a rambling on women and the reality of life

Images-2 When I was in Minneapolis this week, I had an interesting conversation with the woman who runs PR for Red Stamp.  She has three kids who are 6, 4 and 1.  Been there and funny enough our kids are the exact same spread and gender.  She and her husband moved to Minneapolis after they had their first kid.  Family is here and many people return to Minneapolis so it isn't so out of the norm.  She had lived and worked in NYC for one of the largest PR companies in the city.  After she had her first kid and wanted to come back to work, perhaps part-time they basically said no, full time or no time.  Pretty amazing that was six years ago and then again not so amazing.  Her and her husband left NYC and came to Minneapolis. 

She is in that place where many women are, I have been there myself.  I want to work because I want my own identity but I want to be home for my kids. too  I love my husband and he is definitely a partner but he isn't putting the kids clothes in the drawers or actually managing the household although giving it a good college try.  I do need some time for myself like just to work out, shop or see my friends yet I want to work too for my brain, ego and intelligence yet be there and present in my kids lives so not sure how that all works into a 24 hour day.  If I get off the treadmill of work because I can and my salary only pays for someone to help watch the kids then what happens to me and my career after being home for ten plus years.  What is the balance?  Is there balance?  Perhaps you can only do it all over the course of life but not at the same time.  Why again did I excel in school and college?  Maybe it is a good thing that I am not longer in corporate and I can reinvent myself and be more flexible in my day to day life yet it is hard to be a serious player only a few hours a week.  Do I want to be a player?  Well I do want to be a player but I want to be a Mom too and of course someone needs to watch over everything.  Ok, well I can multi-task but then when do I breathe?  Perhaps I am just an impostor anyway so who cares. 

Every day is a balancing act and my fear is years will pass and I will be in the same place.  My bigger fear is that I put all my energy into my children and then they move out and go college and I have a nervous breakdown thinking I just wasted years of my life but maybe I didn't but I did it all for them.  How come I had to do that?  Oh, my husband has been great and he has provided a really good income and a lifestyle for us but I have lost my brain.  Didn't I just run a start-up and back end for us for the past how many years by raising a family? 

These are so many of the questions that women ask, women think about but don't talk about…and we should.  This is one of the main reasons that many women are not CEO's of major corporations and nobody seems to talk about that.  How do we change that ratio?  When do companies embrace those intelligent women so they can be part of the game, be heralded for their thoughts and visions while still being able to be a Mom too.  We don't see top women who speak at conferences talk about this or the fact that they probably have one nanny per child so they can focus on their business.  I am not passing judgement on these women who do that but why aren't we being honest about it?  If women were more honest about the realities of motherhood perhaps we could be better mentors and role models for the next generation.  Pushing the reality of life under the carpet is not how we change the next generation or change the ratio. 

So why the rant?  I just want to share the thoughts that I have had for years as I begin to turn a corner back to me.  I still will have one kid at home and am well aware of that and do not want to short change him yet I am ready to take on more while still figuring out balance every single day.  After having a life where there is flexibility, you still want it.  How do you re-enter the working world while still having that flexibility and create your own identity.  It is something that women have to think about a few years out before everyone flies the from the nest.  Otherwise you look at your life and husband and begin to wonder, who am I and how did I get here.

I am positive that these ramblings above resonate with many women regardless of where you are in life because they saw it with their Mom's, they are entering that phase of their lives or they are in the exit strategy of kids leaving the nest or they are barely treading water trying to do it all.  These are the conversations that I want to see more women have.  These are the conversations that create powerful relationships between women and when we start having these types of conversations, things will change. After all, the truth be told, we are running pretty much everything as our husbands and children get in line but for some reason it isn't something we get reconigtion for or more to the point that we don't take credit for.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Debbie Stier

    Resonates (except for this part: If I get off the treadmill of work because I can).  The choices I made (not on purpose!) left me always having to earn a living, for good and bad.  I feel like I missed a lot of my kids’ early years.  Now that I’m working from home things feel very different (in a good way).Praying this all works out for me!Seems like you’re way back in the game from where I sit. You are an inspiration!

    1. Gotham Gal

      trying daily to figure out exactly what the game is and how do I want toplay it. how you want to play it seems to be the key and there areabsolutely no rules, particularly for women.

  2. Jen G

    Great post! This really rang true for me when my kids reached 2 & 4. I can’t tell you how many woman I’ve spoken to that utter the exact same words.I was raised by a working mom and grandmother though so didnt seem likely that I’d be a full time stay home mom anyway. It took a long time not to feel guilty about these choices and as a mom I think you are always dealing with that issue. I am so grateful have found an organization that allows me the chance to have a balance. Although, it’s definitely a juggling act that’s for sure. It is a shame that most companies put so much value on ‘time in seat’ rather than results and potentially miss out on great talent.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Agree. Its all about results and I hope more companies begin to think thatway.

