After years of working with my nose to the grindstone, even after having a young kid at home, this working mom decided to take a break from work for much of the summer of 2007.
I wanted to know what it was like to spend every day with my daughter without stealing moments between work commitments and my ever-present, always-buzzing Blackberry. What was it like, I wondered, to live without the guilt so many busy working moms feel?
It was, of course, wonderful. I took great pleasure in the simple joys of mom-hood—hours in the playground, lemonade stands, mother-daughter excursions and talks. I learned a lot about my kid that summer when I pretty much tuned out everything but what was going on in her small, very sweet world.
I also learned a lot from listening to and connecting with other moms. Sitting on playground park benches between snacks and bathing suits and trips to the bathroom, I got the inside scoop on the best schools, birthday party venues, doctors, lice treatments, boo-boo remedies, parenting Web sites and summer books. I listened closely to what other moms were saying to their kids about bullies and safety and strangers, and soaked up their words of advice and caution.
Mind you, much of this information was not deep. It wasn’t profound. But it was new and rich to me—and helpful. In the working world, I have access to contacts and information I need to keep my career mostly on track. I don’t always have access to information and connections that can help me be a better mom and a better-than-frazzled human. In my working world, too, I was encountering fewer and fewer senior-level women with kids. Plus, when working moms are in “work” mode, they’re typically all business.
Recently I was reminded again how much power moms need one another. I hosted small gathering of working moms at my place in New York this fall. At first the talk was about schools. But pretty quickly everyone was talking about Carmelo the Science Fellow. Carmelo, I learned, is the go-to entertainment guy for birthday parties in our neighborhood. (This guy’s so popular, he has his own Facebook page.) As a go-to fun guy, he’s typically busy, expensive and hard-to-book, the moms said. Not so much now, one mom confided. Carmelo may be feeling the recession too. (Notebooks and Blackberries came out.) Ah, the cult of Carmello.
Then the conversation turned to flu shots, language instruction, religion and music education—Where? When? At what age? “I miss support on the mom side,” one entrepreneur mom sighed. There was also talk of work stuff. One woman spoke of wanting to be a mentor to other young women. Another asked about connections to the private equity world.
But soon, the moms were ready to talk about themselves. One shared a great online resource for quick fashion finds. (“When I’m feeling unsuccessful as a mom and at work, I want to look at a Prada bag,” she said.) Another confided that she uses Skype to talk with her kids when she has long days in the office.
What do these women need? They need to work to pay the mortgage, to feed their families—and to feed their heads. They also need time to themselves—away from work and family. (Memorable quote: “The only time I have alone is when I’m in the bathroom in the morning, and sometimes not even then!”) They also enjoy relaxing “time outs” with other time-pressed working moms.
Power moms need community. “This is almost like AA,” one friend said, sighing with relief, during our gathering. “I work. I’m okay and my kids are okay.”
It wasn’t exactly like AA, of course. Wine was served–and appreciated.