What does it really mean to work full-time?

I am at O’Hare flying to Pittsburgh to give a speech. I try to never give speeches. Actually I try to never leave my house. Because I think I will regret any time I spend away from my kids.

Well, definitely I will. Here’s how I know:

Because I chose to live in abject poverty in NYC because I didn’t want to leave my kids to work in an office. So I started building a freelance writing business on $25 articles. We ran out of food a lot, and I thought I’d look back and be horrified that my kids did not have beds. (We all slept on the floor because we had no room for beds.)

But in fact, what I regret is the four years I worked 80-hour weeks running my startup and put my kids in daycare. (I called it school, but I know there is no distinction between school for four-year-olds and daycare for four-year-olds.) I was making mid-six figures for most of that time, but those years are much more sour in my memory than the years of living in poverty where I spent my days with my kids.

So I try not to leave the kids now. And I console myself that I’m homeschooling. I’m spending most of my days with the kids.

My kids would say I’m spending most of my days doing work.

Both might be true, but I want to wrestle with this reality at home, close enough to them to hear their constant, daily fighting.

The TV in terminal G has Sheryl Sandberg telling women to Lean In. And signing autographs. And I wonder why would she spend extra time at her speech signing autographs. I don’t think it’ll sell more books. Having been an author signing autographs myself, I can testify: those people would have bought my book anyway. After all, they listened to the whole lecture—they are invested.

So I want to know: why does she spend that extra time? She has two young kids. I understand wanting to run a company, and I understand wanting to launch an organization to (supposedly) help women, but I don’t understand the devaluing of parenting time by choosing to sign autographs instead.

Did you see the Time 100? The best part of the magazine that week was Joel Stein’s essay on how hard Time works to appeal to Generation Y by targeting the 100 toward that demographic. And how much Time misses the mark.

In that same issue Sheryl wrote the homage or essay or ass-kissing-memo or whatever we are calling the Time 100 writings, about Beyonce. Sheryl talks about how Beyonce has changed the music industry. She’s a leader in song and dance and performance. But there’s exactly nothing surprising until Sheryl adds, “Beyonce does all this while being a full-time mother.”

In that little sentence, Sandberg does something very big. Sandberg declares that you can have a full-time job and be a full-time mother.

This is convenient. Because now Sandberg is a full-time mom who spends some days away from the kids signing autographs. And running Facebook. And Beyonce is a full-time mom who spends some days away from her daughter on billion-dollar concert tours. So basically anyone who gave birth is a full-time mom regardless of how much of their time is spent on kids. Now we can all feel good about ourselves regardless of our choices.

But does this help anyone?

No. It’s a way to deny that we make big choices in our lives. Of course you cannot choose to be a full-time mom and have a big career. Full-time mom means your kids are your career. If you redefine full-time mom then you take away the ability for people who stay home with their kids to describe their work as full-time. You invite the ignorant and antiquated question: “Oh, you are with the kids all day? What do you do with all your time?”

Obviously Beyonce has time with her daughter. But she is splitting her time between two things that are important to her.

This all begs the question: What does it mean to work full-time?

Marissa Mayer requires full-time employees to work in the office. And she is just putting in writing what is understood at most top-flight companies, which is that facetime matters and people with serious careers don’t work from home.

At Wal-Mart 24-hour weeks is full-time because the company wants to sidestep health insurance for low-level employees.

At a startup full-time is 80-hour weeks. When I was running my last startup, Brazen Careerist, and I cut back from 80-hour weeks to 50-hour weeks, we agreed at a board meeting that I was working part-time and the salary I draw should reflect that.

During that same phase of my life, I started homeschooling my kids. And I realized that most people assume you have to be a full-time parent to homeschool kids. But I don’t think of myself as a full-time parent.

So you can see that what is part-time work to some people is full-time work to other people. And I guess I have to admit that what is part-time parenting to some people is full-time parenting to other people.

Probably the best way to find out if someone is a full-time parent is to ask their kids. Do the kids think they are the parent’s primary concern, or do the kids feel they compete with something else on the parent’s agenda?