  3. Meg

    This sounds like the thoughts I have running through my brain every day.  I’m at the early end with 2 kids, a 3-year old and a 3-month old.  Just back to work after maternity leave, sitting at my desk eating lunch and pumping and this made me tear up.  I have no desire to be a CEO or start a business, but I do like working and value my contribution.  I am lucky to have a very flexible job.  I am however sad that I only see my baby for an hour at night before he conks out and that I’m so tired after trying to make a healthy dinner, getting the kids to bed, cleaning bottles, making lunches, staying on top of bills, doing more work once I get home, etc. that I pass out at 11:30.  Then up twice in the night with the baby, only to start all over again at 6 the next morning.  Would love to exercise and perhaps even read a book every now and then, but that would require not sleeping!  I know a lot of this will get better once the baby is not such a newborn, but it’s always a juggling act of some sort as you describe.  I can only imagine it gets more complicated once the kids are in school and have activities.Of course I know I’m not unique, but I enjoy reading posts on the topic as I think about what the future holds. I just needed to ramble on as well 🙂  You are an inspiration.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I feel your pain and yes life gets easier once the babies grow up a little

  4. Lindsay

    Thank you, Joanne, for so honestly and eloquently articulating all of these jumbled thoughts into one brilliant essay.  You and your words are comforting, so spot on and truly inspirational.  I feel so fortunate to have found a place to work that supports women and motherhood so strongly  – a true {and rare} blessing.And Meg, oh how I can relate!

    1. Gotham Gal

      lindsay…you spurred this on!

  5. Diane

    Though I don’t yet have kids, these thoughts nearly paralyse my career decisions already.  I love that this conversation continues and we need to voice it more and more often so decision makers have no choice but to listen.  One of my favourite versions of this discussion is from Sheryl Sandberg, definitely worth a listen:http://www.youtube.com/watc

  6. Christine Tsai

    This resonates with me, or at least will very soon. I am about to become a mom, and I work full-time. I fully believe women can have both a successful career and successful family/home life, but know that it’s by no means a walk in the park to juggle both. I worry about making time for both our future kid as well as my career. I wonder if I will feel like a monkey in the middle. It’s just the reality for working moms, but it can be easier if you have the right support system so you don’t feel guilty (for example) for missing a Little League game for an important meeting, OR missing an important meeting for a Little League game. VC is largely male, and not everyone is supportive. There are some firms that are reluctant to hire women partners in the chance that they will get pregnant and be ‘out of commission’ for a few months. To be fair – I don’t think this is the majority (or at least I hope not), but it’s unfortunate that it still does happen. However, I am fortunate that I don’t have to deal w/ anything like that and my colleagues have been nothing but supportive. And I’m particularly proud of the diversity in our portfolio – gender, age, ethnicity, etc. (20% of our current accelerator class are women founders, and we have 3 companies where 100% of the founding team is women!)I’m not a fan of the negative stereotypes that come w/ “women in tech” where women are pegged as complaining and accusing men of stifling their growth. I hate to think of women using that as a crutch or thinking that they’re limited in any way. (I wrote about this as well: http://bit.ly/kIPdAs)  Rather, I LOVE initiatives like your Monday blog series highlighting women, and your being such an active voice for women entrepreneurs.Inspiration is much more effective.Thanks for writing this post.

    1. Gotham Gal

      christine, thanks so much for your comments.i couldn’t agree more…let’s be positive about what we are doing not whatwe should be doing. where you work is amazing and i wish that morecompanies would embrace smart women like yourself who are also moms thatneed to put their kids little league game first but will always get the jobdone, regardless of where they happen to be at the moment.

  7. Donna Brewington White

    Dear Abby,You have just read my mail.Signed:  barely treading water trying to do it all———————————————————-Thank you for this ramble.  You often speak poignantly for a lot of us.  I come to appreciate you more and more.I never off-ramped — in fact started a business pregnant with my third of four children– but in retrospect I realized that I slow-laned compared to my male counterparts and didn’t realize I had done so until I tried to merge back into traffic.  All those years it I felt like I was moving at a rapid pace — and I was, just not all directed toward my work.  Even during the few years that my husband was a stay-at-home Dad, I still ran the household and made sure kids had what they needed.A telling moment was driving to an early morning client meeting with two male colleagues.  My very supportive and capable husband was at home getting kids ready for school.  I received two frantic calls from home and resolved two problems during the drive. Afterward, I turned to my colleagues and said, “I bet this never happens to you.”  They shook their heads.  One of my colleagues had the same number of children and slightly younger.(Even though I am speaking in past tense, I am still in the middle of it with kids ranging from ages 10 – 16 but it makes a huge difference when you don’t need either a car seat or a babysitter every time you leave the house. Although the teen years bring a whole NEW set of issues.)You are right that we need to talk more openly about this.  I think that not only women but men will benefit from this openness and the new solutions that emerge.BTW, it doesn’t feel so much like multitasking as it does multi-lifeing.  Whew.If you asked me which part I’d give up if I had to (and could afford to), it would be the work even though I would be miserable. Yet, the kids are the real reward. At least for me. And on those rare days when it’s all clicking it’s euphoric and amazing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      great story. multi-lifeing. i like that.

