The best perk of being Diamond level at Hilton
This story begins at 3am in the Orrington Hotel when I am answering emails. I woke up in the middle of the night to my son vomiting on the bed, which we are sharing, and now smells faintly of chewed up room service fruit plate.
Maybe I should have said no to room service. It’s extravagant. But he loves the fruit plate and it’s hard to pin down the meaning of extravagant when we routinely stay at hotels for cello lessons for a nine year old.
Of course I cannot sleep after this. So I am answering emails and I have an inbox full of writing from people who are paying me to edit their blog posts. I read, edit, reply, read, edit, reply, and then I get to Erin, who sometimes writes on my education blog, so she is a decent writer, but sometimes she gets all INFP on me and writes total crap.
So I read about how she’s so happy and there is joy and babies are so great and wonderful, and for a second I want to be constructive and tell her no one wants to read about happiness. All stories need conflict. But instead I just write back, “This writing is totally selfish. You don’t think at all about the reader or what you are offering the reader. You take the reader’s attention for granted.”
I decide sometimes the INFPs in the world need to be given a dose of reality.
Then Erin writes back, “That was an email from me to tell you that I’m pregnant. You should write back to me by saying congratulations.”
I have in my head that my son has 24 hour flu but I am not good with numbers and I see I am banking on this 24 hours of flu being compressed into nine hours because I have a meeting with Mr. Famous at 1pm.
At 9am there is more vomit. Like, cough, vomit, cough, vomit. Nothing really comes out, but it’s clear that this is not a kid I can leave alone in a hotel room with TV and room service while I meet with Mr. Famous.
I look online for a place that has babysitters with 0 hours notice. I discover this is an underserved market.
I tell my son I can’t find him a babysitter but I have a great idea. You have to frame all ideas to kids like that: “A GREAT IDEA!” Even for the vomiting kid, you must always be in sales mode.
He says, “What?”
“I can hire a car service to take me to my meeting, and you can bring your pillow and blanket and wastebasket to the car. And you can just sleep in the backseat while I go to my meeting. If you have to throw up, you can just do it right there. The driver will be your babysitter.”
“Mom. Please. Just be responsible. Get a babysitter.”
I go down to the front desk. They know me from the thousands of times I’ve stayed here and asked for something special. Today I ask if there is someone who is getting off their shift who could babysit.
No shifts are over until after my meeting.
I explain my problem to the manager. Whose name is Darryl and right now I am going to tell you that this guy should get a promotion. Because he called the head of housekeeping and found someone who cleans rooms who has four kids who stayed with my son and the other room cleaners took over her rooms for the day. So Darryl is awesome and all the room cleaners are awesome and I just wanted to hug everyone who works at the hotel.
The room cleaner settles in. I go to CVS to buy medicine for my son. I buy nighttime cough and cold even though it’s the day because a little more sleep never hurts.
Then I go to the salon next door to get my hair blown dry so I look like I tried to be business casual. I freeze walking to the salon because it’s only two blocks but it’s snowing and I have no coat. I am not sure why. I try to think of what I will say when someone asks me why I have no coat.
Before I find a suitable answer, the hairdresser says, “How will you keep your hair dry?”
I have no idea.
She blows my hair into business casual bustles of curls at the bottom and soft-swiped bangs on top. Then she pours it all into a shower cap. “Just take it off when you get back to your hotel,” she tells me.
While I have the highest threshold for shame of anyone I know, it is difficult for me to walk through the snowy city with no coat, and the shower cap, carrying nothing but the plastic bag from CVS. I hope people notice that I’m wearing very expensive boots.
I wait for Mr. Famous at the designated coffee shop. I sit looking at a wall because I am face blind and I’ll never recognize him when he’s coming toward me, so if I’m facing the wall he will have to tap my shoulder to say hi instead of relying on facial recognition and the requisite followup eye contact.
We have our meeting. I will summarize it this way:
1. He is so smart and interesting and I would love to work for him.
2. If I could hold down a 9-5 job.
What I really want to do is come back to the hotel and write. I want to see my son. Yes. That, too. I guess I want both.
