It’s the first question people ask me now, referring to my every-other-week commute from Kansas City to Baltimore.
I smile and say how fortunate I am and that it all works out. Except when it doesn’t. Like when my flight was delayed for seven hours and then canceled on erev, Yom Kippur. Or when my son, stirred by a farewell kiss two weeks ago, awoke and wrapped his arms around me so tight I thought I’d suffocate. He pleaded, “Mommy, please don’t go.”
I cried the whole way to the airport.
But then I got on the plane and I started reading through my notes about the new Chizuk Amuno executive director, Glenn Easton, for an article I was working on, and I was instantly moved by his mission. When I landed at Reagan National Airport, I went straight to the J Street Conference and networked with the thought-leaders there. Later in the week, I had the privilege of sitting in on a program through the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds about the plight of Israeli-Arabs. I had coffee and interviews with the people we report about … and those got me fired up. I instantly remembered how much I love my job. And I really do.
But no, it’s not easy. It’s not easy for any mother who chooses to work.
Working moms live their lives in a state of perpetual guilt. If you spend too much time at work, you feel guilty about not being with your children. If you take time to go to a school play or Google a good lasagna recipe, you feel guilty about the time taken away from your job.
Did feminism really help us females? Is it a misunderstanding of the feminist agenda that’s left women feeling overwhelmed and under-accomplished?
I don’t believe that gender is solely a social construction. While environment/socialization do play a significant role in human life, research in neuroscience, endocrinology and psychology suggests there is a biological basis for many sex differences in aptitudes and preferences. In general, males have better spatial reasoning skills; females have better verbal skills. Males are greater risk takers; females are more nurturing. This doesn’t mean that women should be prevented from pursuing their dreams in any field or in any way they choose. It just suggests that women who make the choice to stay at home with their kids aren’t deprived, and their decision should be celebrated, too.
During each of my pregnancies, I toyed with the idea of working less, but I could never pull the trigger. Who/what impacted that decision? My husband? He couldn’t care less how many days I work. He has always been supportive of my choices. My employers? Always they have been benevolent and supportive, too. The answer is me.
I want to stay home with my children, and I also want to work like a fiend. It is complicated and confusing, it’s the reality of a workaholic perfectionist in a deadline-driven newsroom.
It’s the reality of modern woman.
Society may expect certain things from us, but we are the ones who choose whether or not we internalize external social values and make them our own.
The goal is to determine and trust in our own value system, to know that all of our values are not as important to us at the same time — to challenge the all-or-nothing thinking — and to remember that things also shift over time. I’m finding this easier as I get older.
Still, when something is important — go for it!
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief firstname.lastname@example.org