According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slightly less than half of all married households have two working parents. I am in that 47 percent of kids who grew up with a mother and father who worked full-time; they worked throughout my childhood and well into my adult years. (Despite their current empty-nester status, my parents still work full-time, with dreams of retirement somewhere over the 401(k) Rainbow.) Many of my friends, on the other hand, grew up with stay-at-home moms, self-proclaimed homemakers or housewives, who between their child’s violin practice, doing carpool and running the booster club, spent plenty of quality time with their children.
Millennial women have a unique to-work-or-not-to-work dilemma
Here’s my theory: Millennial women have a unique to-work-or-not-to-work dilemma. Half of us were raised by women who did not work, yet as young women, we are tasked with closing that pesky gender gap by working and climbing the corporate ladder.
The point of this piece is not that all women should want to be working moms, or that being a stay-at-home mom is bad. While I am not a mother, I have spent enough time babysitting whiny kids and barfing babies to believe it when people say being a mom is a full-time job. My point in discussing the benefits of being raised by a working mom, and the conclusions I drew from the experience, is solely this: Employed moms should be relieved of working-mom guilt, and future stay-at-home moms should not face ridicule for not “leaning in” far enough.
The most important thing I learned about having a mom who worked full-time is that moms are individuals. Despite the simplicity of that statement, it was an ah-ha moment for me to learn.
My mom, Alexandra "Alie" Pruner, considers herself first and foremost a mother, which makes sense given that she carried me inside her for nine months and has spent enough money on my education to fund a small country. Growing up with a working mom made me realize, though, that in addition to being a parent, my mom is also a spouse, a co-worker, a Democrat, a mentor, a daughter, a feminist, a shameless lover of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movies and many other things. My mom spent an entire lifetime in many of those roles long before my brother and I came along; she chose to live those roles because it made her happy.
By working full-time, my mom was a better mother to me. She was happier as an individual, thus making her a more compassionate, aware and present
Not everybody is meant to be a working mom, but for my mother, work is a necessity. She was forced to be independent at a very young age, and making strides in the corporate world makes her happy. She works on the weekends, has a fifth appendage — also known as her BlackBerry — and has probably led a board meeting via conference call during most of our family vacations. She is a pioneer for women in her industry, and much like myself, although on a much grander scale, she seeks to relieve working moms of the guilt they experience for leaving their kids at home.
By working full-time, my mom was a better mother to me. She was happier as an individual, thus making her a more compassionate, aware and present mother when she got home from work. She may not have been the person who picked me up from school or cooked us dinner every night — thank goodness for that, by the way, because she is a horrible cook — but she was a better mom for making herself a happy individual even when it made her feel guilty. I love her even more for having the courage to work full-time during an era, when women were encouraged to be wives or mothers first — and people second.
I hope our generation affords women the right to choose what type of lifestyle is best for them as individuals, and frees them from any guilt or ridicule for making their choice. Closing the gender gap and modern feminism comes down to the perception and treatment of women and their decisions. It is about relieving working moms, like mine, from feeling shame, and preventing future moms from feeling that being a stay-at-home mom is not enough.
I am not upset that my mom missed a few soccer games. I am proud she knew that to be the best mother possible, she had to be the best version of herself as an individual first. I hope she feels she can wear the titles CFO and mom with equal pride, because the way she has inspired me, she definitely should.