Tag Archives: Working Mom

The Road Not Taken

My very first job was working for Dr. Harry Davis D.D.S.  Dr. Davis seemed old to me in 1986 and just grew more ancient until his passing last year. He was tall and lanky with a shiny bald head that he would rub with his eyes closed while talking to patients. He still smoked in his office in 1986 and when AIDS came onto the scene he was a bit circumspect about wearing plastic shields over his face. He was an old school, small town dentist who believed in giving back to his community and helping young, stupid teenage girls gain a little work experience. I loved Dr. Davis. He was kind and gentle and incredibly patient with me as I fumbled around his office.

I’ve worked everyday since my time with Dr. Davis.  I have slowly and methodically built a career.  A career that has challenged me and afforded me the benefit of travel and a variety of new experiences. When I switched from advertising to teaching – in order for me to spend more time with my kids – it seemed natural and a simple redirection of my energy and ambition.  I pursued my career as a project manager and strategist with enthusiasm and passion. Teaching has been no different.  I’m not the kind of teacher who uses the same textbook or syllabus or even in class exercises for more than a couple of semesters. I’m always striving to make my classes better – always trying to serve my students better.

Since 2006 I have applied for a full-time teaching position almost every school year. I have been rejected every year — not even granted an interview.  In 2013, after applying and being rejected AGAIN I made some fundamental decisions about my career.  First, I was not going to get my PhD in order to improve my chances at a full time appointment. Secondly,  I obviously did not have a long term career path in college education.  I began to look at the job, for the first time in my life, as a job. I was beaten down. I felt defeated.

I started homeschooling the kids this past fall and it seemed that perhaps this was God’s grand plan. I was meant to teach my kids and be home. I was destined to let go of my career ambitions and focus on my children.  I felt a new passion for teaching and was loving the ability to teach other subjects to my most favorite people. Frankly, since I didn’t really have an option of doing anything differently it seemed like a good thing.

In June I received an email – I was being asked to come in and interview for a full time teaching position.

Really? After 8 years? After I already decided I didn’t want the job? Seriously? God, do you REALLY think that is funny? Cuz it totally is not funny. Not laughing. Not even a little.

I interviewed for the job and it went as well as I could expect and sure enough I received a job offer.


And so there I sat having to choose – do I continue homeschooling my kids and sacrificing my career or do I send them back to public school and pursue my ambitions full steam? Because contrary to what Sheryl Sandberg or Kim Kardashian tell us most women really CAN’T have it all.

I didn’t respond to the job offer. I went on vacation instead. I spent a lot of that time reflecting on my own happiness, my desires and goals for my children, my role as wife and mother, and asking myself about the example I want to set for my girls. As my friend Christine said to me, “this is a decision regarding authenticity. Where is your heart?” Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?

I wish I could say that this decision was clear cut and easy for me to make, but it wasn’t.  I cried. I prayed. I asked advice. I consulted all the important people in my life and it all came back to the same thing – “what is in your heart”.  There is only one thing in my heart — well three things really, and they think their Mom is pretty cool without a full time job.

Robert Frost has always been misquoted. It is not that the path he took in the wood was unexplored – as a matter of fact he says they were both about the same (stanza 2). It is the fact that he chose one road, knowing he would not be able to go back and take the other (stanza 3), and that choice put him on a different life journey.  And so I’ve chosen my path and it will make all the difference.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

–––Robert Frost–––

The Success Sacrifice

My father was an executive and worked in the boardrooms of America. After spending my childhood observing his career I came to one startling observation,  if you want to achieve ultimate success in ANY FIELD — professional sports, acting, politics, OR BUSINESS — it comes at extreme sacrifice.  You show me a CEO, or COO and you will show me somebody who has been divorced and was NEVER around their children.  You show me a professional athlete or actor or politician and you will see the same thing.  REGARDLESS OF GENDER.  My father could have been CEO or COO but wasn’t willing to make those sacrifices.  And yet, even with his moderate success ask me how many Halloweens he was home for?  None. Ask me how many birthdays he missed? Many.  Ask me about him commuting to San Francisco FROM DETROIT for two years.  Ask me about the times my mother would call him “Uncle Daddy”.

So when I started reading Penelope Trunk’s blog post on Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” I wanted to scream ‘YES!’.  For those who are unfamiliar with this book I will give you a summary, Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and tells women that they need to “lean into” their careers not out.  She makes the argument that as women we are failing the women’s movement by opting out of careers.  She makes it sound all lovely and easy as if anybody can do it but that is what makes the book myopic and unrealistic. Penelope states:

“Most kids cannot have huge jobs. They will be the workplace equivalent of intramural basketball players. When they grow up, they will find work that is fine, just like it’s fine to play on a team with the kid across the hallway even though he misses too many lay-ups.”

Sandberg expresses her disappointment in women but she doesn’t mention her 100 hour weeks, her multiple nannies, and how little she sees her family.  She mentions that she leaves at 5:30 to have dinner with her kids but doesn’t mention who cooks that dinner and who does the dishes after dinner and who reviews homework and packs lunches and backpacks and does the laundry.  I’m fairly confident she doesn’t do ANY of those things. And Penelope said it perfectly:

Sheryl Sandberg gives up her kids like movie stars give up food: she wants a great career more than anything else.

The conversation we have as a society doesn’t need to be about women leaning in or leaning out,  but about the sacrifice ALL people make when achieving this level of success.  Women seem less willing to make that sacrifice, and yes, part of that is biological and part of that is cultural.  But there are many men who also choose less demanding careers so they can be more active with their families and we don’t see society squealing in shock at this choice.

I love my father, and we have a very close relationship.  A relationship he worked hard at maintaining over long distances. However, he will be the first one to tell you that he isn’t sure he would make the same choices over again.  Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that Sheryl Sandberg has somehow managed to “have it all” because that is a myth. She has a career, and that is great, but there are other things she does NOT have.