Magazine article Working Mother

Guilty as Charged-Now Get over It!

Magazine article Working Mother

Guilty as Charged-Now Get over It!

Article excerpt

My default setting is guilt. It's the fodder of my before-sleep meditations and my prayers upon awakening. The Initial pangs struck during my first pregnancy in 1987 (yes, I'm 53 now, but don't spread it around). Gestating a human while working In television production nearly took me down. I spent much of the early part of my days In the women's restroom vomiting. Then I would sit in meetings while interplanetarily traveling to my uncertain future as a mother. Was it a boy or agirl-or worse, something unrecognizable? Was I up to the tasks of motherhood? Was there anything good in the office fridge for me to scarf down as soon as we adjourned? Sure, other pregnant women did it betterthan I did, I supposed, and that just compounded my guilt of neither working to my maximum capabilities nor conducting a perfect pregnancy.

Three more times in the next five years I got pregnant and had babies. I've been a working mom for nearly all the 22 years that the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list has been published. I've been rejoicing as I've watched some of the largest corporations in the country cater to their working moms. As companies outfitted us with liberating technologies like laptops and BlackBerrys and initiated family-friendly workplace policies like longer maternity leaves and private pumping stations with refrigerators, I celebrated the sea change, trust me. And now that many businesses are knocking themselves out to accommodate us, Mom Guilt should be on the verge of extinction, gone the way of other '80s trappings like leg warmers and "Frankie Says Relax" T-shirts. But 22 years later, with corporate America all but begging us to let go, we cling to guilt. A look back at my two decades of working motherhood has me wondering why. Well, it's not exactly clear.

Secrets AND LIES

We used to lie a lot more back in the day. Trying to get ten people to schedule a meeting is nearly always impossible-trying to do it when one of those people (me) had a glucose tolerance test that she absolutely couldn't miss made me seem, well, like not much of a team player. After the baby, I lied to excuse myself from urgent meetings to skulk off to attend Mommy and Me classes; mentioning the word "biopsy" usually got me out of the office without too many more questions, but, boy, was I brimming with guilt as I weakly sang along to "The Wheels on the Bus." Today a flex schedule is the solution to my honesty issues. But as I sit here in my home office enjoying the opportunity to telecommute while someone I pay picks up my son from school and drops my daughter off at the mall, I'm not exactly feeling guiltless. Not to mention that my morning coffee cup is still sitting here on my desk and I've yet to take a shower. Am I feeling good about myself and my choices at this moment? Ask me sometime tonight after I finish picking up Vietnamese takeout.

Wireiess, BUT STILL WHIPPED

Sure, paid maternity leave was around, but I was on my own navigating through the pages of my benefits book to see whether I could get any paid disability leave during the months before I could squeeze my C-sectioned body into appropriate work clothes and get back to the office. Yes, we had computers, but they were used primarily by the administrative staff. So telecommuting wasn't an option, unless by "tele" we meant a telephone with a wall plug. Now I write using my laptop, often in my bed, and email my stories off to New York or Chicago or London-all while wearing my pj's, which clearly is not appropriate office wear. In the car, I've got both a BlackBerry and a cell for communicating with colleagues. My four children are all similarly equipped. We're able to stay connected 24/7, so what deep thoughts and feelings do we tend to share? Their plans and scheduled destinations and how I'm going to flex my time around enabling them.

Pumping IN THE GIRLS' ROOM

As all-encompassing as it felt at the time, the guilt I experienced while pregnant didn't compare to the guilt I'd face following the joyous delivery of my first baby. …

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