Friday night I caught Lisa Belkin’s column on the Washington DC attorney at Clifford Chance, who also happens to be a mother to two young kids. Belkin covered this woman’s story because her way of abruptly quitting her demanding job came in the form of a detailed memo breaking down just how long and challenging her day was trying to manage two small kids and a high-pressured job.The memo is easily interpreted as shrill and drips in martyrdom – but in case you haven’t yet seen it – her day begins unpleasantly around 4am and ends some 20-ish hours later when she finally goes back to sleep around 1am.
This woman’s memo was actually forwarded by someone at Clifford Chance to the legal blog Above the Law and hence became today’s hot story on work-life balance.
Note to self: never distribute something en mass unless you’d like for it to go viral. I bet this tired working mom wasn’t thinking about that when she hit the old SEND button.
As I read through her 20 hour day, I thought about my day. Here’s what it looks like usually:
9AM – wake up feeling refreshed and amazing, with vim and vigor, excited to face the day while birds chirp happily outside my window. Usually I break into song.
9:30AM – After some time perusing the headlines and catching up on emails, while resting in my bed, my husband usually draws me a warm bubble bath while my children are busy downstairs making me a breakfast of egg whites and prepping the Kale chips for lunch
10am – I head to the spa while Mr. Wired Momma teaches the girls Mandarin
12pm – Home in time for lunch and those kid-made kale chips. Then we do family yoga and meditation and talk openly about all that we’re thankful for. This usually takes a few hours.
Should I keep going?
So back in reality-land once I got past the whole “What the hell did this woman think parenting young children and working was going to be like” shock of her memo, I moved on.
For me, there’s so many different ways to approach this particular story, especially as someone who makes an effort to talk about work-life choices and the challenges we all face in trying to raise kids today. Over the course of 2011, however, I started to move away from the actual story as the real inspiration point and started to realize that often the real story lies in the comments section. The comments in both the HuffPost under Belkin’s article and in the original story in Above the Law are fascinating. One of my friends on Facebook actually used the word “trolls” to describe the assholes commenting on the ATL piece. She’s not totally off-base there. But if you, too, believe the real story lies in the comments – then I’d argue the real story here is as much about how husbands and wives share work and family responsibilities as this is a story about an over-worked and exhausted working mom.
So about that – again – here’s the link to the woman’s detailed memo. I don’t know who she is and I don’t know who her husband is, I don’t know how factual her memo is and I don’t know how exaggerated it is. In other words – I don’t know much.
But let’s assume she is being totally factual, then please allow me to be blunt and cut to the chase:
WHERE THE FUCK IS HER HUSBAND?
There are millions of single parents out there who have no choice but to keep on keepin’ on and raise their kids to the best of their bone-tired exhausted ability. But for a married couple, of which she is, there is no acceptable reason in this day and age why any one person is handling the 4am crying baby, dressing and feeding the children, taking them both to daycare, picking them both up from daycare, getting the kids’ dinner on the table, bathing them both and putting them both to bed.
Again, we don’t know if she is playing the role of the martyr or if she married a huge jerk or if her husband happened to be away on work travel on the very day she clearly just SNAPPED – but we should have a conversation about marital roles. Especially because just last week I was afforded the great opportunity to speak to a group of really interesting, smart, dynamic women who were having a mothers retreat, and only a small – VERY small – handful of them could admit that their husbands know how to tend to their children without any notes, guidance or advice from them.
How very Christian Grey of them, I found myself thinking.
I was pissed at them just like I am at you if this is the truth in your house. I believe women do a tremendous disservice to themselves, their children and their husbands if they themselves control everything at home. If when leaving for a trip or even a day of errands, if a detailed note has to be left or instructions have to be given (beyond something innocuous like “don’t forget the birthday party at 2pm” and for that we have apps), then how can we strive for achieving work-life balance beyond our front door if we don’t even have it inside our home?
And who, pray tell, is to blame for that?
Mirror Mirror on the wall…..who is the most controlling of them all?
You got it.
So to the woman who wrote the exhausted, martyrish memo to her bosses at the law firm – I first ask you to spend some time on your extended reprieve from the paid-working world – evaluating the holes you dug for yourself. Ask yourself why you structured your life not as a partnership but as a sole proprietorship even though you had a, presumably, capable husband. Each time we leave detailed notes and instructions, each time we handle the 4am wake ups and the breakfast and the daycare drop off and dinner and bedtime, we undermine our partners and the importance of them, we undermine their confidence and we do our children no favors in the event of our untimely deaths (I am super good at imagining worst case scenarios). We also are teaching them archaic lessons about the roles of men and women as they grow up.
Oh and- let’s cut to the chase here people – no one likes a martyr – especially me because I have a hell of a time spelling that word.
Look, I will leave it to everyone else covering this story, to evaluate the wake-up call companies need in this day and age – to start accommodating the lives of all of their workers – not just working parents. I think we all know that every working person is plugged in constantly and feels the demands of working infringing on their supposed “free time” – whether they have children or not – thanks to the technology bleed. This is not a challenge uniquely facing working moms.
What is a challenge uniquely facing so many working mothers is the need for control – the need to manage every aspect of our child’s lives ourselves – and not share this with our spouses or more accurately – place the expectation on them from the beginning that we will need their help in this PARTNERSHIP of raising the children. For that, I don’t feel sorry for any working mother in this predicament because such is the grave she digs for herself.
And don’t think for one second that I, too, am not or have not been guilty of:
- Leaving Lists
- Laying out Outfits
- Calling to check in on how carefully he is following my schedule
- Managing all the appointments and activities and family calendar myself
- Handling all the grocery shopping yet being pissed when he doesn’t know what we need to replenish
- Imagining the hateful note I will leave because no one in the office understands the daily challenges I face
But I think honesty, communication and letting go – is an important part in making any mom’s day more manageable and less likely to be a 19-20 hour day. As much as it sometimes physically pains
me us. It is an important cycle to break if you’re in it now and it’s a habit to be avoided if you’ve just had a baby. Release this side of your inner-fifty shades, is what I want to scream at this tired working mom who just quit her job and now we’re all talking about her.
So there you have it. Hopefully you’re not disappointed that today’s post isn’t a rant against corporate America. I’ve had enough of those in my innumerable posts on work-life choices. Nope, today’s post is a demand that we let go and make sure our partners are also working because if they’re not, we’re often the ones to blame.
“Like” moi on Facebook and I promise – it’s not a red room of pain where I tell you what you’re doing wrong all the time. We actually have fun and great conversations there. And please – tell me – what did you think of her memo, what did you think of my post – what do you think??? One friend who writes the fabulous blog Tiny Steps Mommy suggested on the WM FB Page that we all email in a detailed memo time-breakdown of our days. I kind of loved that idea and if enough people actually email me their memos, I’ll do a post about it. It could be fun. email@example.com is the easiest way to reach me. Until then, I must get back to our Wired Momma family meditations and my 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.