Where can I check my motherhood identity?

If you can check your coat, can you check your motherhood identity? And can you get a claim check to get it back when you’re leaving? 

You got it kittens. We’re back to the ever-popular, never gets old, topic of the plight of the working mom.  The old faithful topic. It’s like old man winter. Never goes away. Always comes back. Managing work with children. Note I deliberately did not use the word “balance.” I hereby forbid the naive use of that word here on KT.

There are many routes to travel when trying to fulfill your duties as a worker and as a mom and sometimes, something’s got to give. The question is, what, and which facade do you keep up during the day? Do you wear your motherhood as a badge of honor and an integral part of your identity? Or do you discreetly check it at the door on your way in?

Some women return to work after having a child and do their best to appear like nothing’s changed (except those wider hips and thicker bellies). They try to keep up the facade that all is well, there are no crises at home with sick babies or traveling nannies. They aren’t stalking their nanny during the day when too much time has passed and no one’s home.

Nope, they are just working away behind their desks, all suited up and ready to charge forth into a late breaking meeting and get the job done.

Others believe that they should wear their badge of motherhood with pride. They believe that the office should be well aware of the fact that they have a baby at home. The demand on their time is different. Don’t get me wrong – they are still just as good of a worker – but their flexibility isn’t the same. They can’t attend a last minute work dinner on a whim anymore, for example, and this should be respected and taken into consideration. Their job as a mother is just as important as their job as the employee of this company.

I’m sure there are tons of other ways that working mom’s manage their perception in the office but these are just two. I don’t think either are as clear cut and dry as I’m laying them out but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll leave them like that.

So which route do you take and how do you think it works?

I, for one, definitely leave at 5pm on the nose, if not a little earlier whereas before child, I was easily here until 6:30 each night. I also don’t attend work happy hours and quietly opt-out of evening work functions wherever possible, whereas before child I was committed to one-two a week. But beyond that, I check my motherhood at the door. I leave it in the car. I don’t think that it’s realistic to think that anyone is going to accomodate schedules or dinners because my evening time isn’t flexible anymore.

I don’t think my boss cares about or wants to know about whatever nanny crisis I’m dealing with. And I actually think it’s going to get me further if the more she forgets I’m a mom, the better off I am. The more I can prove that I am just as good, probably better, now, than I was pre-baby, the better off things are at the end of the day: note bonus and raise time.

Now – my friend over at Self Made Mom: www.selfmademom.net has a different perspective. She believes it is important that her office appreciate and respect the fact that she is a mother. This means she cannot and should not be expected to attend a work dinner when she’s invited a few hours before it happens. That is just one example. I think she believes that by building her motherhood into her work identity, she is not only doing a service to herself and her child, but also helping pave the way for future mom’s in the workforce.

The truth is, I don’t think she’s wrong at all (and she and I are writing dueling blogs on this topic today). But that doesn’t mean I’m going to change my approach to how I manage work and family life.

I think the question is – what kind of role does corporate America play in this? And more specifically, the environment of your office? How family friendly is your workplace and how much flexibility do they encourage?

I think “family friendly” is a tricky phrase because no one’s going to say they hate kids and are against them. That’s like saying you hate kittens and Santa (though I’m pretty sure Self Made Mom hates Santa). But I think the proof is in the pudding. Actions always speak louder than words, in KT’s reality.

I work somewhere that does not support flexible schedules or consistent work-from-home. Therefore, I think that the best way I can make it through the day unscathed and still get the same kind of raise and bonus I did back when I worked longer days in the office, is to check my motherhood at the door.

At the office, I’m just worker me with a few pictures of my cute kid hanging up.

What do you do? Is there a right way to handle it?

6 Responses to Where can I check my motherhood identity?
  1. […] caused quite a debate between my friend and I (so much that we had this wacky idea to have dueling blog posts about it […]

  2. Emma
    August 1, 2007 | 6:56 pm

    I am in the same boat as you are dear KT. I thought I had the flexibility, but alas now I do not. And I have to check my motherhood at the door in order to be treated the same as I was pre-baby. It’s a shame, but it’s reality for many.

  3. MWL
    August 2, 2007 | 1:46 am

    I bring mommy to work 60 percent of the time, the other 40 percent I check it at the door.. but given my recently getting passed over for the same job in the 3 years since ive been prego/new baby, perhaps I should consider checking mommy way more often.. maybe they are afraid b/c he is 3 and Im almost 38 that baby #2 has got to be coming soon.. all this shizz is for the birds..

  4. LawyerMama
    August 2, 2007 | 3:04 am

    I can’t check my mommyhood at the door. It just comes up too often. My hubby and I both travel and have pretty demanding jobs. If he’s already scheduled to be out of town, I can’t drop everything and fly to New York. Somebody’s got to be here.

    And I haven’t found that discussing my kids has hurt me in an way. I know plenty about my co-workers’ personal lives and they know plenty about mine. I wouldn’t enjoy my job quite so much if we didn’t have that sort of connection. Of course, when I meet with a client for the first time, I’m not going to bust out the wallet and show them pictures of my kids unless they do it first!

  5. GHD
    August 2, 2007 | 3:06 pm

    When I was working (I’m a SAHM, now), I had no problem with “wearing my badge of motherhood” with pride… but only when it was relevant. Fortunately, my job offered me more flexibility than most.

    For instance, I could block off time on my calendar to pump. Only my boss and immediate teammates knew that time was for. I never brought it up to everyone else; they thought I was “just busy” and planned around it.

    I was very clear about the fact that I had additional priorities, not OTHER priorities in my life. When I was at work, I kept my focus on working things and the photos and silly new mom stories to a minimum.

  6. kittytime
    August 2, 2007 | 3:32 pm

    I love all the comments from KT readers and feel compelled to clarify that I don’t hide the fact that I’m a mom (as evidenced by the pictures of my daughter on my office door) but because of the circumstances of my work environment, I don’t bring it up unless necessary. Example – doctor’s appointment, then I will say I’m going to be late because I’m taking her to the doctor. Again, I think my motherhood is an important integral part of my identity but because of the atmosphere of my office, in particular a boss who has no children, I don’t advertise it unless asked first about how she is doing. Which I think is unfortunate. I’ve enjoyed reading the new blogs I’m seeing linked to here in these comments as well.
    KT

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