I don’t know any better or more efficient multi-tasking go-getters than the working parent. Do you? Why? Because we have way more at stake than our non-parenting colleagues.

When does it stop? When does the working parent get valued in the workplace? Why is it that when we need to be home with a sick child or leave work early to be at that soccer game we get the look that tells us that our actions are not well-respected or positively thought of?

I want to give you a voice and a say. I know you are out there and I want to hear your story. Please share it with me. I know I am not alone. The best friendships are forged in fire – and that’s when change happens. Who’s with me?

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