5. What About the Men: Why We Need to Talk About Parenting, Not Mothering – Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman

5

What About the Men:
Why We Need to Talk About
Parenting, Not Mothering

Why, in 2012, seventy years after Rosie the Riveter emerged as a symbol of women’s power and value in the workplace, is a major American business magazine confirming that mothers can indeed be CEOs? Shouldn’t we already know that? We should, but we’re not all convinced. And part of the problem is the common sentiment, reinforced by our president, that being a mother is the hardest job. That is not true.

Mothering Is Not the Hardest Job

After the Ann Romney and Hillary Rosen dispute about working mothers during the last presidential election, I wrote a blog post in which I said, mothering is not the hardest job, parenting is. If we are ever going to get past the gender gap in this country both at home and at work, we need to shift our thinking about mothering to include parenting. Some may find this statement ironic in a book focused on working women, but the fact is, there are issues unique to women that we need to address—their levels of participation in the workforce, the gender-based obstacles they face at work and at home, societal expectations of women and mothers in particular—and there are the issues we need to address for all parents and workers, regardless of gender. And if we work together on these issues, won’t all of us eventually win?

Take the discussion about mothers choosing to work or to stay home. It is usually toxic and fraught with emotional land mines. The mere hint of the discussion can spark a “mommy war,” and that is good for nobody. Part of it is a language issue. Personally, I bristle at the term full-time mother. I work outside the home eight, sometimes ten, hours a day. Does that make me a part-time mother? I don’t see it that way.

And then there is the term working mother, a label I am given because I have a job in an office. Does that mean that a woman who stays home and manages her household and family doesn’t work? I don’t think she’d see it that way. But to be perfectly honest, when I hear a mother who doesn’t earn a paycheck explain to me her reasons for staying home, the benefits her family derives from her decision, and the many tasks she accomplishes as a result, I bristle. Because what does that imply about me? And if I explain that my children aren’t shortchanged, that we get all those things accomplished in my household too, then am I implying that the woman who stays home is inefficient or exaggerating? It’s a no-win conversation. And we aren’t having those discussions about men. There are no daddy wars, because we aren’t scrutinizing men’s career choices, nor are we grading their parenting. And why should we? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to being a man or a woman, a father or a mother.

Stay-at-Home Fathers Emerge

Yes, we’re starting to see the term stay-at-home father crop up. Labels are valuable for measuring, and it’s interesting to note that, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past ten years, with the current number at 154,000. But for the most part, men with children are merely referred to as fathers or dads. How often do you hear the term working father in reference to a coworker or a neighbor? Not very often. We know Marissa Mayer, the current CEO of Yahoo!, is a mother. Did we ever discuss or wonder if Scott Thompson, the former CEO, was a father? He is, by the way, to three kids.

Why do we separate mothering from parenting when we talk about work? I earn a paycheck; my husband does not. Some days I have it tougher than he does. I get up at five in the morning just to carve out time for myself—to exercise or to write. My husband sleeps until six thirty because he can exercise or read while the kids are in school. If I’m having a bad day, I still have to sit upright at my desk and keep my head in the game. He has between the hours of nine and three to be in a bad mood in private if he needs it. And some days, he has it tougher, and I walk out the door thinking, “Good luck, buddy,” as he deals with whining, tears, missing homework, shirts that don’t feel right, playground politics, and a packed schedule that goes until eight o’clock at night.

But for the things that really matter, we are both there. When the kids are sad or hurt or sick, when we are worried about their health, their futures, their emotional well-being, we’re both there. That’s the hardest job—parenting—and we both own it.

We should apply the same common-sense approach to fair pay, paid sick leave, parental leave, affordable child care, flexibility, and even reproductive rights. These are not just women’s issues, although the media labels them as such. Heck, they’re not even just parents’ issues. These are issues that impact every worker, regardless of gender or parenting status, although parents stand to lose a lot when they don’t exist.

The Wage Gap: Not a Woman’s Issue

Let’s look at the wage gap as an example of the way so-called women’s issues affect both genders. As we’ve stated, the median earnings of women who worked full time, year-round were 77 percent of that for men working full time, year-round. And mothers suffer a per-child wage penalty of approximately 5 percent, on average. Considering that more than half of American women who work are breadwinners contributing at least some part of the necessary income to maintain their households, and that there are twenty-three million mothers on the national payroll, the gap is quite disconcerting.

