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职场 - 专栏

如何在家庭和事业之间自由游走

Lindsey Mead 2013年08月20日

哈佛MBA毕业的猎头顾问林赛•梅德一边照顾两个孩子,一边打拼事业,做到了鱼与熊掌兼得。她的心得是:人的一辈子很长,而孩子们需要父母全天照顾的日子很短,兼顾两者值得付出一切努力。她的办法是:孩子年幼时在家干兼职,孩子上学了复出干全职。

    女人们到底应该出去工作,还是应该为了孩子当全职妈妈?这个话题触及到了我情感深处一块最柔软的地方。每次我读到跟这个话题有关的文章,都忍不住潸然泪下。

    十年前,丽莎•贝尔金的大作《退出革命》(Opt-Out Revolution)让我开始关注这个话题。我对那篇文章很感兴趣,因为它关注的对象主要是普林斯顿大学(Princeton University)毕业的女性,而我自己也是普林斯顿的毕业生。而且当时我刚刚成为一个母亲,那篇文章发表的时候,正赶上我第一个孩子的1岁生日。

    这些年来,我已经多次读过贝尔金的著作,包括她的文集《人生的工作》(Life's Work)和数不清的文章。上周日,朱蒂丝•沃尔纳在《纽约时报》(The New York Times )上发表了《退出革命》的姊妹篇——《“退出”一代希望回归》(The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In)。它与丽莎•贝尔金十年前描写的是同一批女性,因此引起了我的强烈兴趣。

    这个话题虽然触碰到了深埋在我内心深处的某种情结,但是,我从来没有为打拼事业的选择后悔过。我也从来没有选择过“退出”。1996年,我从普林斯顿大学的英语专业毕业,2000年在哈佛大学(Harvard)获得了MBA学位。之后我从管理咨询行业跳槽到了猎头行业。这十几年来,我先后有了两个孩子(女儿格蕾斯今年10岁,儿子惠特今年8岁。)

    在我的孩子们还小的时候,我做的是兼职工作。现在他们两个都到了上学年龄,我开始从事全职工作。不过我的办公室就是我的家,大多数时候我能管理自己的日程,所以我不会错过孩子们人生中任何重要的事情。

    当我回首自己的职业生涯的时候,我能看到有很多运气和偶然的因素促成了我现在的工作状态,但同时我也实现了自己当初的目标:拥有一份灵活但又有意义的工作。

    但我其实不太明白,在我职业生涯的早期,我是怎样产生这样一个特定的目标的。当年,我从哈佛商学院毕业后,选择了一个边缘、但又非常幸运的角色。直到现在,我的内心有时也会泛起波澜,一方面为我才刚刚25岁就“靠边站”而灰心丧气——当时我甚至还没有孩子;另一方面,又对我当时选择了具有灵活性的工作而暗自庆幸,因为它对以后的这么多年来说实在太重要了。

    首先,我可以肯定一件事,那就是如果你有能力选择究竟是在家带孩子,还是出去工作,可以说这就已经是个了不起的特权了。有时我经常会感到沮丧、甚至是惊讶,因为关于这个话题的讨论甚少顾及到一个基本的事实,那就是大多数美国的母亲甚至没有选择的权利。

    2010年9月,我发表了我的第一篇文章,当时还很幼稚的我在文中设置了这样一个场景:因为难以在家庭和事业上做出抉择,一屋子焦虑的哈佛MBA毕业的年轻妈妈们抹着眼泪,事实上她们面临的是一个“幸福的困境”。我在文中写道,我被这些人批评了一顿,然后开始讨论我的选择——也就是一边工作,一边坚持照顾孩子。

    这种做法当然是有缺点的——首先我总有一种挥之不去的感觉,那就是如果我什么都大包大揽,那我什么都不会做得很好。我不确定这究竟是我事业和家庭兼顾的必然结果,还是一种基本的天性表达,但不管怎样,我都倾向于后者。不过这种看法也说明,事业与家庭之争给我带来了情感的波动,无非是说我内心深处希望我的孩子们做正确的事情。但当孩子们在学校的时候,我几乎无法给他们的表现施加任何影响。或许我读的书、我写的文章以及我对事业和家庭之间的思考之所以如此纠结,只是说明了我对孩子们的期待和梦想,以及我多么希望做好一个母亲的简单愿望。

    The topic of mothers working or staying home touches a well of emotion in me, as deep as it is inchoate. Every time I read anything about the debate, I cry.

    Ten years ago, Lisa Belkin's seminal Opt-Out Revolution introduced me to the subject. I was curious about the article because it focused on women from Princeton University, my alma mater, and I was also new to the arena: it came out on the first birthday of my first child.

    Over the years, I have read Belkin's piece several times. I read her book of essays on the topic, Life's Work, and a litany of titles and articles longer than I can list about the debate. Judith Warner's follow-on piece in The New York Times this past Sunday, The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In, about the same women profiled by Lisa Belkin a decade ago is the latest in the canon, and I read it with tremendous interest.

    The thing is, while the topic touches a knot of something buried in my chest, the truth is it never makes me regret my choice to work. I have never opted out. I graduated from Princeton in 1996 with a degree in English and earned an MBA from Harvard in 2000. I moved from a career in management consulting to one in executive search and had two children along the way (a daughter, Grace, now 10, and a son, Whit, now 8).

    When my children were small, I worked part-time, and now that they are both in school all day, I work full-time. My office is in my house and I am able to manage my schedule, most of the time, so that I don't miss anything important in their lives.

    When I look back at the path I have taken, I can see all the chance and luck and randomness that have shaped it. But I can also see that I have fulfilled my original goal: to have flexible yet meaningful work.

    What is less clear to me is how I came up with this particular goal early on in my life. When I graduated from Harvard Business School, I chose a role that was at once marginal and extremely fortuitous. I oscillate between being frustrated at my 25-year-old self for so immediately "leaning out" -- I didn't even have children yet -- and being profoundly grateful that I sensed back then that flexibility would be vitally important to me years down the road.

    One thing I am certain about is that the choice to stay home with babies is one of huge privilege. I'm constantly frustrated -- amazed, even -- that the dialogue about mothers working or staying home so rarely acknowledges the simple fact that most mothers in America don't have this choice.

    The first piece of writing I ever published, in September 2010, began with a scene where my then-childless self pointed out to a room of angst-ridden Harvard MBA moms torn between careers and babies that theirs was a dilemma of privilege. I described the way I was flayed by this crowd, and went on to discuss the downside of my choice to have a foot in both worlds by working but also by refusing to cede primary responsibility for the day-to-day lives of my children.

    There are certainly downsides -- mostly a lingering sense that while I'm doing everything, I'm doing it all poorly. The thing I'm not sure of is whether this is a result of my choice to work and have children or whether it's a more fundamental and innate orientation, and that I'd feel this way no matter what. This latter point of view, which is the one I lean towards, also suggests to me that the emotion all this discussion triggers in me is a deep-seated desire to do right by my children that has almost nothing to do with what I do during the days they are at school. Maybe the knot that my reading and writing and thinking about working and motherhood touches on, that prickly tangle of feelings, is as basic as my hopes and dreams for my children and my fierce wish to do the best job I can as a mother.

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