A “tap dance recital in a minefield” - that’s how Tina Fey describes the topic of working moms. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And I hate that “working moms” has such a load of baggage behind it and “working dads” isn’t even a thing.
Well, at the risk of attempting some ill-fated dance moves, I’m going to tell you about the book Mommy, Please Don’t Go to Work, which the girls and I bought this week at an event with its author, Rhiannon Ally who is a local news anchor in KC. (BTW: had to explain to my kids what a news anchor is. Weird.)
Ally wrote this book inspired by her own son’s pleas and I think all parents know the feeling. Especially when kids are little enough to not understand why you have to go to work - but big enough to ask. Her sweet protagonist, Leo, undergoes a change of heart in the book and is able, eventually, to help his little sister understand this complex situation better.
Sergio and I are lucky enough not to be the recipients of harsh criticisms (not to my knowledge) about our decisions to work or stay home. There is a lot of mom-shaming out there (and skewed expectations of fatherhood, I’ll add, like when people say dads are “babysitting” their own kids. Don’t get me started on THAT irritating and erroneous word choice.)
So I’ve never had to defend my choices. Phew! That’s a relief! Until ...
...fast forward a few years and now my kids are a bit older, and oh my, the interesting conversations we have on this topic. They have things to say about it, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Julia has even asked me, point blank, “what’s more important to you - your work or your family?”
Ouch. Turns out the mom-shaming is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.
My response is always to assure my kids that family comes first and - when they’re not hopping mad or motivated my some age-appropriate selfishness - they’re both truly interested in our careers.
At the author event on Wednesday, a fellow news anchor of Ally’s preceded her on the stage and really put things in perspective for me. She applauded Ally for addressing this difficult topic and then asked her, jokingly, if she’d also write a book for parents of older kids called “Please, Son, Don’t Go to College.”
Back to school season is in full swing now and I’m almost done having my heart strings yanked by the sight of our kids in their next-size-up school clothes with their still-giant backpacks. They head to 1st and 2nd grade and I think “How did we get here?” knowing that I’ve asked that question every year and will only keep asking the same thing.
This is a dance, too, but not a tap dance. We yearn to keep them young but swell with pride as they grow. They want us to stay home from work. But little by little, they quit wanting us around all the time.
I think our best bet - for us, our fellow parents, and our kids - is to encourage each other to get comfortable doing this difficult dance of growth and letting go.
Here is a short list of picture books that might help...
- from Chicago Public Library; Where Do You Go All Day; Picture Books for Working Parents
- from New York Public Library; Picture Books for Working Moms
- from Barnes and Noble; 6 books about jobs
- a really sweet book that I checked out from the library years ago and read to Julia: My Day, Your Day