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The new Mommy Track doesn’t leave the station for many

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published Aug. 28, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

I resented Alpha Mom as I scraped neon toothpaste off my dress today. Alpha Mom is too carefully coiffed to go to work looking like that.

She taunted to me as I jetted to SaveMart between work and soccer practice. Alpha Mom never would have forgotten her kid’s water at home. Her nanny would have made sure it was packed.

I cursed her as I rushed dinner to the table – grilled cheese and applesauce. Alpha Mom serves pork loin.

Alpha Mom mouses placidly at her computer, infant in arms and toddler playing blissfully behind her. I tried that during my second maternity leave. Little Guy wailed on one side and Big Guy turned my other arm into steak tartar as I tried to hear my boss over the screams.

I did take some comfort in the fact that Alpha Mom’s roots are showing in the cover photo of this week’s U.S. News & World Report. Except her roots are probably stylish, while mine are due to lack of time to get to a salon.

Small comfort, though, when Madison Avenue is poised to start ramming Alpha Mom – the new term for the old “bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan” type of gal – down my throat.

I suppose in some ways the cover story about the “new mommy track” is at least welcome attention to a topic that hits me where I live.

But where I live isn’t anywhere near many of the moms in these articles, rhetorically speaking. A lawyer who work part of her hours from home with the help of a nanny. A senior manager for one of the world’s largest firms who will remain on track for a partnership after years off the job. A former sales account executive who now makes here living selling car-seat covers. Now, I have to tell you, that’s a product it’s never occurred to me to want, much less need.

And Alpha Mom has even less in common with most moms — at least the article acknowledges that. “Women working in low-skilled jobs, on the other hand, usually find flexibility only by lucking into employers who accept it, says Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of Mommy Wars . ‘Men and women at the lowest income levels don’t have any leverage,’ she says.

And for me, that sums up. Flexibility still is viewed as a nice – and sometimes resented – perk. It’s no where near universal, which means the “new mommy track” – where you pop in and out of the workforce at will or are blessed with unlimited schedule flexibility — exists for only a few.

I’m lucky to have some of the flexibility Alpha Mom put her Manolo Blahnik-clad foot down and fought for. I work from home once in a while, and I can rearrange my Saturday shifts in the fall to dovetail with Big Guy’s soccer schedule.

And it’s getting even better at some big companies. At Deloitte & Touche, for example, flexibility is on its way to becoming the norm, the article says, with a growing number of employees able to tailor their careers to their lives at the time. “For example, young 20-somethings might have few travel restrictions or work limitations and then add restrictions during childbearing years,” the article said.

It’s great progress in a relatively short span. None of this existed when I was in college – life largely was an either-or choice, and balance was as mythological as the unicorn.

Problem is, Madison Avenue is latching onto Alpha Moms as new norm. “They project independence, balance, and competence at both work and home, in contrast to past images of harried working moms and über-domestic stay-at-home moms.”

Ask most working moms, and they’ll tell you that balance is indeed as harried as it is precarious. You still can’t have it all – not all at once, at least. Yes, I can have soccer practice, and, yes, I can have pork loin. Or, at least, I could if I weren’t allergic to it.

But I can’t have them both on the same night. Not without that nanny.

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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