  8. Rohan

    Nice. 🙂 

  9. Michelle Burnett

    Thank you for writing this. It is where I am at right now, exactly. Was laid off a month ago. My one and only son starts kindergarten this fall and is so scared, it will be a big change for him and for all of us. I want to get another job. And, I want to be there to drop him off and pick him up every day. I want to be a player. And, I want to be the mom who brings homemade muffins on Snack Day. I don’t want to waste my considerable experience and education. And, I don’t want to break my neck in rush hour traffic to pick up my son from an alien after-school program where the supervise the kids minimally at best. I don’t want to leech off my husband when I am perfectly capable of making money myself (yes, that is what it feels like). I can’t let him run the house, though – even partially – because it’s been tried and what happens is, then things don’t get done and we end up with no food and no clean laundry. I don’t know what to do. I love my life, and I hate my life. I realize I am lucky to have a choice to work or stay home. The problem is I don’t want to do either, and there aren’t a lot of options to work part-time where I am, unless it’s at Target. And I’d rather shop there than work there. Anyway. Thanks for this. I don’t have any more answers for myself after reading it, but I am glad to know I’m not alone.

  10. Eric

    You’ve communicated well what so many others feel and experience. Your insights reinforce my calling and mission.

  11. Laura Yecies

    I am at that “exit strategy” stage of kids leaving the nest.  My two oldest are finishing their second and first year of medical school respectively and my daughter just graduated high school and is off to college.  Fortunately I still have one at home – he’s a rising sophomore.    I chose the path of always working full-time.  In my situation, when my two oldest were born not working wasn’t an option – my husband was in grad school then we were just starting out.  That became my default mode plus both of our mothers worked at least part time so it seemed like the thing to do.  That doesn’t mean I was never sad or feel like I missed out.  It goes without saying that there was a lot of juggling and lack of sleep along the way.  My husband and I truly partner on the parenting and household chores but it’s not easy.  I’ll never forget my third year at Netscape when we had 4 kids each in a different school plus my husband and I both had to travel for our jobs.  I dragged my newborns halfway around the globe on business trips because I didn’t want to be apart from them in their first year.  We always had one nanny (not one per kid) and I lived in fear of them quitting.I don’t think my kids are any worse off for my having worked.  We have close relationships and I am very proud of who they are and what they are accomplishing but … I certainly wasn’t at every event of theirs.  I believe my kids are proud of my work which is gratifying but as this parenting phase is ending I’m a little bittersweet about what I might have “missed”.  Of course the grass is greener on the other side – if I had not worked or taken more of a mommy track career path I’m sure I’d be wondering what I was missing on the career front.The nice thing about parenting older kids is that our schedules are much more aligned.  I don’t think I could have done my current CEO role 10 years ago but now it’s possible and I’m glad I stuck with the juggle the last 25 years.  We leave together in the morning – they have activities after school – sports practices, music lessons etc. then after a late family dinner we’re all working on our computers! Work and family feels less like a tradeoff and I’m really glad to have such a stimluating and challenging job.  I’m sure there will still be challenges and tradeoffs but I want to enjoy every possible parenting moment my latest juggle will allow these next 3 years.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. Gotham Gal

      that “your” initial response was last night as I was walking the dog.another activity to take care of!my mom always said, your kid will be happy where you are happy. all thesechallenges and tradeoffs are different in every family. the hardest thingis for your own head. what would i be missing career wise if i had stayedhome, and if i had stayed home would i have been happy and then would mykids really be happy.all for conversations we should be having as every day is a new balance.

  12. Jules Pieri

    Joanne,  I am the female CEO of an investor backed technology startup.  I have three sons and I have worked full time, part time and no-time.  I know every angst-ridden angle of what you are describing from the inside, and also from the corporate side.  Why should kids like my sons with no real marketable skills have amazing internship opportunities, and women with ten years of senior work experience have to beg for a role that is many levels below their ability to contribute?  WTF say I, and I did something about it. I started an Executive-in-Residence program in my company partly to give the women you are describing a solid chance at a relaunch, on terms that work for everyone.   (Check out the organization iRelaunch for another take on giving a hand up to other women.)  

    1. fredwilson

      that is an awesome idea Jules. what kinds of things do you give these EIRs to do?