I have been to the guy’s office twice. There are a million offices at his office. I never see women my age. I tell myself they are all home with kids, working on their own business, which is where I belong.
Seriously. There are not women in their 40s in corporate America. We are such a rarity that I feel out of place walking through the hallways.
And I guess this is a post about why there are no women. It was not worth the acrobatics I went through to do this meeting. The stress about how I would get to the meeting started at 3am, with the first spurt of blueberries. So I spent nearly a full day being stressed about how to take care of my son and do a meeting. And meanwhile, he was very sick.
There is no research that says kids need their moms cleaning up their vomit to battle the flu. There is no research that says kids who have sick days with babysitters are messed up. I just want to be there by his bed more than I want to be at a cafe talking about big ideas. I want to be so self-confident that I can feel special and important no matter which one I choose.
Thank you. Thank you for saying the ridiculously hard things about this journey that I and so many working mothers are on. I’m finding my way back to work after a stint off and owning my own business is the best route because being with my son is best. We plan to unschool him. Thank you for your unwavering voice in this.
Seriously. There are not women in their 40s in corporate America. We are such a rarity that I feel out of place walking through the hallways.
And I guess this is a post about why there are no women.
Would that some leaving to have children was the only reason there are fewer women of that age in certain verticals. We get expensive, organizations get flatter, acquistions and mergers bleed people.
Let’s ask ourselves what business will look like if there continues to be a steep dropoff of female talent at certain managerial levels; no doubt it might come to resemble Congress.
I totally agree with you on the congress statement! I have a recurring dream where we all wake up and all white male Republicans are found dead in their beds!
Of course you wanted to be with your son when he was sick. Completely normal. Of course his illness (too many blueberries?) occurred when you had a meeting that couldn’t be rescheduled. If you were the dad, nobody would expect you to be available despite the meeeting and yes, I get that it’s your internal desire, not the rest of the world’s expectation.
Since you’re the mom and share a lot, you may get criticism about that; don’t worry about it. The more important thing is that your sons know you’re there for them, thus the travel for the cello lessons. That’s the part that’s going to stick with him. You go with him week after week for those lessons. Your son knows that you love him.
He was right though; what he needed was a babysitter, not a nap in the car with the driver minding him. Great that you went to the manager and let him know your needs. That is an awesome hotel; reallocating housekeeping so you could go to your meeting and your son would have someone there with him.
Notice that your son didn’t think you should cancel or reschedule the meeting? He knows that one of the things you do is go to meetings.
But seriously, bring a coat next time.
Been there. In my case I left my vomiting kid and my vomiting mom in the hotel room and my healthy kid with a strange nanny.
But hey, if your kid throws up on the bed in a luxury hotel, you can call housekeeping to change the sheets instead of coping with them yourself. (Thank you Rixos hotel housekeeping ninjas.) So yay?
I just read your most recent blog post. All I could think about were the room cleaners who had to clean the extra rooms for the woman looking after your son.
I think their story relates to the overall message of your post. It’s like in those hotel bathrooms which are lined with mirrors and you look down and see a million images of yourself doing your teeth getting smaller and smaller (or, you do when your 6 year old points it out to you because I never notice that stuff myself). Anyway, it’s like in the direct mirror is the face of a 40 year old woman not working in Mr Famous office and then the faces change as you look down.And far down the line, you see the faces of the women who had to clean the extra rooms because your son was sick.
I hope that makes sense. That’s what I saw anyway. That was a very clever post. An important one. Thank you.
Francesca, Yes, same here. I was thinking about the manager seeming like the hero. But he wasn’t the one having to pick up the extra work the cleaning people had to do. I bet they weren’t too happy.
(I think it depends on the kid. But my kids want me around when they are sick.)
I love that PT realized (or confirmed) that being with her kids is better than wheeling and dealing with strangers.
I am a 53 year old woman and I have been desperately seeking a job for over a year. I cannot even get an interview.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be my age.
I am simultaneously starting a business from home because I realize that with each year, it will become more difficult to find a corporate job. I’ve also discovered I am happier being self-employed. The only downside is that I am not yet making enough money from this new business to support myself financially, which is very stressful. So, I am happy in my soul, but completely stressed because I don’t know if I will be able to keep myself afloat.
