Please stop “covering.”

At the moment, there are more men than women in positions of corporate leadership. Men? Speak up, already.

“…a broad range of people, including straight white men, avoid talking about family with colleagues, and that “covering” makes those employees disinclined to stand up for others whose family needs come up at work, less likely to vocally support family-friendly policies, and can even lead them to avoid those who are more open about their family needs.”

via Both Men and Women Should ‘Uncover’ Family Responsibilities at Work –

Why I [Don’t] Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I’m compelled to offer my reaction to this, “Grown and Flown: Why I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom,” by Lisa Endlich Heffernan. I offer this to SAHMs out there who might feel swayed by their own regrets and lose their balance.

We all do exactly what we want, need, and are able to do. My family has the benefit of being able to do all three. As I’ve written before, I am lucky to be able to be at home with our children. I made a privileged choice. More important, I made an informed choice.

But I, unlike Ms. Endlich Heffernan, had the benefit of starting my tenure at home in 2005, and not (roughly) 1993. I not only had more information about SAHM-hood at my disposal, but I had a job that required skills that could be used at home. (I had visions of part-time telecommuting the minute I saw a positive pregnancy test in 2004.)

So, I have not remorse, but affirmations and expectations.

I let down [nobody] who went before me. If the SAHM lets down the women’s movement by not “dreaming big,” then the woman who accepts 77 cents an hour for the same work a man does for a dollar lets it down, too. After all, shouldn’t that working woman demand a raise, loudly and regularly? (Pay inequity apparently grows, for college-educated women, in correlation with the very prospect of motherhood, not because of a person’s actual SAHM status.) The women’s movement is far from over. Nobody is letting anybody down.

I use my driver’s license [as much as] my degrees. I learned to drive in high school, and I drive defensively and with authority. I earned (and paid for) my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both of which taught me to do my research, think critically, and write and speak quickly and effectively. With this training and education, our children have better educational and economic prospects than they otherwise might have enjoyed. And I am a better parent than I would otherwise have been. I parent like I drive; I parent like I think.

My kids think I [do everything]. They see me work at home–writing, taking care of the home, and of them, and of their dad. They see me at their school, working with their teachers and their principals. They brag about me. They know damn well that I work. It helps too, that I tell them so. (They know their dad works, too. Because he tells them so.)

My world [expanded]. I worked with people exactly like me, all with the same organizational goal, all with comparable (if not more) education and experience. I worked with men and women. They were lovely. At home, in the suburbs, I have made some of my best friends, who are nothing like me. Who grew up differently than me. Who think differently than me. Who teach me humility.

I got [inspired] by a mountain of volunteer work. I spent two years on our PTA board. In the past six months I helped changed the way the PTA presents itself to parents. I had an impact on the PTA culture. I was offered a job at the school because of it. We may not stay here for much longer, but volunteering, and seeing that my donated time reflected well on me and my abilities, gives me great confidence that I will land on my feet, professionally, wherever we go.

I worried [as I have always worried]. I have the time available to know our children on a granular level, but I do not have the inclination to ‘helicopter.’ I want them to be happy, safe, eat healthfully, sleep regularly, and be nice to themselves, to each other, and others. And clean up. They better flippin’ clean up after themselves. Other than that, they’re on their own.

I [dove head first] into a traditional marriage. My parents had a traditional marriage. So did my husband’s parents. Unlike our respective parents, my husband and I have the same amount of education, and now, the same amount of work experience. His happens to command a far higher salary than mine could, even if I had stayed in the work force full-time. I take care of him. I do. I make sure he takes coffee, breakfast and lunch with him to work. I do the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, the bills, and most of the day-to-day child rearing. And I know about his job. I ask about it. He tells me. He knows I am his equal. Anybody who sees the two of us standing next to each other would know we are equals. He knows we’re lucky I’m home. (Picking up the dry-cleaning does not need to be a political act.)

I [fear becoming] outdated. I read. A lot. I read things I never used to. I keep up with current events and technology. Because it matters. I need to know about things before my children do. Every parent does.

I [changed] my sights and [gained] confidence [from new sources]. I could have continued to work full-time. I would have done it just fine. I know that about myself. But when presented with the option of not needing to, I made what most economists would say is an irrational choice: unpaid work (parenting) over paid work. Go figure. I remain engaged with the outside world. I continue to gain confidence as a writer. I watch our children grow and I continue to gain confidence as a parent. (They are happy, nice, healthy, safe, eat and sleep well, and clean up most of the time.)