The irony of all this full-time talk is that Pew Research polled women with kids the majority will said their optimum situation would be being home with the kids and a small but meaningful, part-time job on the side.

The problem here is the small-but-meaningful clause. There is a direct correlation between the amount of meaning in an achievement and the amount of meaning in the things we give up to attain that achievement. It’s why people tell you that when you have kids your life will change – because you will give up so much in your life that you thought was nonnegotiable.

There are not limited-time-but-still-meaningful jobs. And there is not limtited-time-but-still-meaningful parenting. Because both imply that you somehow beat the system and avoid the tough tradeoffs.

There is only the truth that you get what you give. If you give a lot to your kids, you get a lot from your kids. If you give a little, you get a little. And the same is true with your work.

I don’t know what Beyonce has left to give her daughter. I don’t know what Sandberg has left to give her kids. But I know that redefining full-time parenting, as something you can do with a full-time job, only distorts the discussion of the choices women make now. And it is deliberately misleading to women who have to make tough choices in the coming years.


126 replies
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  1. Ron
    Ron says:

    My wife works full time, and no one with a pulse would call her a full time mom. This fills her with regret, and more than a little guilt, but she is not wired to spend her days at the gym and the mall. She is extraordinarily talented and is compensated very well, but she isn’t in it for the money. She needs to live the life of a grown up, and hard, productive work is how she defines it.

    I travel extensively for my company, and I share her regrets at being too absent (a weird thing to have in common, but you can’t predict what makes people fall in love).

    We can afford child care, but no one wants their family’s integrity to depend on the quality of this year’s nanny. Ours does, and has for some time. It truly sucks to feel that you are not in control of your own family, but there we are.

    We don’t want or deserve anyone’s pity. I am posting this solely to point out how hard it can be for women, like my wonderful wife, who find it impossible to turn their backs on their own talents. It’s a really tough choice, with really harsh consequences, one made no easier by pretending that a full time working woman is simultaneously a full time mom.

  2. M
    M says:

    Here’s the deal.

    Get married. Have some kids.

    You have a 50% chance of staying married.

    If you decide to stay at home, and you are on the wrong side of that 50%. Well good luck. The child support won’t be enough. And you are going to have a tough time finding work.

    I would never advise my daughter to be a stay at home mom. Sorry. The odds aren’t in your favor.

    I’ve stayed at home (for the first 5 years). Worked part time (for the next 2++) and then worked full time. That worked for me.

    Along the way I witnessed many friends abandoned and left to “figure it out”. And guess what? A stay at home mom can’t afford a lawyer. So guess who loses in the divorce. yeah.

    Sorry, I’m jaded. You make choices. But there’s nothing sexier than a confident, indecent, mama.

    Keep up the great posts, PT!

  3. jen
    jen says:

    Sheryl Sandberg does not inspire me. But, maybe it’s just me. Maybe only the 10-year-old girl in Africa taking care of her younger siblings because their mother died of AIDS can inspire me. I’m hopeless like that. Sandberg with her first-world *inspiration* is dull and predictable. God help me if she’s the beacon of hope for women of my generation.

  4. Jane the Actuary
    Jane the Actuary says:

    My first reaction to this post was “what a great observation!” Until I thought about it some more and realized that the term “full-time” simply has to be used in the context of an activity for which there’s a formal definition (e.g., full-time work or full-time student) and some reason for the definition.

    It just doesn’t work to call someone a “full-time mom” — whether that’s in reference to someone who doesn’t have paid employment, or as a compliment paid to someone who does. We should abandon this term altogether, really.

  5. Jim
    Jim says:

    Your point about being a full time parent, or not, holds true for fathers as well. My wife and I had limited support when we started a family, but we wanted to provide as many opportunities as possible for our children. I worked very long hours to make enough money to allow mom to stay home, send our kids to private schools, participate in sports and the arts, and to take the kids on vacations that would hopefully expand their minds.

    These choices were our effort to provide them the best opportunity to be happy and productive members of society. However, I definitely sacrificed more time away from the kids so my wife could stay home.

