In a time when many women are opting out of successful careers to raise their children, Carol Evans, CEO and president of Working Mother magazine, writes about women who “do it all.” In her book, “This Is How We Do It:The Working Mothers’ Manifesto,” she gives firsthand accounts of working mothers who reveal their innovative solutions to successfully balancing their careers and their families. Evans was invited on “Today” to discuss her book. Here’s an excerpt:
“But We Are Doing It!”
Fifteen years ago, I was lying in the starkly lit delivery room at New York University Hospital, supposedly ready to give birth to my second child. But as push came to shove, I felt about as ready as a kindergartener taking the SATs. It was like a first birth for me because my son, Robert, had arrived three years before in the blur of an emergency C-section, without a single contraction to prepare me for his arrival six weeks early.
This time, my new OB — the well-known and very strict Dr. Livia Wan — had promised she would get me safely to my due date. She had delivered more than three thousand babies throughout her career, and felt I could deliver this one full term and without surgery. I wanted to believe her, and as my tummy grew to the size of a state fair blue ribbon pumpkin, I grew ever more confident in her judgment.
It was mid-December, and I was two days from my due date — perfect timing — when the contractions started at midnight. We dropped three-year-old Robert off at our friends' house and drove in a light, swirling snowfall to New York City, an hour away from our home in Chappaqua, New York.
At the hospital, I spent seven hours sleeping between contractions, when suddenly a tidal wave of pain hit, causing me to flail my arms, tear an IV from its mooring in my hand, and send the early-morning shift into a whirl of action. I remember hearing a young intern urgently calling Dr. Wan to the scene, warning her that I had achieved full dilation in one Olympian sprint.
The fear that gripped me increased as Dr. Wan entered the delivery room and a hush descended. She was ordering the nurses about in her staccato voice when a brilliant idea suddenly struck me. Instead of struggling with the fear and pain of impending delivery — what if I just went home?!
In that moment of panic and confusion this seemed like an entirely rational request. So I summoned my powers of persuasion, honed by years in sales, to get Dr. Wan to agree to my plan. In between pushes that grew increasingly intense, I used my remaining breath to shout, "I can't do it, Dr. Wan ... I want to go home ... I really can't do this!" I truly believed I could convince the stern-faced doctor to let me quit pushing and leave the hospital. "Let me go home," I yelled. "I can't do it!!"
Dr. Wan immediately stopped her work and looked directly into my eyes. "But Carol," she said with a big, cheerful grin, "you are doing it."
Of course she was right. I was doing it. In fact, I had done it. "Push!" she barked, and I did. That last effort was no more difficult than the rest of the journey, and Julia Rose, my eight-pound two-ounce black-haired beauty was born moments after my crisis of confidence.
Dr. Wan placed the baby on my chest and said, "See? You were doing it."
We Are Doing It
Today, as CEO of Working Mother magazine, I'm often asked how in the world we working mothers manage to juggle motherhood and career, life and work, self and job. And I always think of Dr. Wan. Because sometimes being a working mother feels overwhelming, and some days we're convinced we just can't do it. We want to yell at someone, "I can't do it!! I want to go home!"
And then I see Dr. Wan's smiling face in front of me saying, "But you are doing it!" And I realize that we are. Twenty-six million mothers — more than 72 percent of all moms in the United States today — work full- or part-time. We raise strong and happy kids. We fuel the economy. We earn money that keeps our families safe and secure. And we get a ton accomplished in a day at work.
Still, most of us draw a blank when friends and family ask us, "How do you do it?" Nine times out of ten we laugh (or cry) and say, "I don't know. I just do." But in our hearts, we know that response doesn't do justice to the real answer. How do we do it? We do it with old-fashioned elbow grease, with humor, with sleepless nights. We do it with the help of family and friends who pitch in, with great babysitters and caregivers, with husbands who learn how to support us (or not!). We do it by cramming more into a weekday and into a weekend than should be humanly possible. We do it by finding confidence in our own choices. And increasingly, we do it with the support of our workplaces.
As I write this, working mothers are about to face a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the way companies work. Employers may not want us to know it ... but companies are going to face a massive shortage of employees that will last for decades as huge numbers of baby boomers begin to retire. In the next decade, companies will become more and more desperate to find and keep great employees at all levels, so it's a perfect time to tell them exactly what we need. It's time for working moms to step back, take a breath, and ask ourselves, What works for us? What can be done personally and professionally to make our lives easier, our work more productive, and our families happier? What are the most effective ways for our companies and communities to support us?