Oh man, this!! You can do it, I dropped out of corporate life in my early forties to pursue my business almost four years ago. I have never been happier, but, yeah, money has been a huge issue and its becoming a bigger one every month. Keep it up until you just can’t anymore.
Same boat, although I have been looking for a few years on and off due only to the fact that my income fluctuates wildly and my husband’s work is shifting overseas. My background now is such that I clearly do not fit the mold in the traditional workplace any more. (Yeah!)
I left corporate in 2008 – started an ecommerce business, consulted with a few startups and do marketing work. I love working for myself and always wanted to be on my own (INFP + Kolbe “entrepreneur”).
But, in business, money is almost always an issue. I’ve started to turn a corner, but without a steady paycheck in the house, I’m not sure how things will go. 35% of the workforce is not freelance because it wants to be.
Hang in there though! 40+ entrepreneurs/self-employed women are a large and growing cohort for sure.
Awwww, welcome to Murphy’s Law of Single Motherhood.
It doesn’t matter if it’s “The Big Meeting” or “The Perfect Blind Date to End All Dates” or “The Perfect Job Interview to End All Job Interviews”
It will be projectile vomiting, fever, itch, blister, chicken pox number 2, a broken bone, stomach ache…
And if that doesn’t happen, the babysitter is a no show.
I think kids pick up our stress level and it affects their immune system.
Or maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s past life Karma or some form of cruel initiation.
I feel your pain. I’ve been there.
And yes, by the time you reach your goal, destination, meeting, date… you are so frazzled and exhausted you just can’t get into it and want a do over.
Hang in there!
I’ve learned silverware are not washed as well as they should have been in restaurants and if you are in the middle of flu season, that’s how it’s caught.
As for Mr. Infamous, perhaps he hires women who are in his dating age bracket? Eye candy? Some men do that, surrounding themselves with liabilities waiting to happen.
Or perhaps women in their 40’s are so fed up with the corporate race that most are self employed so they don’t have to choose between their sick child and their job.
I know I was.
So sad, so true. There are a lot of powerful women in their 40s working in London but they’re single or have nannies. The rest of us work part-time in jobs way below our abilities because its so hard to get high status with part-time employement.
Regarding the ‘Im pregnant. you should congratulate me’. Why? Why do women need congratulations for this? I mean its not like they did anything but open their legs. i know that sounds mean. but its the truth.
Because new human life is exciting and untouched, and babies are adorable. You are so crass. Also, as an INFJ, three quarters of Erin, I could not work if I was being critiqued like that – is that common?
This brings up another reason there are so few women in their 40s in corporate life. Most women are not T’s, they are F’s. But people over 35 who are F leave corporate life. It’s intolerable to them, because of examples like this one.
That said, as a T myself, I think of corporate life as a refuge in that respect — a place where you don’t have to take peoples feelings into account nearly as often as the non-corporate world.
First, Leslie and Helen, thank you for the encouragement!
Penelope…yep, I’m not only 53 years old, I’m also an INFP….and as you commented above, I find the idea of returning to a corporate environment heart-sickening…I’ve even had a few part-time jobs, but I keep getting fired for not being ‘detailed oriented’, which is most likely because I’m thinking of other things while I was packing boxes or vacuuming the showroom floor. Ha!
This is why I keep applying for ‘remote-based’ jobs (i.e. working from home). I don’t have kids or a husband, I just prefer the privacy of working on my own at home.
I hope I can get my business off the ground…I truly love what I do and find myself working on the business 7 days a week, not because I have to, but because I want to. I have truly learned that trope: Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Now, I just have to figure out how to get the business to make money.
I guess you also don’t need to take into account that you might have exposed your substitute babysitter to a virus that could prevent her from working her $10/hr, no sick leave, no benefits job for several days….that’s about $3-400 in lost wages….a month’s worth of groceries, I would imagine. I reckon she deserves a Ferragamo-boots-sized tip.