      1. Jules Pieri

        We’ve done this six times, including one male EIR.  The common structure is a three month arrangement (extendable), part-time, no commitment to hire.  We ended up hiring three of our EIR’s and would have liked to have the funds to hire all six. We tailor the work to their background–there is no shortage of meaty stuff to be done in a startup.  Here is a little slice of what they have contributed:–The ex-attorney worked out our customer policies, set up our supplier and customer service ops, and runs those functions now.–The ex-pharma sales/event planner became our first sourcing/discovery person, where she still works–The former i-banker does biz dev–The ops guy handled our anticipated company move:  sourced the properties, did the numbers, worked out the operational issues– The Amazon/IBM person worked/edited my investor pitch, worked out a plan for a loyalty-type program, and researched/sourced product– The CPG marketing person managed our first community discussions across all media, sourced product, and recommended our version of a social enterprise executionI used to live in Ireland and noticed that one little-known reason (reported by the Economist, too) for the booming Celtic Tiger was Irish women entered/returned to the workforce in droves in the 1990’s.  That economic asset was a central reason for Ireland’s emergence from a nearly third world economy to one of the most vibrant ones in the world (at least until recently…and they will come back!)  The US has the same hidden economic asset ready to be tapped.

        1. fredwilson

          i totally agree with you about the economic force ready to be tapped. thisis a fantastic model for getting women back into the workforce. i will tellour portfolio companies about it

          1. Gotham Gal

            i have been pushing three of my companies to find women who are home andwant to work from 10-3. they want to keep their skills honed, they want tohave their own separate identity and making some money wouldn’t hurteither. the hardest part is finding these women.

          2. BB

            really?  you are having trouble finding the women?

          3. Gotham Gal

            Yeah. Know any?

          4. BB

            I think I do.  Will shoot you an email.

          5. Tereza

            a lot of communities have ‘working mom’ listservs and they help each other out a lot on job searches.  they should look into the ones local to the companies.

          6. Jules Pieri

            We have been consistently flooded with candidates.  Part of the reason is our spreading the word and the makeup of our own team (we have powerful network effects).  But we also have great luck posting our EIR roles on local community discussion boards (Yahoo etc.) And, again, take a look at iRelaunch.  If your companies are mainly in NY there will be a good base of candidates in their community.  (They ARE national too.  Full disclosure:  I am an advisor to the the organization.)

          7. Jules Pieri

            That’s great.  I am happy to give them pointers.  Honestly, making it successful is just a mindset shift.  To recognize “talent and energy” coupled with “experience.”  Young entrepreneurs probably have blindsides and a lack of exposure to this huge part of the workforce. 

        2. Gotham Gal

          you are spot on. the women in this country who have left the workforce andwant to return are a HUGE untapped resource.

        3. Tereza

          I’ve worked with mom journalists–deep rolodexes–content creation–social media execution

    2. Gotham Gal

      that is fantastic! i met with a woman awhile ago who was trying to createsomething similar for many companies to put a momternship in, for lack of abetter word, she had trouble getting funding and launching but one companyat a time. that is just so awesome that you do that in your company. howdo you teach other companies to do that?

      1. Jules Pieri

        I grab social media and speaking opportunities to evangelize the idea.  Here is one blog post I wrote about it:  http://jules.dailygrommet.c…I look forward to the day when my company becomes a $1B business and a household name and I can share this EIR idea as part of our “how we did it” story.  The corporate world needs concrete examples–people want to do the right thing.  They just need clear, easy examples of how to tap the relaunch workforce. Startups are the perfect place to pursue this economic opportunity and show the way.

    3. Tereza

      Hey Jules — I heard excellent things about your program, I think we’re both friends with Greg Mand?We’ve been doing some ‘momsourcing’ too, though we’re not at the point to make it programmatic, but more as PT consultants.  Would love to tap into what you’ve learned about how to make it work.

      1. Jules Pieri

        Great to hear Tereza, and happy to help.   (Greg Mand….that name may have been wiped out with many of my other brain cells.) 

  13. Mark Gavagan

    1-minute video about all the time consumed by our kids: http://www.theyearsareshort…(by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project)

  14. Wouter

    Yet here you are, talking about your children, relationship and work. You want all, you want balance between all, and you get stressed out about it. Many men choose their job as priority because they can only focus on one thing and balance isn’t that important to them. This often seems to be a requirement to reach the top. If you work hard 8 hours and then go home and work hard for another 4 hours on the other things you want out of life, you will not be able to keep up with people who clock in the same 12 hours with just their job (or with their children). You might argue 8 hours should be enough, and that it’s unfair that someone can work 12, and that you’re a mother, but fact is that the amount of hours in the day is limited and you have to prioritise.But why make this gender related at all? There are lots of people who want to have a healthier balance between work and the other things in life. These people will probably not get to be a CEO or become rich. But if you think it’s important to be a mother, than you ought to be able to compensate the reward from that with the lesser reward of not being all you could be professionally because of your choices. After all, if all you have is work, I imagine you’re not necessarily more happy and satisfied in life anyway. Life isn’t always about recognition or credit. That’s not why you have children. If you love having children, you should be able to get over the fact you didn’t make it to CEO.