For more than twenty-five years, I've been passionately engaged with these questions, ever since I helped launch a visionary new magazine, Working Mother, which recognized very early on that the model of the American family was changing and changing fast. In 1979, a small but passionate band of editors started telling the stories of the 16 million moms who were then holding down jobs and starting careers at the same time that they were having their babies and raising their kids. From our earliest issues, we explored how working moms pull it off. We published their stories and we championed their lifestyle. And we heard about their needs.
In those first years, we got letter after letter from readers bemoaning companies that offered no maternity leave, bosses who would not give an ounce of flexibility, and communities without quality child-care centers. Moms were desperate for support and Working Mother was desperate to speed the rate at which companies were changing their practices and policies. Vivian Cadden, our founding editor, devised a plan to help companies understand what moms need — and to reward companies willing to lead the charge. Using a carrot, rather than a stick, Vivian planned to give an award to those companies that were making their workplaces family-friendly, gaining the attention of the corner office along the way.
"CEOs understand competition," she told me. "Let's ask CEO Jim to compete against CEO Joe to see how well their companies support working mothers."
Thus the first Working Mother Best Companies list was launched, twenty years ago. That first year only thirty companies qualified for the award — but the list soon grew to forty, fifty, seventy-five, and then to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies. We've been measuring companies, holding them accountable, asking them to improve, and giving them guidance on what moms want every year since.
In 2005, on the occasion of the platinum anniversary of the list, Ted Childs, IBM's chief diversity officer and the architect of the world's most progressive family-friendly policies, called the Working Mother 100 Best Companies an "American icon," and said, "Our country cannot prosper without women in the workforce, and our society cannot go forward unless women have children."
His words reminded us of the ultimate reason it is so critical that we get the support we need.
The Working Mother's Manifesto
In honor of the platinum anniversary of the Working Mother 100 Best, I commissioned a survey to find out exactly what moms want now so we can chart the next twenty years of working motherhood. Socratic Technologies, a renowned research firm in California, fielded the What Moms Want survey in 2005 by asking more than five hundred working mothers from all across the country and in all kinds of jobs about the details of their lives: who cares for their kids, how much do they spend on child care, how does having children affect their ambitions and careers? What strategies work? What kind of support do women get from their companies and communities — and what kinds of support do they most desperately crave? The findings of this survey provide a strong foundation for this book.
I also examined twenty years of information from the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, and spoke with work-life experts about what innovative steps companies are taking to truly help working moms, and how moms can persuade their companies to hop on the family-friendly bandwagon. And of course I had at my fingertips the remarkable stories, big thinking, and practical tips from the hundreds of writers and dozens of editors who have made Working Mother magazine a beacon of support and solutions for twenty-six years.
But let's face it, when it comes to advice, the tidbit someone shares with you while you're shopping for shoes, or the postpartum advice you hear from a mom who's been through it, is the stuff we really need. While our survey, our articles, our Best Companies and our experts reveal the basic principles that working mothers live by, it's the stories of real moms that really show how we're doing it. In those stories lie the infinite variety of strategies used every day by moms who combine the love of a family with the rewards of a career.
In response to my "CEO Mom" column in Working Mother magazine, I get lots of e-mails from readers who want to share their ideas. I talk to working mothers in the doctor's office, on the plane, at the Ragamuffin Halloween parade in my town. I get to speak to moms at our reader breakfasts, through online panels and at dozens of conferences and events that I host or attend. I'm constantly inspired by their deep understanding of the issues and the creative solutions that make their lives more sane ... and more joyful.
That's why this book needed to be written. Not just to tell my stories, funny and crazy, sad and jubilant, but to tell all of our stories. To share the secrets of how we do it, to acknowledge our doubts and fears about all that we have taken on our shoulders, to reveal our pride and to trade our personal solutions. To make clear to the world why we do what we do, and to ask our companies and our communities to give us the support we all need.
This Is How We Do It is for all of us who are doing it, but want to do it better. It's also for those millions of women who haven't yet added "mother" to their resumes, so they can chart their own courses for the most exciting decades of their lives. As we learn from each other throughout these pages, we find our own ways to be the best moms we can be, and be the best in our careers as well. Because we are doing it . . . and here's how.
Excerpted from “This Is How We Do It:The Working Mothers’ Manifesto,” by Carol Evans. Copyright © 2006 by Carol Evans. Excerpted by permission of All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.