Lack of women partners in law firms (Lawyers usually make partner about 40ish). I don’t have or want kids and I got out years ago because the life just sucked. I made considerably more than my husband at the time but he was more open to making the lifestyle changes for me to get out. Most of the men hate it too but are trapped by ego and economics – expensive lives and wives who don’t work.
A lot has been made of the unsustainable life in BIGLAW and lack of options for anyone who wants to see their kids but there is more to it than that. I’m an INTJ, and I know at least 5 other INTJ women, all lawyers All of us decided “living” like that was stupid and exited. Some made the decision sooner because of kids, but we all got out.
When I left my firm, I had a young stepchild. Although I cited wanting to do something different in resigning, my (female) partner-boss (with an independently and loosely employed husband) decided I was leaving because I wanted/needed to spend more time with my family. That is a more acceptable reason than “this life sucks.”
That’s part of the unacknowledged truth about high achieving women dropping out.
Caroline – I’m the one who is pregnant, the one mentioned in this post. I think I understand where you’re coming from, but it may help to provide context. Penelope and I have a relationship. I consider her a friend and mentor. And we have talked about pregnancy on multiple occasions…the first time she is actually the one who brought it up, and then she proceeded to encourage me to get pregnant sooner rather than later.
So of course I want her to share in my joy, because she was already invested in it. And I knew that she would be happy for me, but I figured something got lost in translation in the email (because emails can be like that sometimes). But I trust Penelope enough to tell her that I want her to switch gears and be happy for me, because, in the entire time that I have known her, she has never given me a reason not to trust her.
And the damned aspergers!
It’s far from the truth.
Yes yes yes.
I have a theory about an energy pie. You only have one pie, and you have to divide it up among the things in your life. There is only so much you can give at any given time to any given thing in your life. This pie includes kids, career, marriage and leisure, and you have to decide how big a slice to devote to each, because there is no more pie.
Sometimes the kids take up all your energy, that is a choice, sometimes its career, also a choice. The trick is to find what is really important to you in that moment, and be ok with that. Your last paragraph really rang true. “I want to be so self-confident that I can feel special and important no matter which one I choose.”
That is the hardest part. Keep going.
Amen. 43 with 2 kids and not going to even attempt to work again until my youngest graduates from high school or my husband loses his job because of exactly this post. I told my oldest son (17) that the worst part of having a job as a mom are sick days and snow days. Somebody always has to pick up the slack–when I worked, my colleagues were your hotel’s other housekeepers that day. I understand your gratitude toward them.
This is why I started a business almost 6 years ago. I was a single mom with no family in the state and zero help from their dad. At various times, I had left them when and where I should not have. Like, teetering on the edge of social services coming by for a little chat, questionable. Then, I spent the entire time at work worrying about my kids.
Screw corporate America. It wasn’t built for single moms who not only need to be the sole provider, but the primary caretaker.
Wow, this is the closest I have seen anyone come to describing what being an ambitious, working mother is like!
This post made me laugh out loud several times, because I relate to it so much. Except it would have been Marriott Platinum Elite status in my story. I have 4 kids, and am also an ENTJ, and have the big career. Doing things like trying to sell the car service plan, and then going to the hotel manager to see what other ideas can be drummed up – so relate to that. There is no problem that can’t be solved with a few creative, out of the box ideas!
I do have a hard time relating to your lack of self confidence. Isn’t an ENTJ trait kind of self confidence to a fault? I see the choices I’m making, and I see the pros and cons of both sides. But I know myself and the challenge of trying to pull it all off and find ways to bring order to the chaos is what keeps my mind engaged. I think you would take so much stress off yourself if you could find a way to be confident you are doing just fine.
I think about this same issue. Where is my self-confidence???? I also feel that I should have more self-confidence.
Here’s where I think my gap is. I know that I’m doing the right thing by homeschooling. And I know I’m doing the right thing by not taking a corporate job so I can spend more time with my kids.
The thing I am unsure of is what my days should look like. How much of my time should I give up to my kids? How much should I pull myself out of corporate life? I don’t think there is a single right answer, but there is a right answer for me. I am trying to find it.