    1. Guest

      I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, it’s not about balance, but capacity. And finding, or what’s more likely, creating a means to maximize such. Suggesting that “either/or” is a prerequisite to living is a sucker’s choice. Such a belief limits exploration and consequently, the achievement of, the “and”.

    2. Gotham Gal

      you are right on many notes here but the bottom line is regardless of howfantastic it is to have children and to take that back seat, mentally itisn’t that easy. for many of us, at least for me, the decisions i made weredefinitely as a result of being a mother but from purely an identity egointellectual competitive driven side which comes from within is something ican not just pretend doesn’t exist.

  15. Guest

    I find myself on the opposite side of this coin. I won’t use the word “sacrifice”, because I believe in the conscious exchange of value. But I will say that I’ve shortchanged myself in how I’ve defined value in the past. I’m 38. Divorced. No kids. I am the CEO of one profitable start-up and hope to have another one on the way shortly. I’ve deferred family based upon my belief that if my career path wasn’t established before such, I’d be stuck in a role that while fulfilling, failed to maximize my capacity.I’ve only recently surfaced from this “either/or” mentality and, on my best days, am optimistic that I’ve still plenty of time to embrace all the privileges of being a woman. On my not-so-good days, I’m anxious. Even fearful. Did I make the wrong choice? After all there’s no time limit on being fruitful at work. But being fruitful, per se? The clock is ticking. Ferociously. My challenge isn’t finding a place to work, but finding a “place” to love. Thanks for putting “it” out there. 

  16. Tereza

    Thanks for a really wonderful essay.  But it’s surprising coming from you because you really do have your shit together.  So I guess we do all have these questions.It’s so hard to be relevant, or become relevant, when one’s been out of it.  Clawing my way back to relevance after taking time off for family stuff was incredibly difficult and I’m not there yet. I never feel like I’m doing enough for anyone. Certainly don’t feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to.  Occasionally I look backwards and think — OK, not where I want to be, but brick by brick, I guess I’ve come pretty far.  Who knows.Re: how to juggle childcare, deal with nannies, etc.  One thing that restricts full transparency on nannies is that many are off the books, so discussing it is not an option.  Also may view that as a huge luxury and if you have it then your life is ‘solved’ and nothing to complain about.  So it can be a minefield, and who needs criticism.  My husband and I have made huge sacrifices to pay for a super-stable childcare situation.  I’ve been criticized for not being ‘lean’ (like it’s something i’m doing “wrong”).  It undermines my dignity a bit.  I’d think that the fact I’m going on my 8-year anniversary with my nanny should be a positive thing, lets me focus.  I wonder if they would get into a guy’s underwear like that.  Maybe that’s normal, I just don’t know.  Somehow we need to create a safe space to talk about childcare, the juggle, and million little ways here and there to relieve the pressure or squeeze out a little more productivity, or time with the family.  And to tell each other, “you’re doing it. keep going.  you’re okay and you’re not alone”.  Millions of people are in the same situation, but we each think we’re alone.

  17. CCjudy

    you must must must write a bookJudy

    1. Gotham Gal

      ha. working on it. not so easy.

  18. Deirdre

    Joanne-  thanks so much for writing this piece.  As you may remember, I left work when my first start-up had to close during the Sept ’08 financial crisis.  I had a 5 week old.  I was lucky to be able to stay home with him (as did my partner, his father) until he turned one– at which point I grew panicky because I feared I’d never work again– and I had to work both financially and for my mental state.  I immediately contacted all my friends who had career transitions, worked, were mothers to ask their advice.  They didn’t want to talk about it.  Their silence was deafening.  I remember saying to myself “ok, I guess I’ll just have to figure this out by myself…”  It was only then that I realized how many phenomenally talented people (mostly Moms, but some Dads too) had opted out and couldn’t figure out how to come back to the work place.  I love Jules’ program, and am going to try to use it in my own business AND recommend to others.  So nice to see this conversation out in the world.  Thank you.      

    1. Gotham Gal

      the silence was deafening….wow. that must stop. thanks so much forsharing, truly.i love your story, which you can laugh about now (at least I hope so) abouthow your business and baby threw up on you at the same time. beingtransparent about that is the step in the right direction.honesty is always the best policy, isn’t that what our mother’s taught us?

