Web Original: Suburban Mom Roundtable

We invited five women, all in different stages of their lives, to come together for a conversation that no five men would ever need to have — what’s a girl to do when kids come along?

SANDY: With all the bra-burning and not changing your name and stuff?

VICKI: I don’t have my husband’s last name.

SANDY: Yeah, me neither.

RENEE: My husband said, “I’ll change my name to yours.” And I was like, “That’s too complicated.” But as far as feminism goes … for me, having a career of your own was a given. It was a non-issue. So when I think of being a feminist, I don’t think of pro-choice or pro-life. I think of Ani DiFranco. I think “creative angry girl.”

JESS: I think that it’s extremist. “I’m a woman, I’ll stomp on men.” I don’t want to put myself in that category. I’m a woman and I want to work, but someday I want to be a mom too. So it’s not choosing some extremist path to go down. It’s about living my life the way that I think that I should live it.

RENEE: I don’t feel like it got us anywhere, because I still have to cater to the guys at my job asking me right after I got married, “When are you going to have kids?” “When are you going to start a family?” I shut down and think, “You just need to go away.” It’s like they immediately assume you’re going to quit to raise kids.

JESS: Can we discuss natural motherly instincts that we as women feel? That you have to have some type of connection with your children? So we can be as feminist as we want to be, but I think I’ll always have that pull back to my kids when I have kids. I’ll always want that, too.

VICKI: And men don’t have that?

JESS: I don’t think they have it the same way that we have it. I think they have a “That’s our baby and we made that,” but I don’t think they have that same pull.

KATIE: When I think of a feminist, I think of my mom. She is hard-core. Everything is her way. She’s the boss. She wears the pants in that house. My dad knows it. Everybody knows it.

JESS: I don’t think I’d want that life.

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  • Gretchen

    I'm a 38 yr old corporate professional, who makes enough for my husband to stay at home with our two kids – 2 and 6 yrs old. My career provides me with intellectual stimulation, which I appreciate. But I feel my most important job is raising two healthy, happy kids who will grow up knowing that their purpose in life is to serve God and follow his Word. Believe it or not, if you pick up the Bible and actually read what's in there (try a Bible study if it's too daunting to start reading on your own), you will find all the answers these suburban housewives are searching for. You won't find the answers sitting in a gymnasium, waiting for Buddha to enlighten you. The root of most people's misery is that they see everything thru the lens of "what about me". Once you believe that it's actually about thanking God for all He's already graced upon you, the self-pity fades, and your life-purpose becomes clear. Your realize that even if you invested the last 20 yrs raising your kids, it

  • Deborah

    I tried to reenter the workplace twice (I was an attorney)after age 45, mostly due to pressure from others. I hated it. During my "early retirement" I have learned French and golf, traveled, wrote, got published, lectured on genealogy, etc. Give all that up to take orders from some senior partner? NO WAY!

  • V. T.

    I really don't feel too bad for these women in the article. I have numerous friends that did not have the luxury of staying at home to raise their children. They lived the real "feminist ideal"-they worked, raised their children, cleaned their homes, did the PTA-room mother thing and did it all with little to no help! I've worked in the nanny profession for a long time and my last 7 years were in the Main Line area. Most of the moms in this area don't clean their own homes or even spend the whole day with their kids-their are plenty of nannies working with stay at home moms out in that area. As for me, I've taken care of myself since I was 16 years old-I have no problem with finding myself and my friends that have worked for years don't have the time to go to yoga and ponder their purpose in life. We are actually too busy doing. These women should try micromanagement-most of the ones I've encountered like to tell you how to do your job but don't actually know what they are doing or may

  • Jeanette

    For those looking to get back in the 'game' but are not sure how or what they want to return to, I suggest volunteering at a local non-profit agency. We are always looking for talented, creative, organized individuals who can take a project from inception to completion. Public relations, marketing, writing skills, finance, personal contacts, party planning, educators – these are always in demand at a non-profit……we need doers, donors and door openers. Who knows you might find a whole new career that will generate a salary and satisfaction!