Women’s earning may be reduced, but the items they’re paying for are not. If we’re relying on their salaries to cover health care, child care, and housing costs, consumer goods like clothing and groceries, and savings for retirement, then the wage gap affects women, men, our families, and our country’s economic stability. Theses items are not reduced by 23 percent when a woman pays for them. It doesn’t take an economist to understand that when American families are struggling, consumer spending goes down. And consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of total economic activity. Closing the gap is more than a woman’s issue. It’s more than a family issue. It’s an economic issue.

Parents Need Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave has economic implications too. We’ve heard the stories of couples playing the “whose job is more important game” when a child is sick and can’t go to day care or school. That’s a high-class problem for some, because at least those couples have jobs and the option of staying home. Forty-eight percent of workers in the private sector don’t receive any paid sick days, and included in that number are more than thirteen million working women. For the sixty-six million Americans providing unpaid care to family and friends, a lack of paid sick leave makes their work–life situations unmanageable.

“It’s my busiest week of the year, and I’ve been talking nonstop about being thoroughly stressed by all the final work products I have due by December 31, except that because day care is closed the last week of December, it all has to be done this week,” says Shana, the nonprofit fund-raiser. “The frustration started when my husband realized he had to take a few days off or ‘lose’ the paid time off before the end of the year…but was very pouty that I couldn’t manage to take off a few days as well so we could spend time together while the kid is in day care. But here we are, December 18…I’ve been essentially single parenting since Sunday because my husband is sick. Not only do I have my hands totally full with my curious, feisty, also sort of sniffly, teething nineteen-month-old, but my husband has been whining and asking for me to fetch him extra blankets and tea and make him soup and go to the store to get him the Gatorade he likes and now, of course, I’ve put off whatever I was doing so I could take him to the doctor, drive him to the pharmacy…finally getting to work a little now that he’s down for a nap. And needless to say, it’s not reciprocal…the last time I was sick he went to a five-day conference, leaving me with a fever and a ten-month-old, and I’m actually fighting through one hell of a cough right now. But, you know, I can just talk to my clients and explain.”

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, adults without paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults with paid sick days to go to work when they have a contagious illness. They can skip work and risk losing their jobs or come to work and put their coworkers and customers at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that last year’s flu season would end up costing businesses $10.5 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults. That number didn’t factor in lost productivity at work. This is not a women’s issue. This is not a parents’ issue. This is a workplace issue and it affects everyone.

What About Paternity Leave?

Imagine if we stopped talking about maternity leave and started talking about parenting leave? While we won’t change the fact that women carry and deliver babies, we could change the dynamic around how we care for them and how we think about parenting in the workplace. In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 3,745 pregnancy discrimination complaints. We can only wonder, if more working fathers were asking for and taking paternity leave, or asking for sick time and flex arrangements, would negative attitudes and misperceptions about working mothers shift as a result?

For that to happen, companies have to offer paid leave for men and women. We know the United States is one of only four countries that don’t offer paid leave to new mothers. Paternity leave is even scarcer. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, men can take leave, but like women, only if they work in an organization that is covered. Companies with fifty or more employees are typically eligible, and the men requesting leave must work there 1,250 hours during the twelve months prior to the start of leave, at a location where fifty or more employees have worked for the employer for twelve months. According to the Families and Work Institute National Study of Employers (NSE), men on paternity leave are much less likely than women on maternity leave to receive some replacement pay during their leave.

Avital Norman Nathman’s husband asked for paternity leave and was met with major resistance by his higher-ups. “How can you talk about having it all when you can’t even have the basics?” she asks. “My husband had to fight for his leave. He said, ‘I kind of want to be home with my wife and kid.’ The expectation is men take two or three days. My husband was like, ‘I’m also the parent.’” It will take more men like Avital’s husband speaking up and asking for time to remove the stigma for both men and women who parent and work. Women, who we could argue generally have much more precarious job security than men, have had to demand the benefits they need. Now we need men to join the cause in force. They have less risk, potentially, and more to gain, for all of us.

