Windy Twilley

Yarn keeps me from opening fire.


Thoughts on the term "Working Mother"
In a recent debate on Amherst College's Planworld, several girls - none married, none with children - tackled the term "working mother." The discussion started with the lament that there is no equivalent term for men. After I snorted derisively at the women's-studies tone of the complaint, I jotted down some of my own working-mother thoughts.

I didn't go back to work because I wanted to. I went back to work so that my husband could continue to do what he loves, which is newspaper reporting. It pays squat. My job pays squat, too, but two squats are better than one.

I like my job. I don't love it. I certainly don't love it the way I loved being a reporter. That's why I resent it so much - because I'm pulled away from my baby by something I don't truly care about.

Most career-minded women aren't like me. They love their job, biting and clawing their way up the corporate ladder, playing with the boys, all that nonsense. They can't see how sitting at home with a baby will possibly fufill them they way their job does.

If you think that your job is the most important thing in your life, fine. I'm not telling you that you'll want to stay home
with your kids. I'm just saying that you won't be able to make that decision until your kids exist. Only then will you be able to look objectively at the time and energy committment to both.

Women, especially well-educated ones, who exit the workforce for motherhood often feel that their education was "a waste." That's nonsense. A liberal arts education is notoriously poor preparation for an actual career, and nothing is adequate preparation for parenthood. So you're really starting from scratch either way. The liberal arts education ostensibly teaches you to think - which will make you a better parent, or a better account executive, or what have you.

If your job lights you on fire, if it's something you're truly passionate
about, then you can strike a balance between work and children. Because your children will
light you on fire; you will be passionate about them, and if you
can't muster the same enthusiasm for your work, you can't help but hate one.

"Working mother" is a term that cannot have a male equivalent. From the dawn of the workforce, men have been working fathers. Their office life changes very little after their children are born. Women, on the other hand, have just undergone the most profound physical change possible, and the aftershocks of that linger for years, if not a lifetime.

Babies are incredibly primitive. They eat, sleep, poop, and scream when one
of these needs is not being fulfilled. They don't care that momma has to be
at work at 8 and that she'd prefer not to be dressed in spit-up.

But babies also do very primitive things to their mothers. The aftermath of
birth is almost as physically dramatic as pregnancy.

Your hormones rage. You cry for no reason and giggle just as easily.

For the first six weeks (or longer - until the baby sleeps through the
night) you are only getting three hours of sleep at a time, which has
well-documented effects on the brain and body. And, if you're on maternity
leave, you spend much of that time alone, just you and the primitive little
creature. You find yourself shedding those things which are not primitive -
like showers.

When you go back to work, you are emerging from this chrysalis. You're no
longer used to getting dressed or being on an artificial schedule. You've
forgotten complex socialization skills.

And the baby is always with you. The baby smell clings to your power suit.
Your breasts fill with milk on their own schedule. They leak. Your uterus
bleeds as it shrinks back down - for up to three months. You may have
stitches, if you have had a Caeserian section or an episiotomy.

In short, every single thing about you says "mother." Men do not undergo
these changes, physical or emotional. Their life at work goes on as it
always has, while a woman's work life changes profoundly. There's no getting
around it, no covering it up or "leveling the playing field."