The "mommy track." That’s what they call it when a mother attempts to have a career – you know, the kind of job where you make connections, get promoted, climb the ladder, etc. It’s pretty distant from the "management track." And it becomes even more so when you’re a single mother.
I recently had the pleasure of dining with a director-level woman, who also happens to be a mother. I thought she had it all and was anxious for her insight into my own career path. She is certainly accomplished in the business world. However, in the end, she was shocked to learn I was even trying to “get ahead” since I don’t have a husband that stays home with my children. I was shocked to hear that from another mother.
Generally speaking, even in married households, it’s the mother who stays home with the sick child, or brings cupcakes to school for a birthday, or picks up the child a little early for a dentist appointment. (I said “generally,” guys, don’t jump on me here – I know some of you take your turn.) As a single mother, I have no choice – if my child is sick, it’s me who is staying home. Period.
I’m fortunate enough to work at a place that is somewhat understanding. Understanding in that I’m not really penalized for taking care of my family – at least not directly. But when it comes time for that higher level position, or potential move into a new group, I’m overlooked for the more flexible candidate, even when it’s well known that I have the skills to succeed.
And that understanding carries into my family life as well. My daughter desperately wants to know when I’m going to take her on vacation. I’d love an answer to that as well. But those vacation days get burned up pretty quickly when you have a child in daycare who catches every germ that comes into his classroom.
Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade my kids for the world. They ARE my world! I do know how fortunate I am to have a job at all, let alone one that allows me the flexibility to care for my family. And surely my kids will see the beach before they grow up and go to college, right?
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She also is organizer for Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly on Wednesday.