Also, I think I have a problem that I am unsettled. Why can’t I feel settled? I am not sure. I don’t see anyone’s life that I would want more than my life.But I’m unsettled about if this is my best life.
And, of course, seeing the process of arriving at that self confidence is part of what is so interesting and helpful about this blog!
This last paragraph – why can’t I feel settled? – I feel that. A therapist told me to consider if I have low-grade depression (dysthymia). I am still considering :-)
Penelope had ample self confidence during our one-time coaching session to tell me how delusional I am. I’ve been thinking a lot about it – less about me being delusional and more about her self confidence to make such a quick assessment. I love this post. Corporate America was a refuge for me too as an INTJ. I became worried by how it fed and fostered my own insensitivity, which is partly why I left and am homeschooling. I once joked to my manager (client) when he checked on me during a busy time – “Do I have any blood in these veins!?” I don’t want to live like a robot again. Relationships might not be my strength, but I still want a life that puts people first, especially my daughter.
I agree, the “best life” issue is a tricky one. When you have a mind that is always looking to improve – always in search of a better mouse trap – feeling settled and appreciating what a great life you do have is a big struggle. At least, I would say it is for me. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to coach and focus my mind on that concept of being present. I have my goals and plans for the day, but also try to spend time just appreciating that moment and that day for what it is. We can’t always be in “let’s find a way to make it better” mode, right? Deliberately doing this has helped me gain a better appreciation for feeling settled today, while also carving out time to plan for and dream about what could be tomorrow.
I don’t think it’s possible to feel settled when your kids are young. Your attention and focus are always split. I did better when I stopped expecting to feel settled and embraced (or tried to embrace) uncertainty and constant change. Even now that my kids are grown, I still have to adjust to their and my continually changing roles. Unsettled has become an ok part of life.
I think she means emotionally settled and attached.
I’m an INTJ (married, no kids by choice). NTJs rarely feel “settled” because we know there are so many possibilites out there, and choosing between them can be overwhelming. My brain never shuts off – something is always spinning, and that means I can’t ever be really be “settled.” You’re also a maximizer, and maximizers are always evolving toward the next thing. It’s probably the T, but you’d know better than me.
I have a stepdaughter, and the thought that goes into parenting her can be overwhelming – it has to be 10x worse for full time moms.
This is such a sweet post. Thanks for keeping it real :)
This is so accurate to how I feel about returning to work. I badly want to use my mind for something besides Lego projects. I badly want to earn my own money and have adult relationships and a dry-clean-only wardrobe. But even though being home with my kids is hugely problematic, I know I’m consciously choosing it anyway. I don’t love it and it doesn’t feel great, but it’s still the thing I pick.
Two weeks ago we had terrible weather combined with the nastiest 3 day stomach bug our kid had ever encountered. You know, the kind that makes you question if they have Ebola or Meningitis or if you are already too late to the hospital. Non-stop. By the end of the 3rd day, it happened to be a Saturday, I was wiped out- exhausted beyond belief thinking I should go to the hospital to get treated myself. A few friends of mine were meeting up for a birthday cocktail a few blocks away for one of our mutual friends. A brief Girls night. All day I had been contemplating if I should go, if I should let the hubs take on the kids, how guilty and self-serving it would be to check out for a couple of hours, textbook Mom Thoughts™. About half an hour after their initial meetup I threw on my dress, fancy shoes, and extra concealer. I looked over at my kiddo laying across hubs sound asleep, head dropped over the elbow. I looked great, but felt guilty. I decided to leave. I arrived to about 10 women gathered around a table. As I approached my sense of guilt was at an all-time high, so I immediately mentioned my kids and their illness thinking I would either be sympathized with or shamed to the high heavens- whatever, I probably deserved it. I had to confess.
Someone on the far end nodded then and said,
‘Join the club.’
All the kids had come down with it.
Jessica I’m printing your comment and putting it on my fridge.
If you’re on Instagram find me. I’ll take a picture and send it to you.