Backup Day Care Reduces Stress

Affordable child care is a parenting issue too. Women may disproportionately shoulder the burden of managing child-care options, but that shouldn’t be the case, and with more women serving as breadwinners, they’re helping to pay for it too. According to Child Care Aware® of America, whose mission is ensuring access to high-quality, affordable child care, in 2011 the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a center ranged from approximately $4,600 in Mississippi to nearly $15,000 in Massachusetts. The costs for a four-year-old ranged from approximately $3,900 in Mississippi to nearly $11,700 in Massachusetts. That’s steep.

And American parents have very few choices for backup child care when their children are sick. According to the NSE, only 6 percent of companies surveyed in 2005 offered backup child care, and that numbered dropped to a mere 3 percent in 2012. “My husband worked for Microsoft and the benefits included backup day care,” one woman told me. “It was amazing. I wish more companies offered it. It would cut the stress.” Worrying about how to care for your child when you have to work and they are sick should not be a women’s issue. That should be a parenting issue.

Families Need Choices

Reproductive rights, although so often framed as a political issue and a religious issue, are also a workplace issue. Parents, and women especially, must have the ability to plan their families if they are going to be able to plan their careers. Currently, we don’t live and work in a land where we are free from pregnancy discrimination, have parenting leave for all workers, and are assured of paid sick leave when we need to care for ourselves and our family members. Having a child does impact a woman’s career, and therefore her family’s life. The women I talked to are constantly weighing their children’s emotional needs against their family’s financial needs. They’re worried about turning down a promotion or a plum assignment, as it might affect their earning potential. They’re weighing the pros and cons of being more available when their children are infants or toddlers or teens. Yes, having a baby is unique to a woman. But being a caregiver, both emotional and financial, is gender-blind. Women and men need access to a full spectrum of reproductive health choices and the freedom to decide what is best for themselves and their families with regard to family planning.

Dad’s Flexibility Helps Mom

The one topic traditionally considered a woman’s issue that has many men joining the conversation is flexible work arrangements. The Families and Work Institute National Study of Employers (NSE), states that “flexibility that enhances an employee’s ability to decide when and where they accomplish their work tasks is on the rise with increases in the proportion of employers allowing at least some employees access to flextime and place and choices in managing time since 2005. On the other hand, flexibility around reduced time, caregiving leaves, and flex careers has declined since 2005.” And yet the study found that employees who work in flexible workplaces are more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction, less negative and stressful spillover from job to home, better mental health, and lower stress levels. The women I talked to reported that when their husbands had flexibility at work, it made a difference in the women’s home and work lives.

Linda, the commercial banker, changed jobs several years ago in an effort to find some work–life balance. “It has completely backfired. Horribly,” she says. Linda has not found any more balance in her current position. Her husband works full time as a sales representative for a pharmaceuticals company and has flexibility. “That’s how we keep it together,” says Linda. If her husband didn’t have flexibility, Linda would be struggling even more than she is to manage work and home.

And Laura, an executive director for a nonprofit, said both she and her husband made deliberate career choices in order to have the flexibility they wanted for their family. Their decisions were spurred in part after Laura was unable to negotiate well-compensated flex hours following the birth of their first child. “There were two women before me who had babies, but they both left. For me, it wasn’t an option at the time so I took my maternity leave. I got eight weeks unpaid.” Laura points out that the organization she worked for at the time had a mission of helping families in need. “And yet they have nothing, nothing at all. I ended up trying to negotiate part time; I was asking to work from home one day a week. I ended up negotiating going back three days a week but I took a huge pay cut. A few years before, my husband was still working a million hours a week as a chef and then we started talking about having kids. We said, ‘This isn’t realistic.’”

Eventually, Laura’s husband made a career change and became a teacher. “As far as his schedule, it’s pretty awesome. He’s off when the kids are off and he’s home in the afternoon. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if he didn’t have his job because my schedule is so all over the place.” Laura says she made it clear with her next employer that flexibility was critical. She told them, “I am going to drop my kids off and I am going to pick them up and I will do nighttime meetings and all that. They get it. And I do drop them off in the morning and I do, most days, pick my daughter up at three. So basically from, like, two forty-five to seven o’clock I’m sort of off duty unless someone really needs me.” Laura says she often sneaks in and out of her office to check e-mail, make a quick call, or write a memo while the kids are doing homework. “When I sneak in work when I’m supposed to be on family time, I feel like I’m cheating on my family.”