  19. panterosa,

    I come late to this debate. Apologies. Being a divorced mother starting a new business makes things slow at times. But a friend pointed me to this post and I wanted to chime in.I would point to the post Work Balance is Bullshit on themonsterinyourhead.com for further reading.I also think there is a secret call here for more “representation” for the “taxation” which is motherhood. I love my daughter and love my work. I now manage her life between my wasband and I and try to make it not be complicated, for her, me, or him.Really the “representation” ought to come in each work place, which ought to have an advocate for sourcing on-ramping women for part time work. See where it goes like the EIR program, which sounds great. Families learn how to juggle, and workplaces should too. So a worker has a baby, find someone looking for work after her kid turns two, or five, etc. There is constant flow in All of our lives and schedules. The art is to work with that, not against it, or in ignorance of it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i still think it is hard even if you figure out the balance throughrepresentation. someone has to figure it all out.

  20. Stephanie Levendoski

    There seems to be an infinite amount of people who are financially successful around me lately. Actually, I think I am just hyper-aware of them now because I’ve come to a point in my life where I realize I’ve missed the financial boat somehow. I’m ten years away from my divorce and still trying to recover. I don’t know where to look for advice on how to take my talents and abilities and become financially independent. Can you help me? Can you point me in the right direction?

  21. Rdsmith925


  22. Shulamit

    Thank you Gotham Gal for breaching this incredibly important conversation for the modern day woman. At one point in my life I kowtowed to the Feminists of the 70’s. Then I became a working mom and loathed everything that they stood for since it seems like at least in modern day New York, a woman has to work twice as hard to receive half of what we deserve: a fulfilling career in conjunction with a rewarding motherhood experience and affordable living. Granted, I’m the artist who married an artist so money has always been an issue 🙂 Thank you too Meg, for sharing your story. I think I will be able to relate to you very soon. I am a thirtysomething gal who has a delicious 4 year old and in the 7th month of pregnancy with her second. I am struggling to make a career decision that is keeping me up at night daily. The gist is this: in 2007 I was in the pinnacle of my publishing and photography career. My daughter was 3 months old. I hired a nanny who gave her entire self to my daughter’s happiness and learning but of course I was sick with envy of not being able to be home and the nanny’s pay ate up a huge chunk of my paycheck. I had a dream to pursue a life of teaching so that my career would parallel the path of my daughter’s public school life for at least 18 years. I got laid off from my very sexy publishing job in 2008 but I already started my Masters in Art Education program. My new path began. So for two years, I juggled motherhood while pursuing my Certification in Teaching with my incredibly supportive husband on very little money. It was besheret (“meant to be”), as they say in Yiddish, because those 2 years home with my little girl were incredible. I was fortunate to get my first part time teaching job in Long Island in the August of 2010 and my husband and I decided to leave the city to move in with family until I got settled with my new job.  I am thankful because my daughter is enrolled in a great preschool (that eats up more than half my salary) and I have an incredibly supportive husband and family. This past year was insane though. I was at the top of my game in my publishing career and now I am a freshman. I worked in 3 different schools while still pursuing my masters at night and then being pregnant again through all of this. It’s the worst feeling to feel like a novice again.  I do not regret any decisions I made because I was acutally bored with my old career but I am now struggling to find the strength on how to make the right choice within this new path I just recently carved for myself and family. Thing is this: I have an opportunity to work full time back in the city or part time out here in Long Island for this upcoming school year. The gig in the city is a dream as far as my intellectual and creative desires but the gig in LI is more conducive to fulfilling a more balanced family life. As it is, I’m still working on this Masters Degree, now with two children come September. I’m so torn between my heart and head!  I have made the pros and cons lists. I thought my gut was telling me one thing and then all of a sudden my gut tells me something new. I’m not asking for anyone to tell me what to do. I am just so incredibly grateful to have this platform to vent my dilemma. Any insight would be greatly welcomed though. Thank you again for this opportunity to share my story.  

    1. Gotham Gal

      it is never easy being a mom. your kids are young, i think those decisionsget more dififcult as they get older like 8 and 10. do what feels right toyou. sounds like the decision is short term and in the long run might bebeneficial even if it means not being home as often as you like.

  23. Stefanie

    I truly relate to this post.  I have always wanted to start a type of Woman’s cooperative store..one run by women and scheduled around our perfect hours.  Some of us want to work 9-2 while others have older kids in sports and can work until 5 or 6p.m.  All about scheduling.  I just don’t know what type of business this could be..retail? and how to get funding to start.  My initial thoughts were..we women have so many talents..some are good at cooking, some sewing, Painting, quilting, art, writing, jewelry making, knitting..maybe there is a way to get products made by these women and sell them in a retail environment?  While we also work our part-time shifts.  anyone see this done before?

