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Published March 25, 2013, 11:35 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Letting go of ‘having it all’

Most know now how Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently recalled employees working from home back to the office, setting off yet another storm of debates regarding working parents.

By: Roxane B. Salonen, INFORUM

Most know now how Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently recalled employees working from home back to the office, setting off yet another storm of debates regarding working parents.

Having spent the greater part of last year trying to fit back into the workplace, I understand well what’s at stake.

Let me offer first a gentle admonition to those who scoff at what have been dubbed the “Mommy Wars.” These conversations erupt not because women are bored and catty but because the subject matter goes straight to the heart of who we are.

For a while now we’ve been asking, “Can we have it all?” “Yes, we can!” we’ve screamed, while part of us shifts nervously. The most honest among us have admitted, “We can have it all, just not all at once.”

But what I’m wondering is, do we even want to have it all?

I’ve witnessed the erosion of family that can happen when motherhood becomes secondary to career, and I’ve personally experienced the worlds of work and home going upside-down because of this re-ordering.

When I finally concluded at the end of last year that I couldn’t successfully manage five children and a job outside the home, I let go. And as I did, I cried out for the moms who want to be home but don’t see it as an option.

My guess is that many mothers in families with two incomes, if guaranteed a comparable job in their field upon their return, would table their careers to raise their little ones themselves. And those children, along with our whole society, would benefit.

If nothing else, each family needs at least one floater parent – someone who can be flexible enough to do the running.

I’ve talked to several women who recently left high-powered careers to focus more exclusively on mothering, and the overwhelming response has been pure relief.

Others realize only in hindsight how small the window of young motherhood is. Once those shades are drawn, we move on to the next room, never to return.

Unfortunately, our society promotes instant gratification, something foreign to the world of mothering, an inherently sacrificial vocation that often requires a delay of the biggest rewards.

If motherhood is a future-focused investment, it seems we can’t overlook the importance of being intentional about where we’re emptying ourselves to store up for the future while the window remains open.

But even when we have the order right, do our communities have our backs? How far are we willing to go as a society to ensure a healthy future?

Many of us go to college to prepare for our future careers but have no preparation for our lives as future parents. Perhaps we could rethink this and begin seeing parenting as the vital investment it is.

Though certainly each situation is unique, I’m convinced if we don’t start with the right questions, priorities and expectations, we’re bound to fail.

Having lived through many of the conundrums women today face, I’ve concluded I can’t have it all, nor do I want it all. Trying to gain “it all” in this life will only lead to emptiness anyway.

I commend all the mothers who make difficult but sacrificial choices every day of their lives. Without solid, committed mothers, society comes to a screeching halt.

Women have much to offer the world, both within and beyond our familial obligations. Our unique gifts are essential for a wholly thriving world.

I hope we can begin to look more honestly at this issue and consider the flexibility and support mothers need so that we might bring these gifts to fruition without compromising our most valuable asset – our families.

This article is written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children.

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