    I think that the majority of us still believe that when there is a choice, it is more important for mothers to stay at home and provide nurturing during the formative years, but I can tell you that it sucked to miss so much. I can also tell you that it would have sucked worse if I had not provided basic comforts in life and had the satisfaction of giving our children time with at least one parent.

    This sacrifice is sometimes overlooked and many fathers take a hit for not spending more time with family. For many men, if you don’t work hard to provide, then you are not considered a good father—and if you work a lot, which is definitely required to make enough money for one parent to stay home, then you are an absentee father. Of course there are exceptions for families who have a business where they can work together, like farming, but the majority work away from home.

    Even if dads are supposed to be the parent that has a career and makes the sacrifice of time, many families require both parents to work so they can afford access to athletics and arts, and all the other basic requirements like, clothes, food, transportation etc… And if you happen to live in an area with poor public schools, and do not have the skills to home school, then it will require even more work to cover the cost of a private education.

    My point is, no matter what you choose, there seems to be a down side. Is it better to stay home with the kids and going hungry or miss some time with the kids while making enough money to eat? Is it better to work long hours so you can provide opportunities or miss out on a few bed time stories? Should you have a major singing career that provides incredible opportunities for your children, or give it up so the kids don’t spend so much time with nannies? It is a different answer for everyone, but there seems to be a sacrifice involved with every choice.

    Obviously I can only answer these questions for myself, but I know that there was no perfect scenario for me.

    I can see what you mean about a distortion of the conversation when referring to a woman with a full time job as a “full time mother,” but I think we all know that the meaning depends on the way words are used. I think most women consider themselves a “full time mom” because they love and care full time, which is different than full time parenting. I also think that men have traditionally been the bread winner and the one who makes the sacrifice of time. So, if a woman of today holds a high position and makes a lot of money, they are still viewed as the parent responsible for the children.

    Just one man’s opinion, but parenting is a tough gig full of choices that are affected by an incredible amount of circumstances without any guarantee of outcome. And when you are not questioning your sanity to have children in the first place, you are faced with many choices that feel like the lessor of two evils. Is there room for improvement? Definitely! But most people are doing the best with what they have to work with and life has been getting better for a long time.

    There’s seems to be bigger fish to fry in the parenting world before worrying about the semantics of “full time mother.” I believe this is a non-issue that is easy to understand and does little to no harm.

  6. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    Kids rebel!

    When you see your mom telling her friends she is a full-time mom and you know she doesn’t do crap; start announcing that you are a part-time student/part-time son or daughter.

  7. Ellen G
    Ellen G says:

    Hi there:

    I am a devoted reader of this blog, Penelope. I don’t always agree with everything you say, but it’s a testament to the dialogue that I come back every day and love the discussions!

    That being said- my job now is working with seniors and the elderly, and it is a huge eye-opener. I can’t tell you how many times I am working with elderly women who have no savings, no retirement- nothing- nothing saved or earned. Women who are looking for apartments or assisted living with under 1,000 a month- often much less – to spend. Social security will not help support you my friends! People are living longer, and this is a huge crisis coming up in our country. (Please spare me any political comments about how other countries take care of their citizens, etc. That may be true in some cases, but look at Europe now- people living longer, with no jobs at all. (and I do have friends in Britain, Europe who tell me that a lot of our issues are theirs).

    This is an issue of people working to take care of themselves and their families. Bottom line. It’s harder for people- much less women- to get back in the job market after being out for 15 years. Please see Jennifer Senior’s terrific book- “All Joy and No Fun”. She brings up great points about how everytime there are strides for women in society, there is a big pushback over the next 10-15 years for women to drop out of the workplace and stay home with their kids.

    Me? I have a 15 year old, and I did work off and on, and part time until she was 7. My husband was in the architecture and construction business and lost his job- in 2008, and he has just now gotten footing in another field. I managed to get another job and have been working very hard, with varying results over the last 7 years. Thank goodness. We were down to nothing, and now we are doing ok.

    My point- no one can point a finger at anyone else and criticize. People have to work, yes sometimes even mothers. My daughter is terrific in every way. I am happy that I am making an income for her to have braces, and I am a great role model for her. My own mother was caught without skills in the 70s and 80s and she would have loved to be contributing and working outside of the house.

