Do you know a mother who doesn’t work? I mean, really? I am wondering when we drew this horrible line in the sand between those of us who make sacrifices to provide/supplement our families and those of us who make sacrifices to stay home? I am a stay at home mother with four young children. I also run a small business out of my home that I work on mostly at night and during naps. I have a calling or two in my ward. I am part of a large extended family. I am part of various communities. I work pretty much all of the time. I bet whether you’re CEO of a large corporation or CEO of your household, you do too.
I write about balance. In the context of integrating work and life and workplace reform. As I watch women making up more than half of the American workforce (and similar statistical thresholds are being crossed throughout the world), I see the change needed to make the paid workforce a more financially productive but also socially responsible place to be. I regularly agitate for organizational and political reform through my personal blog and some advocacy groups. Some in the LDS community might see those efforts misplaced and as detrimental to the counsel we have to raise and nurture our children. I believe the absolute opposite is true.
From an economic and quality of life stand point, organizations need to empower their employees, to trust them, to stop clock watching and measuring ‘face time’ and focus on results. Imagine opening the floodgates of possibility for flexible hours, part-time schedules, for men and women, that still allow some kind of meaningful career path. How does this fit in with the sacred mission of a Mormon woman of faith?
Because I believe mothers should have the opportunity to be home with their children as much as physically possible. And I believe fathers deserve that chance too. For too many workers across the world, the choice is all or nothing. At least 40 hours a week plus commute time away from their families. If only my husband worked that little. Here on the East Coast a 40 hour work week is practically flextime. Most part-time work offered is typically low paid and low skilled. It’s all important work, but if you have more to offer, and you have to be away from your family anyway to put food on the table, shouldn’t there be more flexible options connected to your qualifications and experience? For those of us mothering full time, at great financial and sometimes intellectual sacrifice, the thought of meaningful flexible work that doesn’t fully remove us from our families would be an ideal solution.
In this recession, which has men losing their jobs at a much greater rate then women, more women are supporting their families for a season. Or supplementing at the very least to put food on the table and make rent or the mortgage. The LDS community is sadly, not that far behind overall statistics for divorce, death, and unemployment. We must be prepared if and when the call comes. My dream is to make sure that the thinking of corporate world enables us to dip in and out of careers and professions in a true flow. Young children? Be at home as much as possible, ideally full-time. Older children? A schedule that allows school pick up and afternoon/evening focus on your family. Elder care? Another season where focused at home care might be needed. A husband out of work? Important skills that are critically needed? Marriage ended, heaven forbid? Get back in that workforce at the highest level of pay you possibly can manage, working the fewest hours for the greatest reward – not because you are lazy or want a free ride, but because you are smart, efficient and highly productive. You can help generate a profitable, effective organization. But you’ve got babies to get home to, where it all really matters.
For most LDS women who are working, it’s not about the vacations and new clothes and cable access and more house than you can afford. Those days are ending as people start paying their bills, and the counsel of our prophets for generations sits boldly against the backdrop of a decade of fiscal irresponsibility. In the meantime, those of us who can be home with our kids need to be very careful of judging our sisters in the paid workforce.
There are key, sacred roles for providing and nurturing. But the details of how and when and who does what at what precise time have to be up to each family in counsel with each other and with the Lord.
What has your family’s experience been? And how has the Lord helped you find the right path at different seasons? What advice would you give to a mother getting back into the workforce right now?