Four kids….

2000-12-04 01.24.06 (1)The other morning I was walking to a breakfast and passed a Mom with four kids.  She was in shorts and a t-shirt pushing a stroller with a baby strapped to her chest, one kid standing on the back of the stroller, one in the stroller and a fourth walking next to her.  The kids had to all be under 5.  It got me thinking.

I sat down with my friend for breakfast and I just started talking about it.  He has three young kids and moved out to the suburbs a few years back.  His wife works four days a week.  I know from living in the suburbs that there are mothers that don’t work, mothers that work part time and mothers that work full time.  There is an obvious line drawn in the community from those who get called to be involved in the school and those that don’t.  There are bonds formed around women who are in one category.  There are a couple of men starting to take on the “at home” role but few and far between.  Lots of the conversation is completely centered around the kids.  Women on one side, men on the other at events.

The obvious question after seeing that mother is does she stay home for a decade or when does she return to work.  Seeing that woman juggle those four kids is hard work.  It is amazing that she can stay home and do that but is that a good thing forever?  Data shows that kids of working mothers are actually better off.

My friend who has 3 kids and a fourth on the way is trying to figure it out.  She wants to work.  Her oldest daughter wanted to know why she goes to work every day.  It upset her but the truth is her daughter was just stating something.  She happened to be written up in the newspaper that day so she showed her daughter that Mommy was doing something that made a difference.  That difference happened to be making an impact on the underserved but the reality is working makes an impact on her well-being Essentially saying to her daughter that you are my number one but I need to do something that is for myself is important.

The importance of women figuring out how to get back into the workplace after staying home for a few years is beyond important.  It gives them their own identity.  It says to her own kids that she is doing something that she can call her own.  That by going back to work she is showing her children that work is positive.  Moms are the role models to their children.

Staying home with our children for a few years at two separate times was an incredible experience and a great opportunity.  Returning to work under my own terms is rewarding.  I’ve been able to create my own life that is connected with their vs just being part of theirs.

Yes…that is all the thoughts that rambled through my head in one short burst.  I am still thinking about that woman.  She has a long road ahead.  Her kids are young.  Raising children is probably the most rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life.  Nothing else compares.  Going back to work wasn’t easy but it has allowed me to look in the mirror and not wonder what happened to that young college girl who thought she could take over the world.  She is actually still here.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I like that we are approaching this from what is good for us–not just what is good for the kids.Kids adapt. There is no blueprint for raising them. We love them and take responsibility. It works out.Us–it is our lives and good to have choices.My mom worked part time and ran the house with 5 men. She was happy but had no choice. Economics ruled.Having the freedom to choose is where it all gets better.

    1. Gotham Gal

      My Mom said to me a long time ago. If you are happy, your kids will be happy. Smart lady.

  2. daryn

    First of all, that’s a great picture of the kids! Secondly, couldn’t agree more. My wife went back to school and started a new career when our two children were very young. It wasn’t about money, which currently is about a wash with childcare, it was about continuing to develop in other facets of her life besides “being mom”. It’s tough at time juggling, and certainly there are days where she wonders if she should have waited, but she loves her job and appreciates being an individual. She may still leave the workforce for a few years at some point, but she’s proven to herself she can do it, and that in itself is a great accomplishment.

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. Inna Raykhman

    i think US needs to do a much, much, much better job of figuring out good, affordable day care options and better schools. i grew up in former Soviet Union, which got a huge amount of things wrong, but the availability of daycare and good quality schools was something that worked well and supported the working mother.

  4. Mario Cantin

    “Going back to work wasn’t easy but it has allowed me to look in the mirror and not wonder what happened to that young college girl who thought she could take over the world. “That’s a powerful statement, Joanne.It’s probably just a matter of time before an entrepreneur creates a startup that effectively helps mothers get back into the work force — unless it already exists.

    1. Matt Kruza

      I think Joanne profiled one a few months ago.. its slips my mind right now. It was geared at higher-end professional careers I think (pretty elite schools and elite consulting, banking, fortune 500 etc.), but still a good project. Either Joanne profiled it or I read it somewhere else… not being too helpful here but if she was the one to profile it maybe she can elaborate more

    2. irisheyes

      I’ve heard of a couple of companies tackling this issue, more from the angle of sourcing flexible work opportunities – MomCorps and PowertoFly.

      1. Mario Cantin


  5. Erin

    I guess I don’t understand the thing about “being called to be involved in the school or not”. I assumed you could volunteer at your child’s school if you wanted to. One thing I realized as a secretary of an elementary school with an awesome parent council that if I ever moved and needed to get involved in a network of happening women or needed a contact in the job world, or reference, I’d volunteer at my kid’s school, as it’s mostly made up of wives of business owners/doctors/professionals/etc. who have maybe a foot in the work world part-time or at least have connections to get me in somewhere.

  6. ErikSchwartz

    We have four kids (13, 10, 7, 4) and we home school (long story). I work in technology in SF now but I took a 3 year sabbatical when our first was born.My wife is a Stanford graduate. She is a photographer. The vast majority of her paying shooting gigs are on the weekends. She processes pictures during the week. Before that she built (and sold) a company in the baby accessory/clothing space. All of this is paying and meaningful work but I’m not sure she’d classify any of it a job (well the baby business just before she sold it was a job).Is it meaningful work that is appreciated that is important, or a job?All that said a lot of making this workable is about the temperament of the kids and the parents.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Everyone has a different slant on what is meaningful and that is all that counts.