When her husband comes home from work they figure out what they have going on as far as meetings and their children’s activities. Laura says, “Yesterday he walked in and I said, ‘I’m off duty. No one knock on my office door.’ And I went in and I closed it and I worked for a couple of hours. And then it’s dinnertime and we do all of [our daughters’] activities. Then I work after they go to bed. So I’m very sleep deprived, but I do it in order to be able to have the flexibility to be there for them and I don’t mind it. We chose our careers right now because it works for our family. We both came to the decision that time is worth more to us than money.”

Men Want Family Time Too

In the introduction to the Global Study on Men and Work-Life Integration, Peter Linkow and Jan Civian of management consulting firm WFD Consulting wrote, “Men still perceive work–life programs as primarily serving the needs of women, and most use work–life options at lower rates than women.” Interestingly, but not surprising, the men surveyed for the study, “reported more difficulty finding time to spend with family, and women reported more difficulty finding time for chores and errands.” However, Linkow and Civian did note men and women mostly share similar workplace cultural barriers to managing work and family. They went on to say, “It’s time to lay to rest the notion that these are women’s issues only, and focus on individualizing workplaces to support business objectives and personal goals.”

WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress, a global human resources association that cosponsored the study, gathered approximately two dozen participants, most of them male, to discuss work–life balance. They determined that the common idea that men derive their identities from work while women derive them from family are unfounded and that both men and women believe they have been punished for using work–life benefits.

One of the ways men and women can work together to create more flex-friendly environments is to support each other’s desire and decisions to go flex. Yes, we women joke and complain about how men can leave early to golf but not to parent, or that coaching seems to be an acceptable reason to leave early but school pickup does not. “If a man leaves early you hear what a good dad he is,” says Julie, the public relations executive. “But if a mom has to leave early for soccer practice…There are gender biases and it’s infuriating.” We need to take the reasons for flex out of the equation and work on how best to meet our business and personal goals in a more forgiving work environment rather than judge why our coworkers are calling into a meeting from home or leaving the office by three.

Having men advocate for fair wages, paid leave, and work-from-home days is important. So is having men advocate for women. And to make that happen, we need to invite them into the discussion.

Gender Biases Remain a Major Barrier

There is a growing body of research that shows women at the top of organizations are good for the bottom line. There is also plenty of research that documents both the subtle and overt barriers women face in the workplace. Men supporting women is good for business, good for families, and good for their own work–life goals.

Men can support women’s advancement, and therefore a more gender-balanced corporate and family culture, by being aware of the inherent biases built into performance evaluations, formal and informal networks, and a woman’s ability to speak up, negotiate, and self-promote without suffering backlash.

Catalyst, an organization that supports women’s advancements at work, released a study several years ago titled Cascading Gender Biases, Compounding Effects: An Assessment of Talent Management Systems. The study found that gender biases and stereotypes were “unconsciously embedded” into performance review processes. Because most skills assessments are developed by or with senior management, they typically view the characteristics of that group most favorably. And because senior management in corporate America is still predominantly male, the assessments favor more masculine attributes over stereotypical feminine attributes like collaborating and nurturing. Men in leadership positions can influence the way those assessments and tools are developed and ensure that a broader set of attributes are evaluated.

Catalyst also studied the importance of sponsorship in advancing a career and issued a report titled Sponsoring Women to Success. A study of four thousand MBAs showed that men are still more likely than women to have effective sponsors in the workplace. Unlike mentors, who provide practical advice, sponsors typically lend their personal and professional capital to advancing another’s career. The report noted, “Lack of sponsorship is one indicator of what’s really been holding many women back—exclusion from organizations’ most influential networks.” With so few women at the top of organizations, women seek male sponsors to help them advance and build strong networks.

I’m Lonely at Work

Holli, a lawyer, has seen many of her female colleagues drop out of the workforce, and she believes their absence could impact her career. “Where does that leave those of us who have to stay in the game, or want to? It’s a pretty isolated place. I have fewer contacts to network with and fewer close friends who are truly in the same situation.” She talks about the importance of building a book of business in order for attorneys to earn equity partnerships. “What’s so important is the business generation. It’s a numbers game in the sense that women leaving the field results in fewer close professional contacts for their female colleagues, which is likely to result in fewer referral sources over the long term. I have very few law school friends who are still practicing law—and I think that is a problem.”