  • Krista

    I think that Americans tend to create these problems, in which to solve them you need to do a deep soul search and find yourself and etc., when in reality that problem never really existed. This so called crisis isn’t anything new, it is a difficult time for any mother after her children leave the nest, stay-at-home or not, but this is a problem that women have been facing for years. Generation after generation, women have quietly found things to do that make them feel good about themselves after their kids have grown. Whether it is going back to work, volunteering or simply retiring and kicking back their heels, they have found what it is that makes them happy and then they have done it. Ballooning this period of change in every mothers life into an existential crisis is completely ridiculous and something that only a bored over privileged person with out any real problems would do. Change is hard and change is scary but it is certainly not something so trying and intense that it

  • Rose

    It's not easy and takes considerable planning, but keeping one foot in the workplace door while still focusing on the kids, helps reduce the pain of the "re-entry" process. Sure, you say, I'd love a professional part-time job where I can utilize that college degree I worked so hard to earn, while still being a mom who spends quality time with the kids. The reality is these types of jobs are tough to find, but they do exist. Often, you need to negotiate such a role. It worked for me (an engineer) while working for a large corporation for several years. My twin sister was successful working part-time too. She even job-shared a manager role. We were passionate enough about trying to help others find better work/life balance that we started FlexPro Staffing – a staffing firm that connects Engineering and Science professionals to part-time positions in the pharmaceutical industry. Professional, part-time, … perfect! We've done it and you can too!

  • Mom and Professional

    I have worked ever since I was 14(by choice for extra money), I come from a long line of hard working women. It felt weird for me to even take my maternity leave with my two children, I felt like I wouldn't be welcomed back at my place of work. But since my oldest child has been involved in sports and is now in 1st grade, I've often felt a little jealous of the stay at home moms. They can be there for every need, every school trip, every school function, etc. Sometimes I feel that me working is not as important as that. However, when I really analyze it I feel I'm a better mom and better person for being well-rounded and being able to provide(along with my husband) the financial as well as the emotional support. I think if I stayed home everyday, I may lose sight of being the adult and I think my kids would lose out on seeing what sacrifices I have to make to give them the life they deserve. My mom worked hard as a single mom to give me the best even though she only made $4/hr a

  • Deby

    It is certainly daunting to get back into the workplace after many years. I always tried to keep my hand in some kind of work. I sold real estate when my daughter was young, and I have a degree in teaching so I am now ready to get back into that profession. I don't think that Betty Friedan anticipated that we would be back in the same boat we were years ago and that really, nothing has changed all that much. I always knew that I couldn't have it all. There is no such thing and something always has to give, but I always knew that I wanted a flexible career so I could devote as much time to my child as needed. I also know that I need to be able to do something if my husband died or decided he wanted a divorce. I don't think it is a matter of choice, but of practicality. Most men don't leave themselves open to relying so directly on a woman for support (although there are exceptions) and I don't think that we should do that either.

  • E

    While I understand these women are experiencing real "angst", they represent a privileged group who have been able to marry men who could support them (well) in a "traditional" female role. Their lives during the time they stayed home with children were almost always less stressful than the lives of contemporaries who had to work AND keep house AND raise children. Even worse, the children of working moms, who have no concept of why they work, often ask why they are not as involved in school volunteer activities as those of their friends (not helping in the libary, bookstore, etc. for example, is seen as a parental lapse). So, if these women did not have the foresight to think things through before leaving the workforce, they are now dealing with "payback". Just accept it and move on… or not. I think that they can return to the workforce as long as they have a realistic sense of their true value to employers, start low, and work up to where they want to be. Non-profit work is also a g

  • Holly

    The ladies in the article have to take a good look at themselves…they have been living priveleged lives on the Main Line. We women need to stop equating self-worth with how much money we make and realize that we are fortunate to have even been able to make the choice about whether or not to stay at home w/the kids. We could also try not to be better than our own mothers; they, too, had a difficult time balancing motherhood and career and did the best they could. Thank your mother for whichever choice she made; she will be grateful to hear that by her past actions, she has made you who you are and hopefully has helped you see where your own priorities lie.