  7. Laura Yecies

    We have four kids and I always worked – though unlike the woman in your post my kids were spread over a 10 year age range, now 19-29. There were certainly times when I wished I could be home more but frankly I knew I always wanted to work. I love my work and the stimulation and sense of accomplishment/contribution it provides and I mostly think it was good for my kids, particularly in terms of their independence. There are all kinds of setups, timings, full/part-time, schedules and everyone needs to figure out what works best for them. Perhaps even the woman in your post works full-time. My sister worked as a physician/hospitalist at night when her four girls were the ages you described.

  8. Emily Parsons

    My parent’s ran a construction company and a maple sugaring operation in Vermont. I played on on job sites, ran around and “helped” in the woods during sugaring season. They just brought my brother and I along and we learned a lot. Now my husband and I, in Wyoming, run a forestry/tree care company and we are launching a Fleet and Maintenance Software. What fun! My babies are 1 and 3.5. 10 Months ago, (Kids: 2 months old and 2.5) we raced back to Vermont, as my brother received a terminal diagnosis with stage IV colon cancer… at 36 years old… with 2 young children of his own. We got there in September; he passed in March. In the end, it was time to switch to Hospice from treatment. Trevor (my brother) sat us down and outlined the end for us, as Ewan (his son) walked around dressed only in a diaper and his older sister’s tap shoes giggling, while we all bawled and bawled and bawled.My take away is that I need to pack in as much livin’ as possible every single day. I want to have kids, get ideas out, start businesses, and just do it all, and my kids are going to be right there – learning and growing. I don’t need to change every single diaper. I want to know I’m leading a lifestyle that is good for me and keeps me healthy, and in turn that over pours into my children’s life. I think Flexibility in the workplace is good to see. It’s good for parents. Work from home some hours, professional jobs that aren’t 40 – 50 hours… It’s not the reality in every position, and every industry, but let’s be creative for those who have the skills we are looking for in our companies.

    1. Gotham Gal

      pack in as much livin’ as possible every single day….for sure!!

  9. NL

    I have a one year old. One of the toughest decision I made was to not be a stay at home mom but continue with my career and passion. I felt that one of the best gift I can give her aside from love and time is being a good role model. I want her to know that just because people think it is impossible does not mean she have to accept it, to pursue her passion and never accept status quo.

    1. leigh

      I stayed home with my first for 2 years (she’s 19 now and awesome) and went back to work at 6 weeks with my second (he’s now six and he’s also awesome). Positive and negative things to both scenarios for both them and me. I don’t regret a thing.

  10. pointsnfigures

    We stopped at 2. My friends that had 3 said at that point you go from man to man to zone defense so you might as well have 10. I think back when we had kids it was A LOT harder for women to re-enter the workforce on their terms. My wife tried, and her company was inflexible. Choice was day care or stay home. She chose to stay home. Now, it’s really really hard for her to enter the workforce-other than work on a charity board which is unfulfilling for her. To be honest, because of my independent history-totally impossible for me to get employment if I wanted a job too. No one understands or values independent work.

  11. LizScott

    About six months ago Deloitte sent out a note to its alumni (via LinkedIn) asking for input on a pilot program they were starting: for Deloitte alum women who had been out of the workforce for two years, they would offer (via application I assume) a ten week paid internship with full time hire potential at the end of the ten weeks. I think this is brilliant: tapping into a huge population of capable workers who may not know how to break back in and enabling those workers a chance to see if “going back”it works for them. I hear so often from my friends who stay home that they have NO IDEA how to get back even they wanted to. And I can only imagine the decision tree of “leave? Stay?” Would be so different if going back wasn’t based on luck and happenstance

    1. Donna Brewington White

      This is great.

  12. Donna Brewington White

    This topic is fresh on my mind because I just had a team meeting yesterday with my support staff which currently consists of two moms who work part-time from home. I see what a difference these jobs have made in the lives of these two women and it really excites me. As I continue to build my company, I am committed to creating opportunities for moms to work with me part-time either in support or professional roles, along with other team members in different situations. I will continue to refine this model and then will become an even stronger advocate for this type of working situation.Here is what I said about this in a recent blog post advocating for remote team members:Because these women are responsible, committed and efficient, they get a lot done and I am continually amazed at how much they care about their work.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You are forging new paths for those mothers. They will be eternally grateful.

    2. leigh

      People have some unfounded belief that women who have kids won’t be as committed to work. It’s such a load of crap. I’ve hired hundreds of people over my career. Some have kids, some don’t. It makes NO difference to work performance for either gender. Maybe it’s because i started my career with a 2 year old in my life and maybe i was crazy enough to start a company 12 years later with my next 2 year old in my life – but i welcome moms and see the fact that other companies leave hugely committed and talented people on the table for some ridiculous bias they have – well that’s just an opportunity for me to turn that to my competitive advantage.

      1. Gotham Gal

        bravo.i have a friend (we do business together too). he has literally hired mostly women in his company. he says they work harder and are just better employees….and yes some have families.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Exactly, Leigh. Bravo!