Working the Boundaries: The Enfamilied Self in the Traditional Organization

Document Type


Publication Date



A friend of mine walked into her manager's office at her engineering firm. She had just come back to work after giving birth to her third child. This baby weighed one pound at birth and had spent a little over a month in the hospital. Before taking parental leave, she had worked as a project team manager with responsibility for several employees and multiple projects. She often worked over sixty hours a week, including many evenings and week-ends. After spending three months at home with her children, she and her husband had decided that they both wanted more time for family. So she decided to talk to her boss about "backing out" of her current management role and returning to technical engineering. This shift would still require a lot of work, but it would allow her to work a more regular schedule and would remove the extra responsibilities of management. So she went in to meet with her boss, a man about fifty-five years old. He had a reputation for being "no nonsense" but June had built a good relationship with him through hard work and superior performance. She thought that he would understand. After all, she was not asking to leave the company - she just wanted to take the more technical track for now.

After explaining her request, her supervisor looked at her and then looked down. He finally said, "I knew that one day the mother in you would beat out the engineer. It's just not possible to do both." Jane sat silently for a moment and then responded, "It is not that I can't do both, it's just that it is very difficult to be a manager and a mother. I think I am still able to be a good engineer. I just want to be more technically oriented at this point in my life."Yes, I understand" he replied. "But you know that by doing this your career here will be somewhat compromised."

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Human Systems, v. 8, issues 3-4, p. 139-151