I am a rock star in the blinding lights of my own mind.

I regret nothing.

Though I wish Ms. Endlich Heffernan’s piece had been titled, “Why I Regret the Way I Stayed at Home.”

If you can stretch, you can reach.

I’m going to be 43 in about four months. And it would appear that a 37-year-old woman is now a vice president at an organization in DC that employed me for five years, before I left in 2002 for a new life with my new husband in a new city. Had we stayed in DC, there’s a fair chance that I could have been that vice president right about now.

I told my husband about this, and he immediately–and I mean immediately–said, “Well, you can get back out there if you want, you can be a VP.”

“No organization is going to hire me, nearly 8 years out of the full-time paid workforce, to manage a huge budget and direct several people.”

“Well, maybe not right away, but you’d show them you could do it in no time.”

(He’s a good egg, my husband.)

“I guess,” I hedged… “But I like being home for the children after school and in the early evenings. I think that’s important.” He agreed.

I renewed again my commitment to myself to find the perfect part-time job, once we know where we’ll be living for any length of time. We were expecting to be here for no more than three years: the children were very young when we moved here, and I didn’t pursue outside full-time work as a result. Flash forward five years, and here I am, blogging.

Flashing back: when our daughter was three months old, I was able to return to my job and bring her with me–she was the perfect office mate. The implicit understanding: I’d eventually put her in full-time child care and go back to working full-time. Things didn’t turn out that way. (I ended up resigning about a month after finding out I was pregnant again, and about a month before I miscarried.) I was home full-time then, with one baby girl. My husband traveled… a LOT… so it was probably for the best that I was home. And then we had a second baby. Five months later I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. One month later we moved…

It gets old, this particular corporate wife story.

But there’s context–there’s a backstory–that matters, not to me, but to every corporate wife. I am very happy to have been reminded of it in this, one of the best things I’ve read in a while, “Why Gender Equality Stalled.” For the first time, I’ve read the words that perfectly articulate my current professional/personal state of “choice.”

So, especially when women are married to men who work long hours, it often seems to both partners that they have no choice. Female professionals are twice as likely to quit work as other married mothers when their husbands work 50 hours or more a week and more than three times more likely to quit when their husbands work 60 hours or more…  [W]hen they explained their “decision-making process,” it became clear that most had made the “choice” to quit work only as a last resort — when they could not get the flexible hours or part-time work they wanted, when their husbands would not or could not cut back their hours, and when they began to feel that their employers were hostile to their concerns…

When people are forced to behave in ways that contradict their ideals, they often undergo what sociologists call a “values stretch” — watering down their original expectations and goals to accommodate the things they have to do to get by.

Have I undergone a “values stretch?” Does “adjusting” expectations equal “watering down” expectations? (As an aside and as a serious freaking question: Isn’t that what marriage requires?)

I don’t know. I can’t imagine working the number of hours I worked in 2004, before our daughter was born, in 2013, with her and her brother around. I wouldn’t see them as much. My husband wouldn’t see them as much. They’d be just as lovely, just as wonderful, just as healthy, just as loved. But we wouldn’t see them, be with them, as much.

When I was considering resigning from that job in 2005, I told my colleague, who also happened to be my friend, who also happened to manage human resources, that I was struggling to find the right full-time child care setting. My job was not a part-time job–it was never an option. (He did not know that I was pregnant at the time. I needed a near perfect setting.)

He said, rather glibly, it seemed, “All you need to do is find a child care setting that costs a certain percentage less than your annual salary. Then, working is worth it.”

Incredulous, I snapped back, “But that’s not why I became a mother, to just put our daughter in child care for the right amount of money. That’s not what makes it worth it to me.”

I remember that conversation like it was yesterday. I still feel like a jerk for my part in it. For sounding so… righteous. Ugh. My friend and his wife? They had their son in child care, for the right price, so that they could both work, so that they could afford to live the life they wanted to live. Maybe I was a little defensive, pregnant, at work, discussing my employment, with my five-month-old baby playing on the floor next to me. Or maybe I was just too lucky to speak with any compassion or forethought.

My point, then and now, is three-fold: (1) I have always wanted to have children and be with them as they grew, for as much time as possible. (2) I put myself through grad school to contribute to the economy and make the world a better place. (3) I want a job that is flexible, allowing me to do what I’m best at, part-time, so that I can be the kind of mother I want to be.

I just want the labor market to want what I want. Am I greedy? I don’t think so.

[L]et’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders.

It’s a “values stretch” of another sort, I guess. A good sort.