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10 to Twins

By Jessica T

About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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Why I work late

Uploaded: Jun 3, 2014
I have a confession to make: I am among the last to leave the office. Fridays for whatever reason are the worst - I try to tie up all the loose ends I can think of before heading home, which means that I don't cut out early like many of my colleagues. I relish the quiet, and I'm able to power through a few nagging tasks.

I have missed countless class parties, basketball games, and parent meetings. But while I was on maternity leave I found myself at quite a few basketball games on Monday afternoons. During that time, I was surrounded by other parents: stay-at-home moms, "investor" dads, and of course the coaches. The coaches were almost all professional men. As the game progressed, dad after dad walked into the gym. I asked my husband, "Wait, how can he be here?" "And him, how come he's not at work?"

My husband turned to me and said, "Simple. He's the coach."

I suppose men have traditionally played the role of "coach," and that's why it's an acceptable excuse for leaving work early. I'm thrilled that my male colleagues and friends are doing drop-off and pick-up as well as volunteering for coaching posts. But I don't think many of my working-mom friends would volunteer to coach a sports team if it meant having to leave work by 3 pm every Monday. This isn't to say that we couldn't - but why don't we? There seems to be a self-enforced double standard.

In my case, I worry about being taken less seriously in the workplace. I fear that if I left work early, my colleagues would conclude that I am more dedicated to my children's extracurricular activities than to my job. And of course I can't help but consider that a visible commitment like coaching could come at the cost of my next promotion. Is there an unspoken code for working women - that leaving work to attend to your kids' activities translates to "not so serious about work"?

Some of my fears have been reinforced in subtle ways. When I was pregnant with twins, I was often asked by co-workers, friends, and neighbors, how I'd be handling childcare. I'm pretty certain that my husband didn't receive these questions at all - which is ironic, because he was part of the answer!

I am ashamed to admit that on occasion I've found myself resenting the fathers at work who split early to take their kids to swim lessons, or those who cancel meetings at the last minute because of a daughter's dance recital. How should I weigh my own sacrifices against theirs? Most people admire involved dads: "He's great at work AND involved with his kids lives." Some days, I feel like my male colleagues can have it all.

I know that the answer is for everyone, men and women, to prioritize family and work equally. I hope we get there. I still feel restricted by the stigma (real or imagined) of being a family-oriented woman in the workplace. I suspect it will last until women are paid equally and hold as many high-ranking positions as men. In the meantime, I want to practice being better about letting things go, putting my kids first, and leaving the office early from time to time to participate in activities that are meaningful to them.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:26 am

I have often wondered about how the many coaches we have had over the past few years are able to take the time off to do this. I know that my husband in his job just would not be able to do this, partly because of the workload and unpredictability of such work, but also his need to travel at short notice.

I remember a conversation between a coach's wife and a couple of other moms at a game where this was the topic. This coaching wife told us that his coaching was the one thing outside of work that he did and that usually after his coaching stint he was straight back to his office for another 4 or 5 hours work. Not sure if a woman would do this or not.

The other thing that came out of this conversation was the fact that from the experience of these women chatting, many of the coaches were divorced and only had minimal visitation with their kids. By volunteering to coach they were able to up the number of hours they saw their own kids each week. This scenario would be less likely to the situation with a woman.

Nevertheless, it is a good discussion topic. Perhaps some other coaches or their wives would like to chip in.

The other aspect of this from a parent's pov, is that with Little League in particular (which is where I have experience and it may be true of other organizations) there is a much better chance of a child doing well in the sport if it is known that the father is willing to coach. From being on the best teams, majors, or getting into the All Stars, those kids with active Dads who coach these teams are automatically shoed in to the team even if they are not the best player. Those good players who should get in often don't get looked over because of this. Of course the powers that be will deny that nepotism is a factor, but what Dad will volunteer to coach a team that his own child doesn't get on?

Posted by another mom, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

I feel for you. I work in the tech industry. In spite of being as productive (may be even more) than most of my male colleagues, I feel stigmatized of "not taking work seriously". "Have it all" seems like a distant dream!

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Jun 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

This is an interesting topic. In my experience with kids sports, there were both moms and dads who were willing to coach. Most of the parents had very demanding jobs, the key to it working was quantity, there were enough coaches that they could juggle their schedules when needed. And many of them went back to the office after practice in particular.

@Mother of 4 - we also found that in PA Little League the "coach's kid" always made the All Star and the better teams (and they got a lot more playing time and better positions). Unfortunately, in a volunteer organization, that's the luck of the draw.

Posted by Jessica T, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jun 4, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments, fellow moms. I have no experience with coaching, but my daughter's team had several fathers who did juggle practices and cover for each other - this seemed to work great.

Also, all of the working women I know including me are accustomed to "going back to work" (perhaps not in the office per se) for several hours after our kids go to bed regardless of when we leave the office. I'm not sure this is the answer - it's not exactly a well-balanced way to live, but dedication among working mothers does not appear to be an issue as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by working dad + coach, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jun 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Interesting discussion and topic.

As a working dad and coach, and husband to a working wife, I think all of these types of commitments that are being discussed fall under the category of priorities to one as a parent. And they are very personal. Volunteering to coach my kids is a priority for me and thus, I make it work i.e. it's not easy and does require working around it or at night, etc. but it is a priority so I make it work. Btw, working for several hours at night is a daily norm for me too, because I try to generally leave "early" from the office in-order to maximize time with my kids in the evenings. Another priority for me at this point in my life.

And in my experience, most employers in the valley offer enough flexibility for such personal commitments (to both its male and female employees) so that at the end of the day its up to each one of us to prioritize what's most important to us, while also being a professional about how best to deliver on the expectations at work. And yes, these choices will sometimes result in delaying a promotion or being perceived as not being serious about work.....but hopefully that's a trade-off that you're comfortable making given the benefits of whatever the activity that you're choosing to prioritize.

Finally, regardless of the gender issues being discussed - the real winners of these priorities are our kids! And I count my blessings that we live in communities where we have enough of such parents, making these (obviously) tough choices, all for the sake of our kids :-)

Posted by Amazed, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:16 am

This is why unions were created -- to protect workers.

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