    Be open to any changes in your life!! Women, be prepared to pick up the slack if your husbands/partners need it. Don’t be “married” to an outdated view of life- life can throw you many curve balls.

  8. Josephine
    Josephine says:

    I’m not a mom but many friends of mine are mothers and my sister is a mother so I can safely state my opinion: you are an individual before being a mom. If you are miserable doing housework and being sucked dry by the responsibilities you will NOT be a good mom regardless how much time you stay at home with your kids. What happens then is that you are grumpy, sad, you lash out and you are frustrated. Everyone needs healthy distances even children from their mothers. So I don’t think that a woman who leaves the house to go to work a meaningful job needs to be questioned about how much time she spends with her kids..
    Quality time is more important than quantity.. fusion is never good in any relationship.

  9. Beat Schindler
    Beat Schindler says:

    I enjoyed reading your story. It reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald who paid for being the famous singer she was by basically giving up on her kids, hardly ever saw them. The kid’s interviews, now adults, were sad to watch.

    Your choice to live in abject poverty because you didn’t want to leave your kids begs this question: What does it take to make crazy decisions like that? It takes guts – and what better way to teach kids about guts, that most critical of ingredients, than spending time with them?

    Hats off to you :-]

  10. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    I find it hard to imagine that PTs poverty was “abject.” That usually refers to third world conditions–lack of access to clean water, sanitation, food and shelter. Our country has a safety net, which PT accessed as is her right. But if she had stayed on welfare more than three years she would have been required to participate in a job training program, which is a whole other discussion.

    Let’s not romanticize poor women who stay home with their kids. They are more likely to be unhappy/depressed than their working counterparts. I’m bad at cutting/pasting on my phone but there was a study released in 2012 by Gallup. I know PT is a fan of data… and I’m guessing her response is that moms should be unhappy for the sake of their children?

    • Amy (a different one)
      Amy (a different one) says:

      I think a big chunk of the depression that can come with being a SAHM has to do with the societal message that being at home with kids isn’t a valid and valuable career and lifestyle.

      (The same goes for at-home folks without kids.)

      So it takes a whole lot of self-empowerment to counter those cultural messages.

      I would love to start a movement to legally change the system where at-home parents can easily afford to stay home.

      But, as we can see from the comments in this one post, if many parents don’t even want to stay home with their own children, how the hell can we convince anyone else to make systematic changes?

      Although, those of us who opted for homebirths are slowly changing the system–taking away the money from hospitals for births.

      So you never know.

      Being a SAHM also takes drive and innovation: As a SAHM, I independently expand my mind. I’ve done volunteer work to make people’s lives better–not through organizations, but through my own creations. I don’t even need a boss to tell me to do it. I don’t need financial rewards or gold stars either. I do it because I like to give, it feeds me.

      (And of course, my kids see me and what I do. But that’s not why I do it either.)

      As for being with kids all the time, think: emotional boot camp. Some people spend a lot of flippin money to go on spiritual retreats. Being a full-time mom, I don’t have to. The healing and growth I’ve experienced due to sticking around for my kids is beyond measure.

      And I *want* my kids around someone like me. I want them to be emotionally-healthy and secure and have privacy and freedom. I don’t want them shuttled off here and there all day, not even getting time to ‘just be’. I want to foster their creativity with their time and space and minds, and for them to be internally-motivated (like me).

      I enjoy my kids. They are the coolest people I know. We are very close.

      But then, I don’t believe in the rat-race either. I love peace and simplicity. And self-empowerment and spirituality and growth and consciousness. I’m not into commercialism and big toys and big houses and image.

      I’m curious why you had kids, Amy K. and also what kind of relationship you desire to have with your kids. I wish everyone would state that in their posts so we can understand where everyone is coming from.

  11. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    I had kids for the same reason most people have kids: I fell madly in love and felt that primal pull to make a family with my spouse.

    I have a great relationship with my kids and my husband. Family life is the best thing that ever happened to me.

