“Oh no!” I exclaimed while drinking my coffee in between packing lunches. A fellow volunteer, who happened to be a working mom goofed up her schedule and I was realizing what it meant for the day.
“What happened,”my 5th grade daughter asked, in between bites of frozen pancakes.
Today is the day before Halloween, which means it’s class party time at the elementary schools. It’s a BIG day for the little people, one of their favorites. I have been at one of my children’s Halloween parties for, like, always. It’s what I do. As a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, it’s one of the perks of my job. Even with the coordinating and party planning and begging for volunteers —I am always grateful for that opportunity to see my kids in their element. I whole-heartedly love it.
But entertaining 26 ten-year olds without getting heckled is a tough job. That why I shouted “oh no” when I received an email from that working mom who I really liked and admired.
Halloween parties at our school run a little earlier than others because of a special Fall program the staff does. She accidentally inputted the time wrong, and now will be late because she is leading a meeting.
And she feels awful. I’m sure she feels guilty for letting the other parents down, but mostly for missing time with her daughter. She feels the pangs that a working mom experiences all the time.
That’s when I decided to pick the next words I spoke to my daughter carefully. I looked deep into those dark brown eyes and said, “Nothing is wrong. One of the moms is going to be a little late to your party because she gets to lead a very important meeting for her company. She actually teaches people how to communicate ideas about their business better, and she is really good at it. Today, she gets to lead a video conference. She has a lot to pack into her day so she’s just going to run a few minutes behind. We will figure it out until she gets there!”
“Really? That’s a cool job,” my daughter said. “I’d love to lead a video conference for a bunch of people one day.”
“You could totally do it, “ I told her. “She started her own business but works with some of the biggest companies in the world. She combined her passion with making a living. You could do that too one day.”
“Like maybe soccer and math?” she mumbled with a full pancake in her mouth.
“Sure, maybe even soccer and math.”
I know this sounds like an innocuous conversation. Really, it’s just a school party. But to me, a stay-at-home mom, this is important stuff. Life-changing stuff.
Because to be honest, I am counting on you as a working mom. I need you guys to succeed.
Due to life circumstances — a husband who travels, moving around the country a few times, birthing three kids in sixteen months — it made sense for me to stay at home. I didn’t anticipate becoming a full-time mom, but it works for my family. I enjoy it and live a fulfilling life filled with volunteering at my kids’ school, charitable work and a little bit of writing here and there. My children understand that I work, even if I am not getting paid.
But my daughters may choose a different path, and I need role models for them. Role models like my friend who volunteers at school, creates beautiful projects with her kids and runs a business — and still has time to go out and grab a glass of wine.
In that moment I found out my working mom friend was going to be late, I could have admonished her in front of my daughter. But, instead, I wanted to show her something else, something much more important.
Middle school is the time when most girls no longer believe they can be anything they want in this world. According to my friend Vanessa at TIA Girl Club, this is the time when camouflaging occurs, meaning our daughters want more to fit in then become their authentic selves. This is when we lose them.
The number one way to raise girls who believe they can do anything and be anyone is by supporting other women — women who make different choices than ourselves. It is the most important way to show our girls that they control their destiny.
We need to support the moms who are working either by desire or by necessity. Offer to carpool so their child doesn’t miss an event or take in a snack they prepared. Help their kids when they can’t be at the class party. Don’t make them feel bad when they are running late. I’m pretty sure dealing with guilt can sometimes feel lika a second job for a working mom, so don’t add more.
Because the truth is, I feel guilty too. I wonder if I am the best example to my kids at times, if I am demonstrating girl-power. I am comfortable if they choose to follow my path, but I don’t want them to do it out of fear or resignation. I want them to understand they have the power of choice.
And my brand of feminism has to do with two things and two things only — equality and choice. Feminists who came before us fought for the right to choose a life that was on their terms —whether that was staying at home or participating in the workforce.
And we ladies should support each other in whatever choices we make. If we don’t support them both, what message will that send to our girls?
When men do it they are applauded, so as women, let’s really show them how it’s done.
So, to all the working mom running late today: don’t worry. We got this!
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This post originally appeared at Play Dates on Fridays.