My mind has remained on this topic since I last wrote about it and what prompted this new post was a response from one of my closest friends who said that she has pondered this dilemma as well. So I questioned, that change we need to make, well, is THAT even possible? Can the work-family COI reach a resolution?
First, let’s start at the root of the problem. Why does it even exist? Why do we want to attain these seemingly two incompatible goals? I think that maybe this COI is a result of evolution/biology as well as societal pressures. Think about it, in the biological sense, we were made to bear children. How can you not be attached carrying around this baby inside of you for 9 months? We were anatomically made to be mothers first and foremost. So we’re already at a disadvantegeous right there, from the moment we were zygotes.
Next, as we’re growing up, especially the 20-something generation, society is telling us that:
1. We should have a job. The feminist movement has brought us this far, we would almost be a disappointment if we didn’t grow up to be whatever we could be (i.e. presidents, doctors, astronauts, lawyers) because we can! After all, it’s not like the 1800s or even the 1920s when women in the workplace were looked down on. If a 5 year old girl said in 1920 that she wanted to be Secretary of State, her parents would have said, Sweety, girls don’t do that. You can be First Lady.
2. But at the same time, what does society think of the MIA mother, the mother who’s never at her child’s soccer games, never makes an appearance at PTA meetings, because she’s too busy at work? She’s looked down on by others. She’s irresponsible, putting her career first, instead of tending to her children. Society still believes that
a woman’s primary duty should be her family.
So, we end up trying to attain this “mystical balance” of which my girlfriend spoke because now that we technically, as in legally, can accel right alongside our male counterparts, we feel the pressure to do so. However, in addition to that, society pressures us to be good mothers and wives and biology reenforces all that. So where does this leave us?
I know I said that we should be the change we want to see but until promotions and work depend less on hours billed and more on efficiency and quality of work, we’re stuck where we are. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Princeton alum or went to WCC, at the end of the day, our actions are still largely dictated by society and our anatomy.
But here’s something else to chew on: What about CEO daddys and the 50 year old male partner at your firm with the 6 year old son? Don’t they suffer as well? Granted it was probably easier for them to reach those positions because they didn’t have to take as much time off as their wives post-birth but afterwards, aren’t they just as likely to be MIA? Perhaps, the biggest problem of all is that these days, especially in America, we live to work instead of work to live. Although this statement doesn’t apply if you really love your job. In that case, maybe we should just ignore what society thinks of us. If you want to work, then work. If you want to stay at home and take care of the kids, then do so. This method may not allow you to have it all (all being career, kids, loving family etc.) but you certainly can have all YOU want.
Still, it all goes back to you being that change. If you don’t want to be judged, then don’t judge others. Don’t assume that the stay-at-home mom married to the millionaire VP is stupid and a gold digger. She probably just wanted to spend time with her kids. There’s no way you would know that she has a degree from Yale hanging up in her study. If you want to work, then when you reach the top, don’t treat the new younger versions of you like you were treated. Just because you had to struggle to reach the top, sacrificing your love life doesn’t mean they should. The bigger picture is about advancing women, as well as society, as a whole.
I’m an optimisti so I think the COI can be resolved, this balance can be attained. Resolutions usually involve compromise and this situation should be no different. It’s not going to be easy and small sacrifices will need to be made but if you’re willing to put in the effort, then yes, I think you can have it all, in one form or another.