Daily Grind, Development, Getting it off my chest

On motherhood, careers, and having it all

I only talk about gender, motherhood, and families in the Foreign Service with other women. Is that weird? While I certainly have male friends here, I find myself reluctant to complain about the inequalities and difficulties that we face to what I imagine will be an audience made unfriendly by its blind privilege.

Maybe this isn’t the case! Maybe the men I know here at FSI would be thrilled to have an honest conversation about making the Foreign Service more diverse and more family friendly! But I’m unwilling to take the risk of exposing myself as a whiner, a complainer, an angry feminist by having this conversation.

Yesterday, Tales from the Hood hosted Angelica, an international aid worker and mother:

Fast forward a few months, I’m walking around the office with a big belly when I find out that a job I am perfect for is up for grabs. I start asking around and get positive reactions from the people involved. It’s really interesting and a step in the right direction for me. After a few of these positive informal talks I ask why this position is empty:


“The woman that used to chair this group went on maternity leave. She was meant to return this month but has decided to quit instead.”


As his last words echoed we looked at each other in silence. I am wearing large overalls and am but a couple of months away from maternity leave myself. It dawns on us that there isn’t a chance in hell I’m going to get that job. No one is going to say it, they are going to make me go through the steps (written exam, panel interview…) but no matter how well I do we both know that fight is lost. At the same time my husband is interviewing for a great job. The fact that he is about to become a father is irrelevant.

I think about this every day in terms of my State Department career.topod.in

3 thoughts on “On motherhood, careers, and having it all

  1. I can’t speak for the foreign service. But I can say that in at least some corners of the NGO world males/men are neither blind to, nor unsympathetic towards, nor unwilling to engage on this issue.

    Keep looking! :)

  2. In my experience the problem is not being treated differently or being passed over for certain jobs or promotions because of pregnancy or parental status. The problem in my opinion is being treated exactly the same. What do I mean? In the private sector it’s really common to have the option to ease back to work part-time, or do some telecommuting, etc. In the Foreign Service, though, all that’s a no go. In theory this stuff is a possibility if you have a DC assignment, but I’ve heard that in practice it’s a bad idea and never works for a number of reasons you’ve probably heard too. And of course overseas, where we spend most of our time, there’s no flexibility with schedules and such. All the newish FSO moms I know are barely staying afloat, and I doubt everyone will stay with State for the long haul for this reason. As for me, I’m trying! Time will tell… =)

  3. I’m glad this post spoke to you. I think employers are coming around, many times the options are in place, but like alex says, they are not *really*available…. or part time translates into “do the same for less money in less time” … I think we just need to keep pushing and imposing changes. I know a few women that excel at their work and can now answer to job offers with “I’m willing to do it but only if I can work from home” or “part time”. Admittedly these women were already positioned when they had their kids (so the consultant was probably right), but I’ve also had people (not institutions) be sympathetic and helpful in helping me juggle it all …

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