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Tip That Woman…She Might Be Somebody’s Mother

May 10, 2009

I was having dinner out this Friday, when I noticed in passing that one of the wait staff was very pregnant. She never came to our table, so we didn’t get the chance to visit, or wish her well. I didn’t give the moment much thought, other than, “wow this is a hard job when you’re pregnant,” and then back to…”I wish our waiter would bring our food—I’m starving.” But today, on Mother’s Day, my thoughts turn back to this young woman. She’s the symbol of today’s motherhood. She is working, and may be working two jobs, especially if her husband has been laid off and lost their benefits. Because in today’s economy the jobs that men held in manufacturing, construction, and certainly finance, are being lost at a much higher rate (80% of this recessions layoffs) than women’s jobs. lMen’s jobless rate is 9.4%, while women’s is 7.4%. And according to Career Builders, 14% of women are now holding two jobs. So is this progress for women—a new empowered era? It depends on how you define progress.

The working mothers I see in my clinical practice are often beleaguered by too many hours at work. Most of the women I see didn’t want to change roles with their husbands, and become the primary wage earner. Most didn’t want to add more hours to their jobs and away from their kids. And according to the Pew Research Center’s latest poll, only 21% of mothers with kids under 18 think that full-time work is ideal for them. (Pew…WSJ). What that means for the couples in my practice is more tension and more stress, as these involuntary role shifts take place. Women sometimes feel disappointed in husbands as they find themselves assuming unexpected new responsibilities, while men, understandably, don’t feel understood by their distressed wives. Nobody’s happy. To those distressed couples, I suggest that each give the other a big dose of empathy and appreciation. Give each other attention and affection; consciously rethink roles and responsibilities for household and childcare responsibilities. Recognize that you have now each walked in your partner’s shoes, and can better understand the gains and losses, the benefits and burdens of being a Mom, being a Dad, and being a wage earner.

So on this Mother’s Day, my thoughts are with, and my hat is off to the working mother, who both has paid work, and yearns to spend more time with her kids. Next time you’re out…leave a bigger tip…it might be going to somebody’s mother.

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