Working Mothers: What Is Having It All? // Caylee Hunter

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"It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands."
                                                                        -Nora Ephron

The term having it all can be cumbersome and comparative in nature. Who decides how to define this for each woman? In my own experience as a young mother, part-time employee, and graduate student, I have certainly learned valuable lessons on how I define my life and how I feel valuable. The world of motherhood and the world of academia are certainly vastly different arenas that call for distinct characteristics. Through being a mother, the need to be present and involved is always beckoning. Through coursework and other graduate program expectations, the demand is often focus and time-management. When the two worlds collide, there is often negotiation and compromise to make sure that I am finding a healthy balance.

            Graduate school is rigorous and worthy of full-time commitment. So is raising children. While there may be more flexibility as a student than in a full-time professional job, the demands can be varied and intermittent. While this route may not consistent for every individual and family, it does bring up the point of connecting with others that have similar challenges in their lives. There are some of things to consider when thinking of how working mothers can prosper and how we can find room for everyone’s definition of happiness.

Identity- Where does a woman’s identity come from and where does she find purpose and fulfilment? This can look very different for each and every woman. One may find a meaningful identity in their profession as well as being a mother to their son; it is all about working through the process of figuring that out and owning what exactly that is.

Negotiate- A working mother may find herself having to negotiate and compromise quite often during a given week. With the expectations of work, the demands of children, and the needs of a partner, a woman must figure out how to best divide her energy in order to attend to the most salient requirements of the moment. Balance of all arenas is key.

Self-care- One of the most important things that a mother can do is to take care of herself and make sure she is the best version of herself. That may include massages or pedicures, fancy coffee or a hot bath. It is important to give oneself compassion and love in order to nurture their own well-being. Letting go of guilt and self-doubt is also vital in maintaining a meaningful life.

Willingness to be present- The responsibilities and duties that are required for every role that a woman has in her life are often many and arduous. Given that, it is imperative that a woman is able to find ways and time to be present with themselves, with their family, and with their work. In order to foster a feeling of fulfillment and nourishment, one must be able to absorb the love and support around them.

Do what makes you proud. Do what gives you purpose. Most of all, do everything that brings you joy.

Kuperberg, A. (2009). Motherhood and Graduate Education: 1970–2000. Population Research and Policy Review, 28(4), 473-504.

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