|Is There Choice or Change on the Horizon for Working Mothers?||| Print ||
By Kimberly J. Miller, President, Technical Registration Experts, Inc.
As I celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend with my mom, I began thinking about the holiday and how the role of a mother has changed since the holiday was established in 1905. Given those changes I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask myself, my friends, and colleagues to give their insights about the question of what it is like being a working mother in 2010... Nearly all my close friends work, and in addition, I’m fortunate to collaborate with many extremely talented women who make the “choice” to have careers and raise families.
Choice – That’s the first point I wanted to examine: The word choice in the Webster’s Dictionary means "The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action." More research on the word "choice" revealed another synonym which expresses the same meaning - preference. Preference can be described as "a choice; negotiable (optional)." Therefore, the opposite of preference is conviction. Conviction is defined as "a requirement; non-negotiable (no "plan B").
Do we really have a “choice” any longer to work or not? Or have those of us who once made the decision to start a career become dependent on dual incomes and then recent economic challenges have stripped us of our choice? Of course, every mother, working or stay-at-home alike, believe we make choices freely. These choices vary from the place we choose to live, the clothes we pick to wear, the food we select to eat, and the friends with whom we surround ourselves. But is the choice to work or stay at home one we really freely make in 2010?
When I asked my friend Kimberly Dixon, Partner Business Manager for HP Software & Solutions, this question she commented:
While my other friend Rachel Mickle, Vice President and Team Lead for PNC Bank, expressed her view of our choices differently:
What I’ve learned is that everyone doesn’t interpret choice in the same way in which Webster simply defines it. Maybe the bigger question I should have asked my working friends and colleagues is... Will the workplace ever change to accommodate the needs of working mothers? On this point, I’m hopeful! Just a few months ago in an address to the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility, President Obama presented his views on workplace flexibility and how it is important for our society and promoting economic growth. After speaking about his own family's work-life balance issues, he went on to tell delegates:
As I listened to the President speak on this issue, I began to consider my own business. I thought, do I encourage and support flexibility with my staff and virtual partners? Do I empower them to do their jobs, and do I judge their accomplishments by their results -- not by how many meetings they can attend, or how much face-time they log? Have I fostered an environment that promotes the idea as Martha Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, puts it, “Work is what you do, not where you are.” On this point I must answer - I’m trying. The idea behind the ‘Kaleidoscope of Talent’ (which is the T-REX mantra) is to promote virtual teams of dynamic women with expertise in their specific fields. We aren’t the brick and mortar company for which our mothers worked; we are trying to become trailblazers in a movement to work outside the box which in some cases puts many of our team members inside their home offices. While many of us may have lost the choice regarding the plan to work or not, maybe we are beginning to change the places and ways in which we work and that flexibility just might restore the feeling of choice for all working mothers.