  24. Lisa Cleary

    I’m late to this post, but love the conversation it’sspurred. There should be no “silence is deafening”– you should support andhelp other moms trying to figure it out! … I’m a mom of three, beyond babiesbut not quite older, at ages 11, 9 and 6. I’ve always worked in tech, mostly startups,and feel I have really good work/life balance. It’s a personal decision whetheryou should or shouldn’t work, and I don’t think that every woman must. But Iget asked all the time why I don’t seem to have a lot of angst about working,so here goes…First, my own mom was a fantastic role model. I’m the daughterof immigrant parents who had full-time careers while I was growing up. I’m well-adjustedand as close to my mom as my friends are whose moms stayed at home—I don’twonder about my work’s effect on my kids. Besides being an affectionate, engaged, and strict,but not stressed, mother, there are four key working-mom things she did that Itry to model: (1) Try to make it to every kid event –plays, shows, games, etc. (2)Leave work for dinner as a family, regardless of who cooks it, (3) Don’t haveperfection as a goal. It’s not attainable, and (4) Whatever you do, don’t be a doormator a martyr for your kids (or your husband) –it’s a horrible crutch.Second, there’s modern-parent juggling I figuredout on my own: (a) Partner on the homefront, trading chores tit for tatif that helps (b) Figure out a caretaker/village you love and rely on themwithout guilt. Your children don’t feel ignored if it’s a comforting relationship,you’re routine about the timing, and they still have real engaged time with you.(c) If possible, don’t send your kids to a school with mostly stay-at-homemoms. The social pressure will be hell and the meeting and commitment scheduleswill all be geared toward stay-at-homes, (d) For schools, choose to be avolunteer mom or a checkbook mom, and don’t feel guilty about not doing both, and (e)Try to find a company or job that’s amenable to a 9-to-6, seat-in-chairexistence, even if you have to get back online at home once your kids areasleep. If it’s not the right gig, move companies, or even step down a level.I’d been a products exec at a couple startups, but right afterbaby #2, I knew that both my husband and I going full bore wasn’t going towork. So when interviewing at a new startup, I told the founders that I wantedto head up products but not be on themanagement team – they’d be getting a really senior person who could do the jobin her sleep, and I’d get a job that works with mommyhood, yet is still rewardingbecause the products are challenging and cool. It helped that the founders hadstrong working wives of their own who started having babies, so the culture wasalready 9-to-6. That startup was for the Flip camcorders, and after 7 years wewere sold to Cisco. I recently left and finally started a company of my own.This is not to pat myself on the back. I’m not supermom,nor superwoman. Shortcuts abound in my life and that’s reality. What’s also a reality is that there’s almostno such thing as part-time work in tech. But if youreally want to be a sane working mom, even a CEO mom, figure out a path ortimeline that works around your family, not the other way around. If you dohave to stop working but want to get back later, keep a hand in things somehow,keep using your brain and don’t feel guilty. There are plenty of years for CEO, not somany for the core mom years. Most moms feel like they’re notdoing enough no matter what they do, but that angst usually means that they’realready an engaged, loving mom whose family will adjust, and probably cheerthem on, no matter what they do.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Lisa, you might be late to the post but these are wonderful words ofadvice. Spot on.

      1. Lisa Cleary

        Thanks! I hate to hear that women don’t feel supported or feel that working is impossible, especially when they’re just starting the baby route. It’s definitely possible, but there are big lifestyle differences from stay-at-home moms. Too many people pretend or ignore that there aren’t, and I think that’s what gets women into trouble. Trying to be superwoman, where you work full-time and try to maintain the lifestyle of a stay-at-home mom, is indeed quite impossible. I find the working mom life to be easily manageable, but it’s because I grew up that way and I’m accustomed to the shortcuts and the things that I know I can’t do. Be realistic and it can work.

        1. Meg

          That is good advice. A lot of the problem for me is a lack of role models. My mom stayed home with us until middle school when she went back to teaching. Even then, her schedule coincided with ours and the school day. After college, I worked in a Big 4 accounting firm where most of the women with young children tried the flexible work arrangements, but they were often placed on the lower-tier clients. I was always on teams with mostly men. Now I work in the finance dept of a small VC firm where the only other woman with small children has a husband who works from home and handles all the kid doctor appointments and a mother who picks the kids up from school and cooks them dinner every night. Therefore, it’s definitely helpful to hear the “real” details about how others get stuff done.

