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How I Created the New Working Mother Hours

A mother’s identity is based on many aspects. We define ourselves by our families, our co-workers and our friendships. At one time, the family was a huge part of our identity. We were a mother, a wife, a partner, a friend.

Over the past 20 years, we have watched the shift from the family life maintaining 50% of our identity to a mere 5%.Our new identities are based upon how we are viewed by the outside world, more specifically, who are we in the workplace? How does our boss and co-workers feel about us? In order to validate our existence within these new barriers or confines, we have shifted our 50% mother energy into 50% worker bee energy. Little time or energy is left to give care to our family needs as well as the needs of the self.The American households with full time working mothers are now contributing a mere 5% of their energy to their role as Mom.

When we are at home, we are busy getting ready for work, getting ready for dinner and finally getting the children off to school and bed. Weekends are spent catching up on what we could have or should have done but did not have the time to do during the week The question becomes, “Is this what I choose in life?”

I have been gifted with the insight of knowing that to be truly happy I had to learn to balance my worker and mother energy more equally. I loved the jobs I created for myself, but I did not love missing the opportunity to be a part of my children’s lives. I did not want to be away from them more than I was with them.

My oldest daughter is now 30 years old. Prior to her birth, I had worked my way up to an Administrative secretary position to the director of Personnel, Administration and Labor Relations for the State of Rhode Island. He had a top level job and I was his right hand person. I supervised three secretaries and worked closely with him to ensure each division’s effectiveness for the state. I loved the job I created.After becoming pregnant, however, I had this secret desire to work part time after my baby was born. I wanted to spend more time with her than away from her, but my fear of discussing this possibility with my boss kept me from pursuing my desire.And then came the day when my pregnancy leave was official.

I knew that my boss was nervous about my 3 month departure. But we both knew that my baby was taking precedence over my job. When I entered his office to say my good-by’s, I casually mentioned my desire to work part time. He turned and asked what that meant? I told him I would be more than happy to come back to work sooner with limitations. I could be back two weeks after delivery if he agreed to let me work one day a week. From there, I would be willing to slowly work my way back up to twice a week and finally 3 times a week.Before I left his office, the paperwork was signed, sealed and delivered. And so began my first part time job with benefits. Often times he would ask, “When are you coming back full time?”My reply was always the same, “I’m not. It’s important for me to be home with my children.” He finally adjusted to this new reality.

I maintained a 3-day work schedule until I chose to leave state service to open my own business. That choice was also a conscious one that ensured even more time with my children.We opened our first health food store right after Josh was born. Shan, Josh and Holly Beth were brought up in the store. They spent hours learning how to rearrange shelves; I spent hours putting them back. When they were old enough to go to school, the bus dropped them off at the front door of the store. The smile on my face confirmed the joy of having them with me.

Did we have to sacrifice in order to create this reality? Yes. Our lives lacked new cars and fancy furniture and we shopped at discount stores. However, the ability to share in their stories and watch them grow far outweighed any material losses we may have encountered. We loved being together.

Eventually, the stresses of owning our own business took its toll and I opted to enter the world of corporate mentality. Interviewing for a full time job with the intention of not taking one is tricky business. After the initial interview and passing all the “tests”, I was offered the position. But I had to decline. Instead I made the following counter-offer: I could work 9-3 each day because I had to be home in the morning for the children to get on the bus and back in the afternoon to share their day. But while there, I promised to give 8 hours of work for 6-hours of pay. I would take no breaks, no lunch, no phone calls, just an honest commitment of hard work. They took my offer. I lived up to my promise.

For the second time in my life, I was given the opportunity to create a job that fit my own needs. My mother and my work identity were in balance. I had time to create a healthy home life as well as a successful career.

Why was I able to create this reality? Two reasons - first, I had skills that were needed by my employers. Second, I assumed I was entitled to my desires. So I simply asked. How will we get what we want if we don’t ask for it?I know that I was successful because I was happy in my job and in my home.

What we as women have to realize is that we can have both. There is a power in knowing. You just have to know exactly what it is that you desire and then not be afraid to ask for it.

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