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"Slowly, I learned..." Reflections of a Working Mom

We are so thrilled to be featuring guest bloggers all year long. These individuals have navigated their own way through the journey that is being a working mom. This month, we hear from Betsy Taylor, financial leader for the Massachusetts Port Authority, Stanford MBA graduate and Instructor in Financial Mobility. Thank you, Betsy!

Boy, do I ever wish that I had momiculture when my sons were little!

I am a mid-70’s retiree and my two sons are now in their early and mid 30’s. Both are good

people with warm hearts, independent minds and clear values. At this point my mother would point out that they are each feisty and stubborn which can make them hard to love at times. She also repeated that children take time and energy. Well, I’m stubborn too, so I kept on being a mother, wife and professional all at once, even though it was often overwhelming.

When the boys were young, I was able to work part time for about a decade. This was vastly better for getting home without terrible traffic and feeding them dinner on time. It did take a lot of discipline as I kept trying to do my old job in fewer hours. That didn’t work. While I have never been a perfectionist, I am conscientious to a fault. I should have let go and been more relaxed. I did learn some valuable skills though. I had been the budget director for Logan Airport, with lots of position power. Budget Directors get to say no and have a big boss who will support them. But I was now working on various cross departmental projects with many different disciplines where I needed to quickly acquire communication and negotiation skills that I had never contemplated. Over time, I got good at it. It started to be fun. Not bad.

Yet, even with the reduced schedule (or maybe because of it), I did all of the pick-up and drop off, I cooked dinner 6 nights a week, I did not give my husband the attention he deserved, and I gave myself almost no time for myself. I had read a newspaper article that said being a working mother was fine (as in not bad for the children) if all one did was work and mother: that way there was time and energy for both. Like a good girl, I did what was suggested. For a full decade I spent no time with personal friends; weren’t my relationships with my colleagues enough? I had no hobbies, unless you count laundry. I did read history and murder mysteries to help me fall asleep. (After, all those narratives have a lot in common.) And, oh yes, I had near perfect attendance at church because it was the one hour a week when no one interrupted me.

Was this a good way to live? NO!

Slowly, I learned

that I needed friends and time with friends;

that I needed to walk outside every day to clear my mind and strengthen my body;

that if I spent all weekend doing housework and helping the boys with their homework

then I was in no shape to start the new week;

that I needed to spend time in my garden to give my mind and emotions a way to sort

out that week’s challenges, whether those challenges were at work or home;

that I needed girls-night-out, every once in a while, to gain perspective on both the

office and myself.

I tried to master the concept that it is better to do things “with” your child than for your child, even though it was far easier to go off by myself and do things “for” them. (You guessed it, more laundry.) Or maybe I should have spent more time playing with them, skimped on the cooking and just served frozen pizza.

Perhaps I should mention a few things that I did right. I spent the bulk of my career, 36 years, with one employer. That worked for me as I was able to maintain and build on the trust and credibility that I had slowly acquired. My industry - aviation- changed all the time, so I had plenty of new challenges right where I was. My job required very little travel, which is much easier on the homelife. I worked with complementary colleagues – they did the math and the spread sheets, while I handled the communications. Nobody stays in the same place for 36 years anymore; but you should still create your own advantages and play to your strengths.

When my younger son was 11, the summer after 7th grade, his skull was fractured by an errant baseball hit off a metal bat. He spent a week in the hospital and I stayed with him. Up until this time, I was a world class worrier. You name it, I could worry about it. Now, as I lay sleeping next to his bed in the intensive care unit, it occurred to me that I could not make him well. He had to do his own healing. My job was to figure out how to help him. I had to learn from some of the mothers who had been with their children in the hospital for months, and to find what would help my son. What was needed? Where could I find it? How could I get it? It began to dawn on me that worrying accomplished nothing. Focusing on what one could control, on what was needed and how to get it was a much better approach. I simply stopped worrying. I just kept repeating those questions whenever I was in a new situation: What do I need? What do I want? How do I get it? What a valuable lesson.

Other thoughts:

Laugh more

Remember you never have it “all” at once; the children grow through stages and so do

adults, families and careers

Standing on the sidelines at sporting events can become an entire social life: Go Team!

Please laugh

Accept all the help you can get; life is best played as a team sport

Short cuts are smart

Be kind to yourself

Did I mention that it is important to laugh?

My most meaningful retirement activity is teaching basic financial management tools to the

participants in a program for survivors of domestic violence. After all, I have spent most of my career explaining financial matters to non-financial people. We talk about how credit scores are calculated and can be changed, how credit cards work (they are loans and must be paid back), why saving even a small about matters. Given that the focus of the program is to teach these people how to take charge of their lives, we never tell them what to do. We provide them with information and urge them to make their own choices.

One of the things I say most often is that when managing money, the math is easy, it’s the

emotions that are hard. I suppose that could be said about a lot of things in life. So please give yourselves space, reach out for help, and take everything from momiculture that you can. I surely wish I could have done that years ago.

-Betsy Taylor

Married for 40 years with 2 grown sons

MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1976

Various financial positions at the Massachusetts Port Authority (that owns and operates

Logan Airport), 1978-2015; titles ranged from Budget Director, Director of Financial

Policy and Director of Finance & Treasury

Honored as a Trail Blazing Woman of Municipal Finance, by the Bond Buyer is its first

such set of awards, 2011

Currently, Chair of the MBTA Board and its Audit & Finance Committee, Vice-Chair of the DOT Board, board member of the MBTA and Massport Retirement Funds

Instructor in Financial Mobility, Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry

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