When I started momAgenda, I already had 4 kids, the youngest of which was 1 year old at the time. I was reluctant to reenter the work force because I knew I would lose the flexibility to put being a mom first. That’s why I decided to start my own business; I knew if I was the boss, no one could tell me where and when to be at any given time. No one could tell me I had to travel to a business meeting on my child’s birthday (something which happened to a friend of mine and which I never forgot).
I did a lot of research at that time and learned that many college-educated women like me had dropped out of the work force to raise children (these of course were the fortunate women who had that option financially). The reason was not because they didn’t want to work, but because the workplace is so unfriendly to the needs of moms. And in many cases, it feels like an either/or proposition.
I noted at that time that the only way these moms would really come back into the workforce in large numbers was if the workplace adapted to meet our needs. By giving greater flexibility. Day care options. And yes, telecommuting options.
I have dear friends who work full-time for large companies, who are killing themselves with guilt. They are helping support their families, but their kids give them grief and they often feel judged for their choices. And other friends who chose the other extreme, to put their professional talents and ambitions on the back burner temporarily while raising children. They pay a price too, in terms of their own financial independence and career dreams.
There needs to be a middle ground. A grey area where moms who want to work can do so with the flexibility to feel they are making a contribution at work and giving enough to their children as well. And the companies that are friendly to the needs of families, the ones that are flexible about working from home for example, are the ones that will benefit from the extraordinary talents of the women in this generation of moms.
But it’s never going to happen unless important women in business and government start speaking out about our needs. Powerful, visible women like Marissa Mayer need to be out there championing our cause, not setting us back to the stone age.