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Susan Orlins Headshot

Are Working Mothers the Only Ones to Want it All?

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There is no question that it is a luxury to even have the choice to be a stay-at-home mom. When my first daughter was born, I was a working mother, a stockbroker for Morgan Stanley making more money than my lawyer husband. I began working at home for a few months, keeping my options open, even as I felt in my gut that I just wanted to give up my job and stay home with my baby.

Ever since The Atlantic published Anne-Marie Slaughter's cover story, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," everyone has been buzzing about working mothers and can they or can't they have it all.

My husband thought I should continue working. It wasn't about the money and -- funny-peculiar enough -- I don't recall discussing with him why he thought I should continue working.

Was it because my having a big job elevated him in other people's eyes? That's what happened with a boyfriend I had after divorcing that husband. Boyfriend Daniel took me to meet his elderly uncle, with whom he was very close.

"What should I say you do?" Mr. Daniel Wrong asked me.

Really? I was doing what I do now, writing, but at that time my freelance articles appeared sporadically in print, unlike now, when they appear on the Internet three days a week.

He was embarrassed that I did not have a more impressive label than freelance-writer-who-publishes-occasionally.

Back to stay-at-home Sue. Half-heartedly, I pondered the question of going back to the office. The stay-home deal got sealed one day when I received a visit from a friend, Rita.

"You can always go back to work if you want after your kids start school," said Rita. "But you will never get these early years back again."

Of course I'm worried that someone will read that and feel bad, someone who doesn't have the choice I had. Rita's words were obvious, but hearing them from her made my choice clear.

That said, plenty of people who did have the choice were happier working than sorting socks and playing Hungry, Hungry Hippo all day.

I stayed home for myself, not for my kids, though in later years they said they were glad I had been there. I know adults who feel the same way about the nannies who raised them.

The best reason I could think of to go back to work was for cocktail parties. When asked what I did, I would be able to respond with something other than the conversation stopper, "I'm a mom."

Just like, in my opinion, the best thing about going to a name-brand college or university is that, for the rest of your life, when people ask, you get to say "I went to Name Brand." It's a short cut way of saying "I'm smart." You don't have to work at letting people know.

Similarly, a stay-at-home mom is assumed [fill-in-the-blank] till proven interesting.

Please visit my blog Confessions of a Worrywart and my Life Goes Strong article "Can Working Women Have It All?"

See also:

*Joyce Maynard Adopted Two Girls From Ethiopia Then Gave Them Up

*A Great New Way to Date

*Living Together: Men Speak Out With Advice About Sex and More

*Family Vacation With My Ex & Daughters

*He Asked, "Am I Going To Die?" I Had To Tell Him, "Yes You Are."

*Can Separate Bedrooms Save Or Destroy A Marriage?

Everyone is abuzz with opinions on working mothers and having it all; what do you think about being able to have it all?