Recently an Ellevate Network poll asked members to name the smartest thing they’ve done as working mothers. Since conversations often seem skewed to musings on how working mothers could be shortchanging their children, I responded to the survey to promote a dialogue with a more positive spin.
In my survey answer I said that I took the mystery out of that thing called “work”. Starting when my daughters were very young, I explained my work in simple terms and told them about projects I had underway. I brought them to my offices frequently so they would have a clear picture of where I disappeared to in the morning. Sometimes they did their “work” in coloring books on the floor, or years later they did homework at an open desk. They got to know my colleagues by name and I would tell them stories about various people over dinner. My daughters have always felt that they are a part of my work…and not that it is something I compartmentalize away from our home and family.
When my eldest daughter was in kindergarten, the art teacher asked the children to draw a Mother’s Day portrait of “My Mom and Me”. In my daughter’s drawing, I am seated at my home office desk, which was no surprise. But my daughter is also next to me in the picture–surrounded by her books, toys and our dog. Though my daughter was not always in my office, she knew it was a place that was not off limits. On slower days she would wander in and out. When I was on a deadline, she understood that I needed to do my work quietly, and she would go off to do her own “work” with the babysitter. Even at a young age, she knew I was doing a project for Diane or Sarah or Jim—and since she loved to read, it was easy for her to relate to the fact that my publishing job helped people write more great books.
Now that daughter is 24, working on her own advertising career in New York City. Since those coloring days, she has seen me work in offices in and out of our home, for employers and clients who knew her name (including one who had a picture of my daughter in her home), and in my own entrepreneurial ventures. She remembers not only that a phone was always glued to my ear, but that I also chaperoned field trips, read in the classroom, and created costumes for school plays. She finds her way through her own hectic days, knowing that I survived many stressful times being pulled in many directions. Along with all the good things that mothers pass on to children, I’ve always given my daughters front row seats to view the ups and downs of my daily work and life. They know it’s possible—and fulfilling—to be a loving, omnipresent and involved Mom and a woman committed to her own work+life “coloring”, too. —KAS
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Photo credit: Gualberto107/www.freedigitalphotos.net