"I Feel Sorry For Your Kids"
Not too long ago, I spoke at a conference and the topic of "balancing work and being a mom" was asked. And I was honest.
On any given day, I may seem to be on top of it all, but I'm human...and balance is a frame of mind. As mothers, we don't have to do it all well all the time. Its simply not realistic. Or human.
At the break, I was approached by a young woman who introduced herself as the mother of two young children and asked my advice. "What should I say when another mom says she feels sorry for my kids?"
After I picked my chin up off the floor, she explained that some of her stay at home mom friends have said this to her and she always finds herself at a loss for words. She conveyed that her friends feel sorry that her children aren't able to access her 24/7 because she is working. As a leader. As a school leader.
I just don't get it.
Yes, I made the choice to be a working mom, the same way that other mothers made the choice to be a stay at home mom. Some of us have options and our financial situations play into the choices we have to make. Some of us have no options. But ultimately, we all have choices. And those choices should be respected.
First of all, I suggested she examine the role of said "friends." We all have those who are part of our village who add to our lives, and there are often those who take more than they give. In the case of comments like this that are judgmental and hurtful, why keep those who make comments like this close?
The second suggestion was to speak up. When we talked about how she responded, she was able to clearly articulate all the reasons why she is a good mom and how her work helps her prioritize better, provide more, and ultimately play role model for her daughters. But when pressed a little, she admitted that she didn't use these responses in the conversation. She just shut down. Speak up! Tell others why you work and how it makes a difference, especially in the lives of children.
Finally, I recommended a copy of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. I just love that book. It is about being a strong woman at work and beyond. We often need those voices, like Sandberg's, when we are alone or contemplating challenges or analyzing struggles. This book reminds me often that I don't need to do it all. I just need to be strong in my convictions and true to who I am.
I'm raising strong young women and they see me in roles a school leader that help to shape their convictions. Its not about whether we stay home and volunteer in our communities or whether we work. Ladies, its about accepting that we all have choices and not judging or chastising others.
I don't feel sorry for her kids. Nor do I feel sorry for mine.