Nailed it. At first I hated this post because it was so in your face with the DRAMA around the bad choices… I wanted to blame you for all the bad choices. But, as I drove into work… where I am preparing to take a 50% travel job because my company got sold and I refuse to look for a job as a 53-year-old woman without a job (meaning had to take the travel job even though have a 16-year-old son in high school), I realized… “what f-ing right do I have to be judgmental?” Life is just not easy for the working folk.
Great story, so funny too (congrats Erin!!)
Not that long ago, I had my own (less extreme) version of this dilemma. But in my case, it was my husband & I who had a client pitch to do to secure a new contract. But my 5-yr old was sick (but from the opposite end of the gut). I went through the list of possible babysitters but came up empty. Then came the exhausting process of working through which bad option was the best: cancel, reschedule, have just one of us go… Timing was of the essence, so in the end I decided we would take my kid with us. But when we got there, he didn’t want to do the hour outside the conference room without us. So he sat in the corner, and I did the meeting, the only woman in a room of eight – trying to concentrate on the technical details, work out what every decision meant to what we would charge and throwing food and sticker books at my son when I sensed he was getting bored. It was such a relief when we finished, and the boss of the company remarked ‘I’m surprised your little one sat through all that, but don’t do it again’ . I had already come to that conclusion from the sheer stress of it all. We ended up securing the contract, with the work scheduled for later this year. It makes me happier to think that I will be working for a client under no illusions that at the end of the day we are parents with young kids. And this story reminds me that I am a mum who may have to compromise my work if my kids needs take precedence, but I am still totally worth it.
Hmm… is there some level of “success” past which all these eccentricities become more professionally acceptable (if not acceptable on the street!) ? (wondering as a not-yet-successful eccentric myself…)
That’s a really interesting question. I actually think I am not penalized for eccentricities. I get my companies funded because I’m eccentric, and this blog works just fine with my eccentricities.
But that doesn’t solve the kid part. Kids do not benefit from eccentric parents. Because the focus is always on the eccentric person – you never know what they’ll do next, what they’ll need next. But kids need a very stable environment around them so they can feel freedom to make it less stable as they explore.
So I feel like while I’m far enough in my career to avoid being penalized for eccentricities, I still do not want my kids to suffer because of it.
I worked as a part-time contractor while my kids were in school. Self-identified at work as “part-time flaky mom” as I had the issues re illness, sports injury, weather, work-unfriendly school hours, etc. Now full time in a career at age 48 as sons are in college. My philosophy is you can have it all, just not at the same time. I doubt I’ll have the career I would have, but I’m so thankful to have had some flexibility when kids were home.
Why couldn’t the kid stay with one of his two dads?
Why couldn’t you just reschedule?
If you were meeting Mrs. Famous who also had kids would this whole post be moot?
Why did the person who babysat your son have to be a woman with kids?
In the absence of specific answers, I think you need to summon all the empathy you can and a little bit of imagination to come up with some reasons for the first two questions.
For the last question: in a pinch, it is more likely a mother of 4 will naturally have or have developed the necessary skills (patience, warmth, etc) and experience (knowing if their condition is deteriorating) to tend to a sickly child than a random other person. A caring kids doctor might have worked even better but I don’t think there were any going that evening.
The third question is more interesting. OK so her child would still be sick and the corporate offices would have one woman her age instead of zero in the millions of offices. It might change how maybe one line of the story is written, but it doesn’t change the overall message.
Nobody mentions here the importance of family and social networks. Nearby family can be called upon request n a pinch, dads could be counted on to be responsible co-patents, close friends (perhaps those with grown children) could be called upon as well. Penelope’s son’s sockness was a problem because she was out of town, and honestly most professional parents don’t go to out of town meetings with their kids. Many successful moms with careers are fortunate to have support systems in place, but some of the posters are describing situations where the moms sound like they are completely without helpful resources. Some women do have access to helpful family and friend networks and are better able to make the career/ family thing work.
Oops, parents not patents, and sickness not sockness. Darn phone.
I’m thinking that moms really shouldn’t be the breadwinner. It’s great to have the freedom to be the breadwinner. Using it is another story.
So my story is I’m a mom of 4 and my husband along the way just kind of lost his motivation and stopped working. I tried everything to get him to work again, unsuccessfully. Should I let our kids starve? When you are faced with that type of situation, people making blanket statements about what moms should and shouldn’t do can be very frustrating and isolating.
