Back in the day, when the kids were little and I was working outside the home (as opposed to now, when the kids are either towering teenagers or vibrant college women and I am still working outside the home), I subscribed to Working Mother magazine.
It’s a good magazine. They offer all kinds of ideas on how to defy the laws of physics and do it all, sometimes all at once. There are great, quick recipes, sensible advice about dealing with my job, and never once did they advise me to add up how much daycare was to see how it was costing me money to work. Which is good because I’m an analyst and had already done that math so I knew that it didn’t.
But the best part is that there is no competition about who’s got their act together better. Editorially speaking, we all have baby spit up on the shoulder of our business suits. Editorially speaking, we all know the pressure of having a sick baby and a project due at work all on the same day. Editorially speaking, we are all in the same, non-judgmental boat.
Until the late spring of every year, when WM publishes their cover story about the Working Mother of the Year, showcasing the epitome of working-outside-the-home success, and demonstrating that it is a competition and they have indeed been judging us all along.
Same boat? Hah! The Working Mother of the Year’s yacht isn’t even parked in the same marina as mine. WMOTY is usually a high-powered executive with a nanny and a stylish apartment, obviously maintained by a cleaning service. The WMOTY exercises an hour a day and volunteers for three charitable organizations “in her spare time.” She never misses a night reading to her cherub in a perfectly appointed Pottery Barn Kids bedroom, and the one year that WMOTY almost had to miss the Mother’s Day tea at Cherub’s kindergarten because she was in Paris for a pesky board meeting she just flew the class, their parents, and the tea party to France on the company jet. The WMOTY is in it for the power, or the handsome administrative assistant named Chad, or maybe the covered parking because she clearly has enough stock options to cover her into the next century and her husband just got voted Working Dad of the Year (WDOTY) at his eponymous law firm.
The Working Mother of the Year is never a woman who didn’t have enough energy to go after an executive position because she had four kids to juggle, and whose greatest accomplishment to date was making sure everyone had matching socks one morning in 1997. She’s still smarting from the pain when she had to miss her own kindergartner’s Mother’s Day tea six years ago because she couldn’t get someone to watch the phones while she was out of the office.
Am I jealous? Maybe a little. I know I’m never going to get an award, unless it’s Sleepiest or Most Aggravated or Loudest Inappropriate Language in Heavy Traffic Mother of the Year. And I didn’t need one, especially since we were all in the same boat.
It’s just disheartening to read that, as far as Working Mother is concerned, my boat has apparently sailed and sunk in the harbor.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears monthly.