    Do you assume from my comments that I work full time? Not so much. I didn’t work outside the home at all for the first five years, and for the second five I’ve worked part-time. In three weeks my current job will end and we will begin homeschooling. Not because we think all schools are terrible as PT does, but because it’s the best choice for our family.

    I do have some experience with SAHM-related stress. About five years ago I started having strange, MS-like symptoms: numbness and tingling, buzzing sensations. Went to doctors, had tests, nothing came of it. Went to see a very alternative practitioner who ended up helping me by advising my to get a job. It worked! I got an 10-hour-a-week weekend job. Contributing to the family coffers just a little and having an identity outside of my family made a world of difference. As we head in to homeschooling, I’m mindful that a modest weekend job might be the ticket for a few more years.

    I’m happy. You sound happy. Yay for us happy Amys.

    Where I’m coming from, to answer your question, is that I don’t get why other women’s choices [or other families’ schooling choices] are any of my business.

  12. TC
    TC says:

    I understand why you were upset with the description of full time mum in case of Beyonce and I feel the same. My children are grown up now. But I used to run businesses when they were young and still be at home most of the time when they are back from school. You just have to learn to trust people to run your business in your absence otherwise you become slave to it.

    My moto is work hard when you are at work and play well with your children when you are home.

    I thank you for starting this conversation about what is a full time mum. My definition of full time mum is the mum who makes the changes for her children. Do you move because you want your children to go to best schools, not because you can advance on your career? Do you take the higher paying but more demanding job or do you accept more flexible job with less pay? I ran businesses the whole time my children were growing. But they cannot say that they ever came second to may work. This is full time dedication. It doesn’t matter how many hours you work as long as you are there when they need you. You drop everything and go. You sleep only few hours to make sure bills are paid and your children aren’t left to be parented by TV.

  13. Toni
    Toni says:

    I worked in a professional setting for 23 years. I worked long days at times (10 – 14 hour days). I recall coming home from those long days and hitting the couch with no energy for anything else. I had my weekends to myself. I had my family later in life (first child at 42, second at 44). I am fortunate and happy to be a full-time mom. I am home 24/7/365 taking care of my children’s needs. However, I don’t get time off or a lunch break or vacation time. I don’t know how my own mother kept her sanity running a household of 7. I guess the one “trick” I haven’t mastered is that I need to run my household like a business. However, try telling a 2 or 4 year old that you don’t have time for a tea party because you are mopping floors, doing laundry, dishes or what ever else needs to be done. I am trying to give our girls the best childhood possible. They will be in school full-time soon enough. I am exhausted but also happy to be home watching them develope and grow in to the people they are. I don’t know how working mom’s (or dad’s) do it. How can you have the energy for home after working a long day at the office? There is no “one answer”. We all have to juggle and we all just make it work and pray our children come out fine.

  14. Zo
    Zo says:

    My mother worked hard as a full time oncology nurse when I was growing up. She was often cranky and exhausted and as a kid I sometimes felt hard done by that her patients often got the best of her. I look back now and I realise what an amazing example she was of a provider who was also in service to broader society. Because of her hard work I have the opportunities that I do, and I also have inherited her work ethic and sense of social responsibility.

    I am married to an artist and will always need to bring home a large portion of the bacon, so to speak. I hope that I can model for them what it is to make a contribution to family and society through honest work.

  15. Magalita
    Magalita says:

    I would like to share that as a mother with two beautiful children, ages 9 and 7, I have dealt with anxiety and depression and have always needed a lot of support and structure, things I did not always have being at home. Work, which I stuggle with as well, has provided structure and a support structure which has made me a better mother. It was easier for me to isolate myself when I was home, and it was not healthy for anyone. I like to think that my children and healthy and well adjusted even though I did not stay home full time when they were young. Kids are raised by moms, communities, villages.

  16. Kater Cheek
    Kater Cheek says:

    I think there’s a question of semantics at stake here. “Full-time mom” can easily mean “doesn’t share custody with the father, who is absent.”

