Many women in my generation were raised with the expectation to pursue different opportunities than our mothers and grandmothers because we had the education and cultural changes that made it possible. As we entered the workforce, barriers were beginning to come down for us in corporate America. We were empowered, carrying this precious piece of crystal that we dare not drop. As we picked up more pieces, it became a juggling act that our mothers couldn’t have predicted for us or taught us to handle.
As those corporate barriers were coming down, I was entering the male-dominated fields of engineering and high tech. Success in my twenties meant learning to become one of the guys, and I excelled. I could joke around and talk sports and technology with my predominantly male colleagues after work, and I was more at ease in this new role than I had been in college trying to assimilate with the women in my sorority.
It was while working full-time after having my first child that I realized I was not, in fact, one of the guys. I was a mother.
Those two roles left me torn, so I decided to take a break from my career and make a go at being a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly, I was lost, separated from the world I excelled at and had built for thirty-one years. I needed to learn—and learn fast—the things my mother had done so well. She had taught me to reach high, but in doing so, left out some seemingly basic lessons on how to make a home-cooked meal, be a supportive wife, plan for family gatherings and make a house a home.
Taking time off from my career gave me time to learn all of those lessons, even though they came much later in my life than generations before me. Now I’m back to work, learning yet another lesson in balance.
Sometimes, though, the pieces still fall for me and, I’m sure, other Gen-X moms. For those days, I give you Fallen Chocolate Cake.
Katie Colbert and her husband recently launched a social networking site, Sharecipe.com, out of their Madison home. Colbert writes biweekly about the challenges and triumphs of balancing work and family.