Holli found some women-focused networking events and groups to be ineffectual because a surprising number of the women who attended were not fully engaged in the workplace. Some were looking to reenter the workforce or to change career paths, and the women who attended for these reasons were unlikely to be decision makers. “The problems of women leaving the workplace…yes, it leaves the families in an economically vulnerable position. And, collectively, it’s really problematic for those of us who have to keep working, who are surviving and hopefully thriving with fewer and fewer women around.

“It seems to me that many women experience a sense of isolation in the workplace that may lead them to bow out if they are economically able to do so. On some level, they think to themselves, ‘The next tier up is all guys. So why do I think I would make it there?’ Or what about the phenomenon of seeing the pack of men going to lunch? If there are no women for you to go to lunch with, being at work becomes less satisfying.”

I understand what she means. I once worked as the vice president of Marketing for a family-owned business run by three brothers. I was the only female vice president. The head of Sales and I, in order to foster a strong relationship between our two departments, shared an office. At least twice a week, one of the owners would stop by and ask my office mate, a male, to go to lunch. I was never invited. The only women in the company were administrative staff, part-time consultants, and the women who reported to me on my team. I was very lonely at work and knew I was missing out on the informal bonding and decision making that took place over a lunch table instead of a conference table. It was a frustrating and lonely experience.

“Who wants to get up and go to work, only to be snubbed?” asks Holli. “You can’t force your way in. You can’t make people have lunch with you. And it seems to me that a woman who feels isolated in this way is more likely to leave the workforce if she can.”

Holli notes, however, that lunch should be a good way to build a sense of camaraderie with men—and is probably preferable to other activities. “Lunch is a pretty safe environment. Most of the time you probably won’t be turned down if you ask someone to lunch. But a lot of the other socializing happens on the golf course and at nighttime events, where it is often just not comfortable for women to participate with men.”

I can understand that too. When I first started as the head of Marketing, and before my officemate was hired, I was attending a trade show with the all-male sales team. I thought it would be a good idea to go out for drinks with them when the show ended to start to build informal relationships. The group proceeded to get drunk. One of the men we were with was hitting on young women, and my group was egging him on, encouraging him to “score.” I left early, embarrassed and angry. I knew if I stayed I would either have to act like one of the guys and pretend their behavior and comments didn’t bother me or call them out and risk having them alienate me at work. After that night, I rarely went out socially at work, even though I traveled with the sales team frequently.

Holli says there are things companies can do to help women network more easily: “A workplace can encourage group events; buy four or six tickets instead of two.” Regarding the possibility of simply networking with men in response to a diminishing list of female contacts, Holli says it can be a difficult task: “What that really means is going out to networking events or professional activities, meeting a bunch of forty- to fifty-year-old guys, developing relationships with these men that rise to a level where they trust you, view you as competent, and view you as a professional, and doing all of this at night, during nonworking hours. And, by the way, your prospective contacts and business sources are all married and have families of their own, and may have their own discomfort with socializing across gender lines in certain settings. This is a very tall order. There is no doubt in my mind that it is far easier for women to develop close and meaningful professional relationships with other women. But, if there are fewer women in the workplace with whom to develop those relationships, you have to find a way to compensate—and it is not easy.”

Women, for their part, can make the first moves as well as look outside their own organizations. Perhaps I could have found a place at that lunch table years ago if I had asked the owner and the head of Sales to lunch. And now, even though I work with plenty of female peers, I try to have lunch at least twice a month with a woman outside my own organization and even my own industry. Our day to day jobs may be different but usually our experiences, challenges, ideas, and even contacts, are all relevant to each other.

There’s a Brain Drain Happening

“Pregnancy didn’t impact my career,” Holli says. “I’m much more focused on what the next twenty-five years of work look like—having a happy and successful career. I would like to see more women stay in it. But it’s not my place to tell another woman to do so. There are women out there working who would like to see more women working. Life in the workplace would be more satisfying. I believe there is a horrible brain drain happening in numerous professions based on the attrition rate for well-educated, talented women. Still, I would never presume to tell another woman what she should do in her own situation.”