    Also “kids need to have a parent for whom they are the primary concern” is less true when the kids are teenagers than it is when they are babies. A 10-month-old needs a devoted parental figure. A 10-year-old, unless he or she has special needs, doesn’t require nearly as much parenting. An 18-20 year old doesn’t need a full-time mom who considers her children her first priority. My university-professor friends and hiring-manager friends tell me stories all the time of how difficult it is to deal with that sort of child (and parent).

    So even if you have an employed spouse who can support you while you raise your children, what’s true one year may not be true the next year.

    And don’t underestimate the psychological toll of being “just a homemaker”. It’s tedious, thankless work. It has its satisfactions, but it has its costs as well. I raised my children at home, and I’m glad I did, but I also acknowledge the cost, and the risk, of effectively trashing your career and placing your trust in your spouse, knowing that 50% of marriages fail.

    No matter what you do, your kids will have something to complain about. Never got a pony, uphill both ways in the snow, yada yada. But you know what? As long as the kids get enough love, they’re probably going to be okay in the end. I don’t think it’s kind or valuable to heap more guilt on mothers who are just trying to live their lives. We haven’t walked in Beyonce’s shoes. Maybe her mother cares for them. Maybe she has the best nanny in the world. Maybe the kids are surrounded by and raised by aunts and cousins. There’s more than one correct way to raise a kid.

  17. Professional Dawn
    Professional Dawn says:

    I appreciate all the perspectives. I’ve been on all sides and here’s what I think now: Sheryl Sandberg is doing the best she can. Working single moms do the best they can. Penelope, you are doing the best you can. If we are fortunate enough to be mentally and physically healthy, and our kids are fortunate enough to be mentally and physically healthy, they grow up just fine and even great – whether we stay at home full time, part time or some version thereof.

  18. YMKAS
    YMKAS says:

    You know what’s interesting about Sheryl Sandberg? When I read about her on the provided Wikipedia link it says this about her own mother: her mother holds a PhD and worked as a French teacher before concentrating on raising her children.

  19. Hilary
    Hilary says:

    This post comes at a time when I’ve been struggling with the idea of starting a family because I can’t figure out how to make both the finances and my family goals work. And it helped me realize that my overriding goal is to be around to raise the kids I have; I can figure out the finances but I’m not willing to mess around with the time together. Thank you for sharing your story – it helped me clarify my values.

  20. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Can’t we all just agree that not all words that are ascribed to work can also be used in all other aspects of our lives?
    Full-time is a designation that was designed to categorize post-industrial workers for benefits and government oversight. When we were an agrarian society do you think a farmer who had 20 arces was considered any less of a farmer than one who had 100?

    Full time vs part time should never apply to a person that is raising their child. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t part-time pregnant, and I didn’t feel like any less of a parent when I worked out of the home an I do now that I am at home. This is all just nonsense divisiveness. To what end? It just distracts women from bigger picture issues in society.

  21. Britney
    Britney says:

    It’s amazing how I’ve just discovered the beauty of the internet. I’m a SAHM in college, near graduation and stressing about going to work. I’ve struggled enough focusing on my education with my child, what’s going to happen when I go to work. It’s incredible because as women we’ve fought so hard for our right to choose and I was raised to believe in being a working mother. Now I know I don’t want it. I’d rather take care of my house, husband and child. It’s amazing how as time moves forward that concept is so undervalued to the extent that you can’t tell others without alittle embarrassment. ” That’s the only ambition you have????”. I don’t even think my husband would understand because I am so “talented”. Thank goodness for the internet, now I know I am in amazing company.

  22. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    I’ve never commented before, but had to for this one. Thank you, Penelope. When I read a post like this, I give myself permission to go down a different path of thinking which I normally would feel crazy or guilty about going down even though in my heart I know its the right direction. Its crazy how we all go to work each day pretending that this side of the discussion doesn’t exist. Reality is that its presence is always there right below the surface, a constant tension. People seem to have decided that it will disappear if we don’t speak about it, but instead, the tension just builds.

  23. Angela Kale
    Angela Kale says:

    Live a beautiful life, here is the real work. I’m working all day. Living my job. My best work, I spend time with my children. We have to work in jobs we love. Should give us enjoyed the work we do. This will increase the productivity. To divide life into two parts, wrong, in my opinion. Work and family. Life as a whole. The biggest success is to spend a beautiful day.

