I'm not sure what the point is of those "Best Places" articles that pop up in magazines and on the web, like Forbes.com's most recent:"Best Cities for Working Mothers." It's not like I'm going to read the list, pack everyone up, and move. I'm stuck with where I am and with what I've got.
So don't make me read about all the great benefits other moms get that I will never have, because it will only depress me. And don't pepper me with statistics about crime rates and school spending that look great on a chart but do not translate at all to the REAL everyday minutia I face as a working mom.
I'm concerned about crime and quality medical care as much as the next mom, but my immediate concern is not whether my son will be mugged on his way to school, it's how I can make my big meeting AND attend his school play at the same time. It's whether I finally replace our decrepit furnace, or give my daughter the ballet lessons she wants, because we don't have the money for both. It's how I manage to give my kids more of ME. That's what I'd like the magazines to tell me, what I can do HERE and NOW to make my life as a working mom better and easier.
Because it's so not.
Even though it should be. You see, I live in the New York Metro area, which ranked number one on the Forbes list last year. It falls to the number 8 slot this year, still an excellent ranking based on the magazine's criteria, stuff like crime rates, unemployment rates, and salaries. So, according to Forbes, I have it pretty good and should stop complaining.
Forbes says I have pretty good access to pediatricians for my children when they are sick, one of the criteria that is important to working mothers. This is true. I have a wonderful pediatrician who will see me the same day, same hour ... if I can get there, that is. The problem isn't the doctor, it's me, working about an hour away -- by train -- from home and my children's schools.
Which I should feel lucky enough to have. Forbes goes on to say that the area has a fairly low unemployment rate. Perhaps, but it's still high enough to make the pickins slim enough to require me to have to travel so far for work.
But, hey, at least I have a job. And I make a good salary. That salary is decent enough to offset the high cost of living where I live. So says Forbes. If that's true, why haven't we been able to go on a family vacation in six years?
Why have I pretty much drained my savings account trying to keep up on my mortgage while affording the exorbitant day care costs the last five years?
Why has the phrase "discretionary spending" pretty much been eradicated from my family finances vocabulary?
No matter where you live, being a working mom is hard. It just is. It will always be, because the bottom line is, there's just not enough hours in the day to do work and family equal justice. I can't give work or my kids 100 percent, and I don't think anyone should expect me to. Which is why we're not going anywhere, especially not to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the NUMBER ONE BEST CITY FOR WORKING MOTHERS, with its amazing job opportunities, more affordable cost of living, and excellent schools. It's too cold.
Did your city make the list? What struggles do you face as a working mom?