The Workable

The Workable represents the working mother who for financial or emotional reasons has made the choice to prioritize her career over her physical parenting. The Workable is NOT disengaged from her children. She loves her children.  But her job is important to her and her family. She is typically enabled by the support of others to pursue her career with focus.  In some ways, she is modernizing the role of the traditional “father”. 

She may be the primary-bread winner.  She may have a career with motivating purpose and/or prestige.  She has made the choice (or non-choice) to commit to her career.  Among working mothers responding to the PRIMARY DILEMMA™ research, 21% identified themselves as a Workable. The following profiles of Sara and Margot reflect some of the challenges and strategies of the Workable.

Sara (lawyer): “It is interesting, I adore my boys but my choice was career because I had the greatest earning power and a commitment to corporate law. My husband stays home and takes care of the things that my friends who are mothers handle…rsvps, school lunches. When I leave my house in the morning for work – I am focused on work. I do not worry that I will get a call from school to pick up my son if he is sick. It is funny, many of my colleagues know that I have young children and they always ask how I do it. Ironically, I do it the same way that most men DO IT who have support from their wife. It is still such a double standard.”

Margot (graphic designer): “I have been allowed to put more time into work because my partner is self-employed and has the flexibility to care for our daughter. My career is not really that special. I work a lot.  But I am not a high level employee.  I have to work for financial reasons. I wish I were the one in the family that could go to all the functions, stay home with my daughter when she is sick, take her to the doctor, stay home with her during breaks – but I do not get to do that. My perfect career would be what I do now on a part-time basis (because I like to work) and still spend a lot more time with my daughter. So our roles have allowed me to take my job very seriously, work hard and do a great job at the same time.”

Every working mother is different. Sara and Margot have different motivations for becoming Workables and different senses of what they gain and give up in this role.  Each of them also has a different sense of empowerment in her method.  But both are focused on work and rely on others to help support physical parenting. Here are some shared strategies:

Work: Work counts and can’t get messed up! Your job performance dictates financial health for your family and emotional health for yourself. You are willing to put in long hours for the opportunities that may arise. Make it known at work that you “mean business”. Be careful to avoid mommy-track labeling! This is something that happens quietly, especially to moms with young children, and can derail careers.  Click here for more information on work in the resource section.

Childcare: Childcare must be BULLETPROOF! As a Workable it is nearly impossible to manage school conferences, doctor appointments and ballet recitals on top of the responsibility of career performance. Most of the Workables researched had a fully designated caregiver for their child. The working moms researched, who were in this situation, identified many options for caregivers: fathers, grandparents, nannies, etc. Consistently, the caregiver was a person who was reliable and fully accountable.

The caregiver has to understand how important she or he is to YOUR SUCCESS (professionally and personally). And you have to treat that person with corresponding regard and respect. If your caregiver is an employee and not a family member, be sure to communicate your needs and expectations upfront. The hours may be long. The skills that you require may be more sophisticated than babysitting. You will need someone who is good with logistics and who can make a decision in a crisis. Yes, unfortunately the “C” word does happen.

If your job is more predictable, then your options for childcare are broadened. Daycare and afterschool care can be terrific options. Click here for more specific information on childcare in the resource section.

Relationship: The Workable needs help outside of work. Clear negotiation with a partner or husband about work-family balance is critical. Both partners must be on board and supportive that mom may give up many traditional home roles because it would exceed her capacity.  This works well in many relationships but can be challenging for others.  Social norms are still evolving.  In her book, The Second Shift, Arlie Hochschild describes the complex relationship dynamics of couples in this circumstance. 

Also recognize that your partner may be making sacrifices to fuel your career.  Be sensitive and support his or her need for self-development.

Click here for more information on relationships from the resource section.

You: Take a breath every once in a while. Literally and figuratively. Remind yourself to take time for you.  It may feel selfish, but it will benefit everyone around you.  Make some time for exercise. This does not mean a gym membership. It means a 20 minute walk at lunch, a bike ride with your child, or a quick at-home yoga session in the morning.  Congratulate yourself when you make the time – no matter how brief.  You will feel accomplished and better. And if you feel better…the world is better for everyone. Promise.

Ask yourself the following key questions on a regular basis:

  • What are my goals and am I on track to achieve them in some form?
  • Do I feel empowered with choices to achieve my goals?

The answer to these questions should be “yes”.  But “getting to yes” is not always easy.  Think about your answers based on the contentment map.  The PRIMARY DILEMMA™ is about minimizing discontent and finding greater satisfaction in your situation.  Recognize that you have choices to change your world.

Click here for resources on caring for you.

Method Facts: 

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2007, 33.5 percent of women were making more than their husbands. You go girls!

A 2007 study from Pew Research Center states “Mothers working full-time give themselves slightly lower ratings as parents, on average, than do at-home mothers or mothers employed part-time”. This is probably a reflection of the unfair cultural biases that the Workable must overcome regarding her role as parent. Missing a school play for work does not make someone a bad parent.

Stewart Freedman and Jeffrey Greenhaus noted in their book, Work and Family—Allies or Enemies? What Happens When Business Professionals Confront Life Choices that “Children whose mothers are highly involved with their careers, for instance, experience relatively few behavior problems. Why?  These mothers with their greater self-esteem and greater competence are proving a positive role model.”