          1. Lisa Cleary

            If people can do flextime or jobshare, more power to them. I’m not optimistic about their availability, so they’re like unicorns as far as I’m concerned. Given American work culture, I think the real working mom goal should be a 40 hr/wk job. Just like working moms can’t sustain a stay-at-home lifestyle, nor can they sustain a 60-80 hr workweek, which often feels like the norm for high-powered jobs. Maybe in spurts you can do it, but not long-term. But you can’t feel bad about stepping back, flextime or mommy track. You’re raising kids and it doesn’t matter to your long-term career if you make partner at 45 instead of 35. BFD. But it’ll matter a hell of a lot to your kids whether you were ever around. And if you can’t see a path to make that original goal, then figure out a new goal. I have a friend who slogged trying to make partner at a law firm, had babies and then gave up on the big law firm and went internal. After some years, she’s now general counsel at a great company, doesn’t track her billable hours, gets to tell her company’s outsourced law firms what to do, and is happy as a clam. There’s always a path. She says that one day she might lateral over to be senior partner at a big law firm just to prove a point.To “get stuff done”, if you’re a well-paid exec, you can outsource tasks you can’t/won’t do. But if that’s not your situation, outsource whatever tasks you can afford that you deem lower-value for you to do yourself. Then make deals with the husband for the rest. Two deals my husband and I made in our 20s still hold today: I love to cook, and he’s a neatnik, so deal #1 was if I do all the cooking, he’ll do all the kitchen cleaning. He also hates shopping of any kind, so deal #2 was if I do all the shopping – clothing, groceries, gifts—he’ll do all the laundry including dry cleaning. We both feel like we got the better end of the deal, and it works. People can’t believe my husband does the laundry, as if it’s female-only, which we both find insulting. He may have ruined clothing early on, but boy did he get it right after I kept shopping for replacements.Food is a topic all its own. If you don’t cook, figure out how to outsource it in a healthy way. Tackle it like any project and figure out what you can cobble together, and then how much takeout and restaurant food you can afford. If you like to cook, a big trick is that I cook/prep for the next day after the kids go to bed. Day of, I’m just reheating or pulling what I’d prepped out of the oven. It’s SO much easier to cook without the time pressure. And while I’m doing it, I’m either chatting with the husband (who’s usually folding laundry at this point), or on the phone with friends or have music/TV on in the kitchen, and have a glass of wine or tea depending on my day. Very civilized, dinner for the next night gets done, and I get to decide whether I have energy to do something simple or involved without anyone whining that they’re hungry. I also grocery shop on a weeknight after the kids go to bed, and only go to one store that has everything I need (I know people love their little store that does this or that, but no can do multiple stores). Most grocery stores are open til at least 10pm, and are so much calmer and faster on a weeknight and without the kids in tow. I have friends who think I’m nuts, and I always say that I’m sane, not nuts. I know I can delegate more as the kids get older, but when they’re littler, you have to stay sane.

          2. Laura Yecies

            glad to know I wasn’t the only working mom doing grocery shopping at night!

        2. Gotham Gal

          Being realistic is absolutely key. There are only 24 hrs in a day

  25. Vanyala

    Great post!I have one child, a 19 month old, a husband and a corporate job. I’m at a place now where I’ve finally got some balance. My big secret is to trade money for time. We buy prepared meals for all our dinners, and my daughter’s lunches and snacks for daycare. I pay more for a personal trainer to come to my house so I don’t have to worry about packing for the gym, commuting there and then to work. We get some clothes dry cleaned so we don’t have to iron them. We have a regular babysitter for date nights twice a month. We have a gardener and a house cleaner. All this is definitely affecting our discretionary income, and probably affecting how soon I can retire, but I’m OK with that right now. Because this means I can now do things that bring me sanity – like take a walk with my girl in the evenings instead of rushing around cooking and packing, and read books at night, and get some exercise, and have a real conversation with my husband every 2 weeks :).The big difference from pre-baby life is still that I’m doing fine at work, but I’m not a rock star. I had to choose between me-time and work time, and after a year and a half of utter insanity my choice is “me first”. Maybe a year or so from now I can go back to working full-throttle… but then I’ll have to choose between ambition and baby #2. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      you found the balance, bravo….for now.

    2. Guest

      Is it really a choice between ambition and baby #2? Or can the context change such  that both can be accommodated? I’m not a Mama, so perhaps I’m ridiculously naive. But the “or” just doesn’t sit well with me…  

      1. Gotham Gal

        have a baby and you will see.

        1. Guest


      2. Vanyala

        There’s always an “or” after you have a child. Sometimes it comes in small doses – do you stay late for this important meeting or pick up your child on time so she doesn’t get too hungry? Do you stay up late catching up on email, or go to bed so you can be ready for that 3am wake up call? Sometimes it’s a lot bigger. Do you come back to work or stay at home or work part time or flex time or find another job? Do you have one kid or more? Do you take on that extra project or pass up because you’re afraid you won’t be able to do it?

        1. Guest

          I hope I haven’t come across as disrespectful or condescending. To the extent I have, please accept my apologies. I wish to have the privilege of becoming a mother and as such, I’m curious about the ultimate challenge and how others have managed that challenge! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond!