By Ashley Hollweg, Ph.D.
A link to the Harvard Business School article, Kids Benefit From Having a Working Mom, came across my Facebook news feed, ironically, as I was in the throes of the prolonged de-icing airplane process en route home from a business trip this week. The topic immediately piqued my interest, and, in fact, ended up distracting me and alleviating the anxiety that was brewing about the potential of a delayed arrival, which would then precipitate a litany of last-minute back-up planning to manage the effects on the home front. Such scenarios are not uncommon for this single, working mother who travels a great deal for a job she loves.
While the article struck an indelible chord, I initially dismissed my desire to write a blog post about it on my company website. My reasons were twofold: A) my reaction to it felt too personal and not particularly relevant to my client audience and B) the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom topic can be polarizing. By the time my flight finally took off (and I had the opportunity to reflect before Wi-Fi kicked in at 10,000 feet), I had reconciled my hesitation and resolved responses to both:
A. Too Personal & Not Business-Relevant
1. It IS personal…but that is also the nature of what I do/ who I am
2. The topic is exceptionally relevant in my business, as many of the executives whom I assess (including men)
struggle with similar issues
B. A Polarizing Topic
1. So what if it is polarizing?
2. What I gleaned from the article actually is not opposing at all; rather, it celebrates both the stay-at-home and
Inherent to one aspect of my business, which is assessing senior executives, I am privileged to intimately know many facets of people’s lives (both personal and professional). While the men whom I assess typically outweigh the women for these roles, a common thread crosses gender bounds: pangs of guilt from a working parent, the struggle to achieve the paragon of work/life balance, and the genuine desire to raise healthy, happy, well-rounded, successful children. To underscore the gender neutrality of this tug-of-war, my father (Dr. Lewis Hollweg) to this day emotionally recounts a poignant day when I was 7 yrs old when I asked him, during a day he was home during a time of relentless work travel for him, “Daddy, why don’t you play with me anymore?”. In my experience, both personally and professionally, this notion to do it all, to be all is not gender-specific, but likely personality-driven…and also very human.
I believe that stay-at-home moms have the hardest job of all, much harder than mine, and I openly (and somewhat sheepishly) acknowledge that I could not do it with the same amount of efficacy and fulfillment that I do from my role as a working mom. As the only child of a mom who worked full-time inside the home, I was given a great gift for which I am grateful. I also believe that great gifts can be afforded to children of moms who work outside the home. My hope (and daily goal) is that I can be fully present for my children while I’m at home, and that they will reap the rewards (whatever those may be) of having a mom who loves and is adept at what she does outside the home. What resonates with me most out of this HB article (beyond the self-affirming research) is the closing statement: “So I think for both mothers and for fathers, working both inside and outside the home gives your kids a signal that contributions at home and at work are equally valuable, for both men and women. In short, it’s good for your kids.” Ultimately, it is not a matter of duking it out; happy, well-rounded and successful children are the product of many different family contexts.
And, what I would say to my father is that I have no recollection of his extensive travel; as I reflect on my childhood, my memories are of two exceptionally loving, involved, fully present parents who have shaped who I am today as a person, as a professional and as a parent.
Dr. Ashley Hollweg / Mommy to Elise (5) and Carson (4)