Are You "Out?"

Thu, May 31, 2007

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In all the hub-bub about opting in or out, “working” or staying at home (like that ISN’T work), or doing something in between, and deciding what is good for one’s career, there’s a little discussed side issue:

How much are you “out” about your motherhood at the office?
I’ve interviewed a lot of women lawyers for articles on workplace issues, but I hadn’t focused on a common thread until I saw this piece over at WorkIt, Mom! called Coming Out of the Closet … As a Mom.

For some women (probably many women, but I have no way of scientifically quantifying it), opportunities for prime, challenging and promotion-worthy work dry up as soon as they’re back from maternity or adoption leave.

So some moms, while obviously not hiding their status, keep it on the Q.T.

‘Cause if you’re talking about picking up the kids after work or what’s going on at preschool, there are plenty of supervisors (both men AND women, I’ve discovered) who take you less seriously in the workplace.
Odds are, there are a good number of dads who keep their fatherhood confined to a few family photos on the desk and don’t do much advertising of leaving early for the soccer game, too.

So, I’m curious — are out “out” or are you “in?”
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17 Responses to “Are You "Out?"”

  1. Life As I Know It Says:

    Great, great point!
    When I was working I did make a point to not talk about my kid or kid related issues at work…unless someone asked.
    Coming back from maternity leave I felt like I had to prove myself all over again.
    I was most definitely passed up on opportunities because of my new motherhood status…and now I am a sahm. I got tired of fighting for things I shouldn’t have had to fight for.
    Sad, but true.

  2. Dawn Says:

    I’m trying to start a consulting career and no, I don’t bring up my kids or mention when I need to reschedule a meeting because of a kid-event. Part of this is that some of the women I’m dealing with have kids and don’t have the same luxury *I* have (namely to work around my kids) and I feel sensitive to that. The other reason is that it sounds much more professional to say, “I have a commitment at 3pm — can we do it at 5?” Then to say, “Madison has a playdate that day but I can come right after.”

  3. Mamma Says:

    I’m way “out” in my office, but not necessarily with my clients. But then again, I don’t think my personal life should be my client’s issue. Those who become friends certainly know about them.

  4. impromptublogger Says:

    It has really depended where I’ve worked. Some places (and/or supervisors) have been more family-friendly than others.

    The place I last worked before now the supervisor was a 50-ish woman who had married late and had grown stepkids but had not a maternal bone in her body. One time I almost took my dd to work with me but decided not to after she gave lukewarm approval. I did take her in twice, but on days she was not going to be there so she never knew (we only had 2 people working in that office). I worked near the White House and it was a great opportunity to take her around.

    Where I am now the “big boss” is a Mom who apparently took her dd to work occasionally when she was younger and has zero problems about it. All of us who are parents do keep pictures of our kids on our desks. But we do not make it a big issue. The agency has a whole is fairly family-friendly.

  5. Kelly O Says:

    Very true. I’m somewhat out at my current job, a very laid-back place with a daycare on-site. At my last job, though, I was out until I was forced out, shortly after my maternity leave ended.

  6. Amanda Says:

    I was just passed up for something against all logic, came down to my being an “out” mom. I am cautious to not shove it down the throats of associates, but at the office it’s well known. The exclusion hurt and made me white with fury, but that passed. Gun to my head – advance or be with my girls? My girls, unequivocally. I’ll find work, won’t ever find this time again. It was a liberating revelation.

  7. Momish Says:

    After reading some of the comments, I have to say I feel lucky. I am definitely “out” and feel very comfortable about it. But, I work in a family friendly (and pet friendly) environment where we all go on and on about our little ones (and critters). I guess it depends on the place and the people and whether or not the top guns run out early for their kid’s game or not.

    I will be interested to see what more moms have to say. Great topic!

  8. Libby Says:

    I’m way, way, out. But I’m an academic, and I have an odd schedule, and all of us bring our kids to the office at times. I tried to be discreet at my job interview, but even blew that within about five minutes. Luckily I was being interviewed by a man with five (now six) children who found it charming that I thought his wife worked. (Yes, she stayed home, but you know what I mean.) I’m also “out” to my students, but then again I teach children’s lit and it’s hard not to talk about my own kids’ responses to books. And I remember being so so grateful when the rare professor mentioned his (very few hers back then) kids. I know my male colleagues are less out than I am, and that I take some hits for being a mom in the classroom, but there was no way I could conceal it.

  9. Lawyer Mama Says:

    I’m very out. But even at my family friendly firm there are attorneys who just do not discuss their families. As if we’re just supposed to pretend that they aren’t people outside of the office. I, on the other hand, think nothing of telling a client or a co-worker we need to schedule around daycare pick up and sick days.

  10. Selfmademom Says:

    I totally agree with Lawyer Mama and actually blogged about this yesterday after reading Work It Mom. I am totally, unequivocally “out” at work. I have told clients about last-minute diaper runs, and I have no qualms about letting people know I’m only working part time and oh, by the way I have to leave at 5. I totally work for a very understanding boss and employer, and am grateful, and it makes me sad that so many other mothers have to keep it on the DL. Managers, wake up! We have a life outside of work!

  11. Her Bad Mother Says:

    When I HAD an office – totally out. Totally. Mostly because I cannot stop talking about being a mother. Also because they tolerate this sort of thing in the academy.

  12. Mrs. Chicky Says:

    My bosses swiped my job out from under my feet because I was out (like, recently out, just back from maternity leave) as a mom. I couldn’t work the same stupid hours as a person without kids. And they got away with it because they’re a small business. It almost made me wish I still worked for a large corporation and only had to worry about missing promotions.

  13. Lawyer Mama Says:

    By the way, I just tagged you for the BlogRhet meme!

  14. mayberry Says:

    I am out — happily, luckily, gratefully out. My boss is an “outtie” herself, which of course makes an enormous difference. Her boss is a throwback man, however, so I do worry.

  15. Devra Says:

    I’m out. Just ask the person who was on the phone with me trying to schedule a presentation and then my kids walked in the door. I had gotten a new area rug for my office which featured an Italian Art Deco design featuring wine bottles and my oldest son loudly exclaimed “Wow, those are some big whiskey bottles!” So I just lamented to the caller “I can’t believe a child of mine does not know the difference between a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of wine!” and then she scheduled my presentation without even a pause.
    While my kids know to be quiet when I am on the phone or if I am doing work, having a home office means sometimes things just aren’t predictable. So I have to be “out” maybe a bit more just because of where I have my office.

  16. Devra Says:

    ooh hey, did you realize that is the same photo used on the Spanish edition of my book? I knew I recognized those people, but wasn’t sure why. Maybe it’s all that wine I’ve been drinking from my carpet.

  17. PDX Mama Says:

    I’m very out. I have pictures all over the desk. I go down and visit the kids at daycare during my breaks at work. People knew when I was pumping in my office. I talk about my kids. People know I have to leave the office by 5:50 before the daycare closes at 6 pm. I take time off to take the kids to their doctor appts or pick them up when their sick. And I’m the only woman lawyer in the office! Most of my coworkers also have families and most see family as priority #1, so it’s easy.


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