06.18.12 Career & Finances

Fighting for Change

Fighting for Change

BY Jessica Hayes

My journey started with my education and the belief that women could have it all. Today’s rhetoric is that of course women can have it all “just not all at the same time”. That doesn’t seem like equality to me. Most men I know can have it all and they can have it at the same time.

My career prior to motherhood was satisfying to a degree – I had challenging jobs in the High Tech Industry and was lucky to receive promotions and new opportunities. During the dot com boom, I was the 35th hire for an internet startup agency and when I left that agency, there were only five of us. It was a traumatic experience and I was ready move on. I was pregnant and relieved that my husband could support our new family, so I ran from the workplace as fast as I could. Being a stay-at-home mom seemed like an answer to something. I’ve always loved babies, I enjoy cooking and staying at home seemed an appealing idea. I did not anticipate how challenging the job was. The “house” part of being a housewife made success elusive. Groundhog day, gerbil wheel, these are images that kept recurring.

I experienced failure for the first time – a crying baby that wouldn’t stop and the maddeningly endless laundry. A salary and feedback were distant memories. But I persevered and we are lucky to have three very healthy boys. My happiness literally came through osmosis – when they were happy, I was happy. This I learned is not sustaining happiness.

Seven years later, it was time for me to reenter the workplace. The interview process turned out to be fraught with self-esteem-busting conversations. Part-time jobs were scarce and the hole in my resume left me feeling dated. There were no relevant and recent stories for me to tell. I took an unpaid internship in social media so that I could have something current to say about technology. This opened some doors, but the gap in my resume often slammed them shut.

One memorable interview experience came in the form of a job offer. The salary offer was pathetically low and the (female) owner of the company justified this by saying, “The fact that you were home for so long is a red flag.” I turned the job down based on that sentence.

Next, I found a part-time job as an independent consultant for an insurance company. The job was awful, but I quickly relearned the MSOffice suite of products and the present-day vocabulary like, “cross-functional teams”. Whenever I had a performance evaluation, my boss conveyed to me that I had so much potential. Potential? He indicated we should talk about my future in his hotel room. I quit immediately and then I signed something that said I wouldn’t sue him.

I finally have a job that I enjoy, but the hours are long. There is an unlimited vacation policy, but certain coworkers seem to keep score. As many working moms can attest, the workplace hasn’t adjusted to the reality of two working parents. The good news is that this brings out my entrepreneurial spirit and the pioneer/Mount Holyoke graduate in me. I will keep fighting for change in the workplace but I don’t believe I should have to.

For inspiration, I recently read a review of the book, The New Feminist Agendaby Madeleine M. Kunin.

She’s asking the same question I am – “How do you get today’s moms and all their equally overtaxed potential allies, to show up for a revolution? Perhaps we need a 21st-century Gloria Steinem, a multitasking, minivan-driving, media-savvy soccer mom (or dad) with just enough of a hint of glamour to make protest as appealing a prospect as Girls’ Night Out”.

This may have to be my new job.

Jessica Hayes is an aspiring writer and a “work/life balance” activist.  She is interested in talking about  women and work.  As a member of the Seacoast Women's Giving Circle, Jessica is inspired by grass roots crusading.  She offsets the universal, every day struggles by zumba dancing, laughing and having wine with friends.  She grew up in Philadelphia (favorite place on earth), and currently lives in New Hampshire with her adored husband and their 3 boys. 

Comments

  • Ambidix

    This article resonates with me on several levels. So many “career women” turned stay-at-home mothers, myself included, find their new role now where close to the domestic paradise they had imagined. It is then our new endeavor to find happiness: some turn to trying to perfect domesticity, others quickly return to work, remembering how green that grass was. But was it? It is a balancing act and happiness can be elusive. I don’t have answers but I enjoy the conversation. Let’s keep it going!

  • Elizabeth Kramer

    I am appalled by your interview stories, Jessica.  But, encouraged that you are sticking with it and working to find a balance that suits you and your family!

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