  24. VegGal
    VegGal says:

    Just wondering if maybe some of the trouble is that as a SAHM it is actually hard to define what we do all day that is different from parents who work outside the home. As a parent who works you still come home, help with homework, wash clothes, cook dinner, clean house, take them to activities, etc. but there seems to be something very different about being so immersed in it that you cannot get away unless you actually schedule and ask someone for vacation time. By get away I mean simple things others may take for granted such as, I can’t swing by the grocery store to grab a gallon of milk before I pick up my child, or I can’t crank up the radio to a great but bad influence song on my drive home.
    Think about someone in your company who holds a job different than yours (HR, IT, Accounting, Legal) do you really understand what they do all day? Yes you work at the same company with the same hours, and you do it all for the same company with the same goals, but you cannot say that you understand that job. Another way to view this is, if you spend all day on your computer you still cannot say that you understand what and IT experts job feels like. Instead, you can understand the frustration with technology not working correctly, or you know how to use many of programs, or even know how to troubleshoot some of the technical problems, but you will just never know what it is exactly like to spend your days working in an IT department. An IT firm would probably not hire you, but your neighbor who just bought their first ever computer might ask you to stop by and help.
    In conclusion, being a mom means caring for and loving your child. Having MOM as your career is like any other career no one should assume they can walk in and take over the day in and day out.

  25. Kat
    Kat says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. The way you write is incredibly creative and compelling, however, I do believe someone can be a full time mum and full time worker.

    I work full time as a marketing and editing consultant, before this I was a Project Co-Ordinator for European Grant Funding. I am also mum to a 4 year old little girl and I don’t feel like I’ve made a bad decision on my part or hers.

    Now, I am not know Stay At Home Mums. I tried that for the first year of my daughters life and my mum sacrificed her career to be home with me and my sister. I can completely appreciate how hard, but rewarding in can be. I know you state you home school your children, but for mums whose children are in school, where is the need for parenting then? Why can’t those hours be spent working if the woman chooses too? That is by no means part-time parenting.

    My daughter finishes school at 3.30pm and her dad picks her up as his job allows for that. I get home at 5.15pm. My daughter has had an hour and a half with her father doing crafts,cooking etc..and then I join in as soon as I get home.

    Even though I work, my daughter always comes first. I tidy or do extra work once she’s asleep in bed. All my free time is dedicated to my family.

    Like I said, I appreciate the post and completely get what you’re saying. All I’m saying is – Stay at home mums, you’re doing a great job! Working mums, you’re doing a great job too! There’s no need for either groups to feel guilty. Life is what you make of it!

    Also, stay at home dads and working dads – You’re doing great too!

  26. May
    May says:

    “There are not limited-time-but-still-meaningful jobs.” I think your measure of meaningful may be very different from mine. While I don’t earn anywhere near 6 figures, I find my part time job as an oncology nurse incredibly meaningful. I’d wager my patients & their families would mostly agree. Making a difference in the workplace doesn’t require 50 hour work weeks or a hefty paycheck as a result. I’ve spent my single 12 hour shift consoling a dying patient & their family, advocating & delivering pain relief, administering life saving measures, educating a person on how to continue to competently care for themselves safely at home & giving life preserving chemotherapy or blood products.
    Furthermore, I spend as much time away from my children earning a paycheck & performing deeply meaningful work as many stay at home moms spend volunteering, having “me time” or giving attention to e-mail/social media. I think you need to reevaluate your definition of meaningful, Penelope.

  27. Jaffo
    Jaffo says:

    Seriously, I am not that old but I remember growing up and by 3 PM at band rehearsal (the parish had a killer music program which absorbed the lives of a lot of kids) I would be *surrounded* by adults, mostly married, some just hanging out after work on the way to pub or bowling league, smoking, drinking coffees and commenting on the repertoire with the young musicians, etc. I think neither Sandberg or Trunk is right or wrong. I think we’ve all been forced to make bizarre concessions to a workday that enslaves us all.

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