I live in a building with many Asian families. Both parents work high level jobs, and the kids are attended to by the grandmothers during the day.
My sister in law effectively has two mothers within one mile- her kids spend 2 whole days with either grandparent during the week and one picks them up from school everyday to spend more time together. She doesn’t work, but has a good system to get relief and share the responsibility of child raising.
Systems are important- I’m still trying to figure out mine!
This post was hilarious. It helped me on a rough day of a balancing act I’m hoping finds some resolution (carefully carving the way toward staying at home rather than working at a nonprofit with my baby at work). I noticed that even later in the day, on an impromptu date with my husband while our baby slept in her stroller, that I was able to sit back and relax even more due to the comic relief in this post. I haven’t read anything that made me laugh out loud as much as this in a while. It was the shower cap in the snow that did me in. So thank you. I’ll reread this I’m sure a few times.
Oh man. Nowadays I prefer a date at home while the tiniest baby sleeps and the toddler watches a movie.
Plus at home I can wear a low cut dress that I wouldn’t wear anywhere outside the home.
“There are not women in their 40s in corporate America.”
As the husband of a woman in her forties doing very well in corporate America, who works closely with dozens of other women in their forties doing very well in corporate America, I can attest to the falsity of this statement.
I would furthermore suggest that a company where women are conspicuously absent has a culture problem that may ultimately affect its success. It’s true that there is a female leadership gap, but it’s also true that companies which have succeeded in overcoming it have better long-term prospects. Read the Credit Suisse study “The CS Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management” if you don’t believe me.
I can offer some insight, into what makes it possible for women to succeed in executive reaches of corporate America – where it is, I agree, impossible for PT to succeed.
First of all, you can’t be a stay-at-home parent and succeed in corporate America. You can’t even be a primary caregiver and succeed in corporate America. An executive simply needs to spend more time on the job, to be very flexible with regard to travel, off-site meetings, etc., and you can’t be on “mommy track” and do that. (Mind you, you can’t be on “daddy track” either.)
If women have kids, they need somebody other than themselves to have primary responsibility for them in order to succeed at the executive level. This can be a stay-at-home husband, a relative, or an employee. PT gives an excellent example of why this is necessary. My wife works with a number of other women who also have stay-at-home husbands. Most men at the executive level have stay-at-home wives; do you think they add nothing to the equation?
I have also observed that among highly successful people in their 40s at my wife’s company, one finds a greater proportion of foreign women than foreign men. It’s an international Fortune 500 corporation, true, but almost the entirety of the male US-based leadership is composed of American nationals, and a large part of the female US-based leadership are foreign nationals.
I wonder what exactly this represents. I suspect it’s a combination of our nation’s most highly motivated immigrants and the deeper female executive benches of most other industrialized nations.
My neighbors (multiple) are primarily Asian powerhouse couples (i.e. one spouse is a lawyer, one is a banker). During the day my kids sometimes hang around with their kids. Their children are cared for by the grandmothers who have either moved in, or moved nearby. I have seen this in London, as well, among friends and acquaintances: If the mother is climbing the ladder, the grandmother’s generally step in.
I don’t know of any American families, personally, that have their grandmothers living with them or spending months at a time with the children taking on care-giving roles.
Also, women’s rights are still 20 years behind here. (mat leave, abortion stigma, workplace sexism) We don’t do much as a culture to place value on women and make it possible to juggle family/work.
Yes, my wife does work with some who could be characterized as APC, jessica. Somehow enough traditional culture survived to the modern age to make this possible.
For me, the idea of having my mother-in-law in the house every day gives me the heebie-jeebies, though I suspect that if she were of a similar cultural background to my parents it wouldn’t be as bad.
What I’ve noticed are the dynamics in the families are much different (i.e. the grandparents back off when around the parents). I love being around the tradition though. There is something very comforting about it and it’s really great to see it work for them.