  • Christina

    You have got to be kidding me. I purchased Philadelphia for the first time for the only reason of hoping to find a solution to the problems I am facing of being a single Mother (divorced after 18 yrs with a 7 year old child) trying to return to the work force. I had worked in Banking my entire career. I did well for myself in the way of promotions but am choosing not to return to the field due to the low avarage salary. As a Manager, my highest salary was 40K. I am absolutely livid reading each new sentence of this artical. While these women are at their yoga classes and trying to "find themselves" maybe they should use their MBAs or call the law firm they worked for. Or hey, if you REALLY want to feel better… how about you send me the $5 I WASTED on this magazine that I could have used to FEED my son dinner? Think I am being dramatic? Guess what "laddies who luch" there have been days when I choose between gas in my car and food on the table. I could continue for at least five page

  • cathy

    ok – almost 60 – married, 3 now adult kids – 2 married and one back home – all in 20s. I do understand the "what now" dilema. When we decided to start a family 30 years ago, my husband and I agreed that he would do what it took to allow me to stay at home. No boring details, but that's exactly what we did and it worked great for everyone. I think the same question is being asked by all in this article. NOW WHAT?? Get a job? Go back to school? Volunteer? Find your passion(whatever that means)I always thought that when the kids were raised, it was now time for me – the time has come and the person I WAS is not the person I AM…. have a lot to give but just don't know what that is… just expressing the feeling of a real void and I know there are many in my shoes.

  • Anonymous

    Finding your answers to what is REALLY best for you and your family is easier than most people think. It becomes incredibly difficult and overwhelming because of the multitude of coflicting voices speaking into each personal situation. Parents, in-laws, girlfriends, co-workers — everybody is voicing their idea of what is REALLY right. And you know what? For them their idea probably is exactly right. But for you? You need to focus on who you are (personality style and talents and gifts) and what you want (based on personal and family values) and then find or create the choice that will meet as many of your (and your family's) needs as possible. It is different for everyone, but it absolutely is easier than most people think. Trust me, as a Career Coach I figured it out for myself and have helped by clients (male and female) figure it out over the past 7 years. When you get focused, eliminate the outside opinons, it is truly easier than you think to discover what is best for yo

  • Lorraine

    College grad – married at 19 – mother of 3 with 8 years between #1 and #2 due to infertility. Each child is precious and cherished…I could hardly leave them.
    Husband with 3 advanced degrees, plagued by periods of unemployment due to manufacturing slump for past 15 years.
    I work full-time now, at less than my capacity…but would NEVER give up those precious stay at home years. I will always need to work, but look forward to helping raise my future grandchildren. Stop whining ladies…do the work. THE REAL WORK.

  • Christine

    I am 30 years old. I have 3 boys, all under the age of 9. I have a great career that allows my hubby to stay home with the children. When my first son was little, I tried to stay at home. I couldn’t. I was bored. Even though I would miss all of the little things that happened during the day, I needed an identity/stimulation. I found myself just being a “mom”. My husband got laid off and the decision was made for us! No more struggling to try to be home, get the kids, clean, wash, do homework, attend functions, doc appts. His lay-off actually made life a lot easier for us. Now I can spend my extra time with them. I am not plagued by chores when I am home. I take them to all of their practices, games, extra activities, parties, etc…I also do their homework (while I am cooking dinner). That is a ton of time together still! We have found a commn ground. My mother and father were never home with me at any point in my childhood. I found that I had too much freedom- because of that I did

  • Mariana

    I have stumbled on the best working from home option… I am working with this natural product company, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Contact me to learn more if you wish. mariana.taylor11@gmail.com