Growing up, I always assumed I’d work. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t, in fact. My mom always worked — often in jobs she didn’t love because those were the jobs available to a mother with three daughters and a husband who worked more than full-time. My mom was a full-time parent, but she also needed to work, so she took the jobs that made that possible; in my childhood I remember her working as a waitress, a bus driver, and in retail. My parents worked opposite shifts for years, staggering their hours so that someone could be home with us kids. When I was about 10 or 11, my Mom “went back” to college and eventually earned her Bachelors degree in nursing, then her Masters. When she retired last year after 20 years of working as a nurse in the Massachusetts school system, she was a few credits shy of earning her PhD. Her mother worked as well, an act which, in the 50s, 60s, and 70s was fairly unusual, I’m sure. She was a nurse as well, and she worked nights. During the day she was still the one who kept the house running with four children.
Since I had my first child nearly thirteen years ago, I have been a stay-at-home mom, I have worked full-time in an office, full-time from home, part-time from home, started my own small business, and worked as a freelancer. I have had my kids in day care, had a nanny, and had them home with me, both while working and while not working. I think I have probably done every combination there is in terms of parenting and working in the course of the last thirteen years.
Today, in addition to writing here, I work as the Communications Director for the national non-profit The Officer Down Memorial Page. I love my job and I’m so fortunate to have a position that I can do A) from home and B) from anywhere on earth where I have a wifi signal. It wasn’t easy, though, to get to a place where I can work and parent, where I feel as though I’m using my skills for a purpose that matters, and where I can contribute financially to our family. I struggled for years to find a balance, to find work that was both fulfilling and flexible, to find a place where I was content.
But that, I think, is what women do. We find a way, we make it work, we bend over backwards and we fail and try again until we find what works for us and for our families.
Women, to paraphrase Tina and Amy, get shit done.
It is not easy though. Women face a multitude of challenges when it comes to work (highlighted text links to sources):
- In the US alone, women make, on average, $.80 cents for every $1 men make. The gender pay gap is worse for women of color. It’s also worse for mothers, and gets worse with age as well.
- Childcare is extremely expensive in the US — when I was working full time and had two kids in day care, over 40% of my paycheck went straight to child care.
- The US is the only developed country in the entire world that does not mandate ANY paid maternity (or paternity) leave. When I had Gabe, my company provided me with 6 weeks of leave paid at 60%, and I had to use all my vacation time and personal time up before I was able to take paid maternity leave, and I considered myself lucky. When one of my best friends–who works as a labor & delivery nurse–had her kids, she got ZERO days of paid leave. That’s the reality that most women face.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and it is also A Day Without Women — a strike, if you will, to demonstrate how vital women are to the work done every day, and to highlight the need for gender equality.
And so tomorrow, a new feature will begin on Little Nesting Doll — called A Woman’s Work — this new column will run weekly and highlight a woman who works, what she does, why she loves it, and how she got there. Tomorrow starts with me, my story, and I then have a few amazing ladies already lined up to feature over the next few weeks.
If you have a story you’d like to share, or if you know a woman who you think should be featured here, please email me!