This also reminds me of a cab diver I met recently. He was telling me about their residence in Queens that consists of his entire family (brothers, sisters, kids, cousins, AND grandparents under one roof). He explained that this is how they can afford city life and trade off when the mom’s (who are lawyers!) need time away from work to raise the children. I thought that was a creative way to make it work and apparently extremely normal in their culture.
It may also be that in some countries there are more family friendly maternity leave laws. That and a culture where it’s expected that family rallies around the executive family member to help with raising the family. In turn, the executive is expected to take care of the family financially.
Ps. Commenter you’re so smart and you always bring up good conversation. Do you have a blog?
Can you guest post somewhere?
Karelys, you’re very kind. No, I don’t have a blog, nor do I wish to have one. I find my current level of participation in social media sufficient.
WRT your first comment, I agree entirely with both your points. I suspect that the more family friendly maternity leave laws in other industrialized countries create an expectation among mothers that it’s okay to take time off to have children, and it will not be difficult to return to the workforce afterwards, which is largely absent in our society. That both encourages professional women to have children and encourages children-having women to be professional.
Your second point is also succinct and insightful. It is quite impossible to be an executive and play the principal role in raising a family. I wonder if cultures maintaining a stronger tradition of familial support give their young women an advantage. I am also almost surprised that we aren’t seeing a shift towards larger, less ‘nuclear’ families in the professional class in our country – though I do note it is increasingly common for the very well-off to have four plus children.
The US is very individualistic.
It takes a very communal culture to assume the drama that it comes with being so close and interdependent with family and neighbors.
I think countries like Sweden are able to have such great family friendly laws because they’re very communal cultures in the sense that the good of everyone overrides the preference of the individual (even when individual people seem quite distant, even curt, to the outsider).
In such boostrapping culture like the US it could be really difficult to agree with laws that would force everyone to essentially pitch in for the good of the neighbor. I think eventually it all evens out but we like to think we’re working more while others are taking advantage. And no one can agree on something so bills get squashed before they see the light of day.
And that’s why I’m a fan of homeschooling. I am all for supporting and investing in my community. But while the laws change, I’ll take full responsibility for my household’s education.
RE: Sweden and “great family friendly laws… good of everyone overrides the preference of the individual…”
You mean “Socialism” right? Doing good for ones family is much different than doing “good” for the masses–the latter involves minimal freedom or personal-choice.
Homeschooling is illegal in Sweden.
I’ve never been to Sweden but my long time friend is Swedish. She had kids shortly after moving to U.S. and has moved back to Sweden a handful of times since.
This last move back to the U.S. is likely to be permanent because of her family having very little rights in Sweden (homeschooling for one).
Though she is always keeping an eye out for other countries to move to because she sees how the U.S. is heading in the same direction as Sweden.
Yes! Thank you for this great post. It lays out the feelings so clearly. There you were with these two worlds–work and child rearing–juxtaposed in sharp contrast and still, you knew exactly where your priorities were. Not every parent would choose the same way, for some it would be a tougher call. What’s great is that you have a choice. Plus, I felt like I was right there with you–without the smell.
I love your blog posts. I never write but this one brought a tear to my eye and touched my heart. I’m soon to be 57 and have been a stay at home mom, a career woman with 4 kids and now 3 grandchildren…and (thankfully?) still a career woman at my age :) (corporate attorney). It’s difficult…even now…to juggle the work/family balance. And I love that you are a quirky gal that says your mind and tells your story…so real…so identifiable to many of us…thank you!
I love reading all your posts, they really should be thrown together in a leather bound selection of your faves so we can have an anthology. You are relatable, and speak openly about real world issues that some people never dare say out loud. More people should write that way.
no one tells it quite like you. hitting the nail on the head and saying what so many of us can’t articulate. many thanks.
After reading your posts on 5/2-3 and 5/4, I see that you get it. And how incensed you are (and me too) that this whole fake revolution of marrying the right guy and having it all is being pushed on us. I did work because I was a single mom all through raising four children, essentially alone. But I never made it past director and it was hard. I still have great relationships with my now grown children, but it was hard and it nearly wore me out. I never had someone to Lean On and I was too exhausted to battle the institutional barriers to Leaning In.