The Trials and Triumphs of Working Mothers

By Norment, Lynn | Ebony, September 1989 | Go to article overview

The Trials and Triumphs of Working Mothers


Norment, Lynn, Ebony


THE TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS OF WORKING MOTHERS

MOTHERHOOD and career are two of the most gratifying experiences a woman can have in her lifetime. These are experiences that independent of each other provide great pleasure and satisfaction, but when they overlap, they can also cuase much anxiety, frustration and doubts about priorities and goals.

There are some 54 million women in the U.S. labor force, and of those, 21.5 million have children under the age of 18. While their jobs may vary from factory worker to corporate executive, and their salaries from minimum wage to more than $100,000 a year, mothers who work outside the home share many of the same joys and concerns evolving from their particular circumstances.

Some would argues that working mothers have the best of both worlds. Indeed, some do have rewarding careers that provide them with high incomes and a great sense of accomplishment. And they have loving families to retreat to after a hectic day on the job. Some of their childless colleagues view them with envy, covering the balance that children and family provide to the competitive pace of the work world.

However, the life of the working mother is not absolute bliss, for there are many occupational hazards. Among them are the time pressures, the guilt, the less than ship-shape households. Child care is the No. 1 concern for all working mothers, followed by trying to find time to do all the things that need to be done. Many start their days as early as 5 a.m. so they can get their children dressed and fed and off to school or day care before they report to their own jobs. After putting in eight hours -- and in many cases considerably more--the working mother must rush home to relieve the babysitter or pick up her childrem from a child-care center. Then she must make sure they have nutritious meals, do their homework, and then attend to all their other needs. In addition, there are school activities, PTA meetings and the children's numerous extra-curricular activities.

Many working mothers acknowledge that they simply don't have enough time in their lives to accommodate both career and family as well as they would like to, but most say they are happier working outside the home than no; and in most cases, the family needs the second paycheck. Career moms say they are willing to make the sacrifices and compromises, not so they can "have it all," but so they can lead "whole, fulfilling lives."

Carol Williams Hood has tried it both ways, and she says she is much happier and more fulfilled now that she is working again. Ms. Williams had risen to the position of sernior vice president of a major advertising firm after creatig several successful ad campaigns, including the Pillsbury Dough Boy. However, after marrying a prominent Oakland, Calif., orthopaedic surgeon eight years ago, she decided to quit the corporate rat race and raise a family. After her daughter carol, who is now six, was born, Ms. Williams grew increasingly bored and frustrated "with nothing to do." So she started her own ad agency. "I wan't fulfilled when I wan't working," she says. "I'm not a housekeeper type. I'm a writer, a creative person. I must create to find fulfillment. When my daughter grows up, I still must have a life."

Wilberanne Dreher Wells, a school-teacher in Boston, says she can't imagine life without working. "My mother was a working parent; that's all I've ever known," says the mother of three children, ages 11, 14 and 17. "After having my last child, my husband asked me to consider not going back to work, but I didn't want to be a housewife. I love teaching."

Sharon woods, a human services supervisor for the State of Tennessee in Bolivar, echoes the sentiments of these working mothers. "I was reared by parents who stressed the importance of getting an education and being able to support yourserlf," says Mrs. Woods, the mother of Aurelia Danielle, 3, and Danny Jr. …

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