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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

We are underemployed

For seven years I worked a string of editorial positions--reporter, managing producer, editor, and as production assistant at a local television show in San Francisco.

Just before Toddler in Chief was born I opted (without many choices) for another career path--as an at-home mom. During my two-plus years in this new venture, I have met amazing women who also had impressive and fulfilling jobs before they became parents. We did not quit our careers. Essentially, they quit us. Companies could not merge parent and paycheck.

Instead of heading back into those high-paying, highly respected jobs, we lower our expectations. One friend has given up on her legal career for now as she turns a hobby into a flexible job. She is taking the work-from-home road as a scrapbooking consultant. It is transforming her into the host of the modern day equivalent to the Tupperware party. Another friend with a PhD in computer science recently started selling baby shoes to keep her mind moving beyond what her daughter is having for lunch. I most recently, I made a go of being a freelance writer. But then my romanticized view of that goal was pissed on.

In essence, we are underemployed. We are not under-ambitious. It is hard work to raise a baby! But mention the "B" word at work and get ready to be written off. How many times have you heard a friend dread telling her employer that she is pregnant? How many women do you know who were put on the "mommy track?" There are woman who get to scale back their responsibilities to work part-time, but it is not the norm. Moms do not fit into the corporate culture. As a result companies are missing out on the talents of driven and dedicated women.

And instead of being journalists, attorneys, accountants, early childhood specialists, paramedics, software engineers, and public relations experts, we are at home missing a part of ourselves.

A shorter version of this post was originally published on January 8, 2005.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:28 AM

    I don't want to sound insensitive to your angst, but realize that there are thousands of women who would love to have the choice you have. They work not because of ambition or career, but survival. (Not to mention the millions of women throughout history who had no choice but motherhood)

    You had a choice, you chose to be with your child. Relish the path you chose, and do your best to develop a new career path while at home. There will certainly be speed bumps, but keep at it and something will stick.

    I say, take a break from freelancing, and start again in a few weeks. You are really a good writer, and you should keep at it. Perhaps your expectations were too high the first time. Maybe if you take it more slowly, and accept that setbacks are part of life for any solo venture, you will hopefully find a nice balance between baby and career.

    A friend

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  2. I think what Suzanne is trying to say (or how I read this post) is that she would like to raise her son AND do something she feels is important for her and society.

    Yes--she made the choice to be with her son (and is able to... and it is a great position to be in)--but she is grappling with wanting to do more. A lot of us are. I am *doing more* though it is in a corporate office (mostly a financial decision)--and I feel the same way she does! Maybe it is the grass is always greener scenario?

    Regardless, I think in part this search that Suzanne is going through (as well as myself)--is about finding out what we want to do to make US happy as mothers AND as women. And unfortunately, corporate America isn't always a decision that let's us so both well (or in a way that is acceptable and comfortable to a mom).

    My 10 cents! :-)

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  3. Becky3:21 PM

    "Moms do not fit into the corporate culture."

    It's time to change the corporate culture! It needs to change not just for mothers but for fathers and the rest of the family as well.

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