The women who do stay in the game, those who want to rise to the top of an organization, need to carefully manage how they advocate for themselves through both negotiation and self-promotion. It’s been documented that women fear backlash from advocating for themselves, and this can impact whether they ask for raises, favorable assignments, or promotions. The fear stems from a double bind, which Catalyst documents in its report The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned If You Do, Doomed If You Don’t. The report points out, “When women act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes, they are viewed as less competent leaders.” However, “Women who adopt a ‘masculine’ leadership style are viewed more negatively. Although they might be viewed as competent because of their leadership style, they also receive more negative evaluations of their interpersonal skills than women who adopt a ‘feminine’ style. Hence, even acting in counter-stereotypical ways has potential harmful consequences for women leaders, and may negatively impact their work relationships and access to social networks.” Men seeking better work–life integration, a stronger family structure, and a more solid balance sheet at work, would be best served to champion positive, flexible work experiences not only for themselves, but for their coworkers, both male and female, too. Women, although it may feel unfair, should be aware of the double bind and frame their negotiations and requests in terms of how they benefit the organization, rather than just appearing as if they are advocating for themselves.

Likewise, non-breadwinning women, and men, must work together to create a gender-balanced experience outside the office. Diversity is good for all organizations, not just the corporate ones. A study from the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the National Center for Fathering reported more than half of the men they surveyed attended school parent meetings, a number that had increased significantly in the last ten years. There is opportunity in that trend. As more men take on what have been considered traditional female roles outside the office, it’s bound to impact their perspective in the office. Plus, diversity is good for any organization whether it’s the company or the PTO.

A Gender-Diverse Ecosystem

When my children started at their new elementary school a few years ago, my husband kept to himself when he took our kids to the school playground, which was mostly filled with mothers. His lack of a social network affected our family. Because he didn’t have relationships with the other parents, my children had fewer playdates and we had no backup options for drop-offs and pickups. By the end of the year, however, he had built a solid network of mothers and fathers—a minor issue perhaps in the grand scheme of things, but this kind of progress is the beginning of a gender-diverse ecosystem in which we are raising our children, one that reflects the realities of today’s families.

Language is another seemingly small issue that can make a difference in how we view this new ecosystem, too. Here are my reflections on the language we use to describe work and parenting.


The other night I had dinner with a fellow blogger. I asked her if she blogged full time or if she worked too. She replied, “Oh no, I hardly have any time to blog. I’m a full-time mom.”

Oh, right, of course. I hadn’t even thought about how parenting factored into her time management. At first, I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t considered this woman’s “most-important” job.

Then I started to think.

I am a mother and I work full time in an office. Plus, I blog. My full-time office job is very important because it feeds my family. My blogging job is important because it feeds my soul. I never think about parenting as a job. It’s just a fact. I have a family.

And then I thought some more.

If I am a full-time worker, does that make me a part-time mother? And if I run a small business in addition to my day job, what does that make me? A really crappy mother?

We figured out the mominology for stay-at-home mothers a long time ago. I never ask a mother, “Do you work?” I ask, “Do you work outside the home?” because I know that what women do in the home is work. But if they respond, “No, I am a full-time mom. How about you?” What should I say?

I could say, “Part-time mom here. I was full-time, but I scaled back. I wanted more time to spend with my employer.”

Or, “Me? I parent about ten to twenty hours a week. Sometimes more if there’s a lot to do. It’s nice. It gives me the flexibility to do other things.”

Or maybe, “I was parenting but everything was falling apart around me. So I am full-time at the office again. I just couldn’t do both.”

Or perhaps, “Yes. I work. And between you and me, sometimes I feel like giving birth was a waste because I never use my parenting skills, but I just really didn’t want to be home every day so I quit. Maybe I’ll go back someday, after the business is more stable, but right now my clients need me.”

I decided to do some math. There are twenty-four hours in a day, less the ten hours my kids sleep. That leaves fourteen hours. Less the six hours they’re in school. That leaves eight available hours. And out of those eight, I am gone—commuting or working—for four.

But I am always a mother. I sit in my car during the morning commute worrying about my son’s spelling test and my daughter’s new friendships. I take a call from the school nurse in the middle of a team meeting. I e-mail their soccer coaches and schedule playdates from my desk.

So I think the next time someone says, “I am a full-time mom. How about you?” I will respond, “Me? I parent enough hours to get full benefits.”