Tuesday, March 28, 2006

When did this become a women's issues blog?

This was a fascinating article.

For those of you who are too lazy to click on the article, it basically discusses how the trend of women's increasing presence in the workplace has tapered off in recent years. When women first started entering the workforce, they re-organized their lives with time-saving devices and time-budgeting techniques, so that they could make the time to work. But there is only so much rearranging that can be done before a plateau is reached, and something has to give.

The first thing that struck me about this article was that it seemed to echo some thoughts I have been having myself, lately. We tell our daughters that they can do whatever their heart's desire, and we are right to do so. I don't believe that there should be external limitations on what anyone can do according to what sort of genitalia they have. But we are doing them an injustice if we don't tell them the whole truth. How do we teach our daughters that they are wonderful and valuable, while at the same time preparing them for the reality of how difficult it is to be a full-time mother and keep a full-time job at the same time?

Perhaps if we valued the work of parenting more as a culture, our girls wouldn't grow up with the pre-conceived idea that they have somehow failed if they end up as "just a mother". Little girls love playing "mom" - it's a natural instinct. But somehow, we are taught to suppress that desire and dream about "real" careers, instead. By the time we've reached high school, we have given up on our mommy dreams and scoff at the dumb kids who take the parenting class instead of the real courses that will get them into college. So we set our path towards our career goals, and we work diligently towards them, and then one day we find ourselves actually doing the math and realizing that we really can't accomplish all of those career goals before having kids if we still want to be fertile when we have them. And when I say "we", I mean "me".

I think I should have the following conversation with my hypothetical daughter on some momentous girlhood occasion, like turning 13 or getting her first period:
"Eowyn,* do you remember when you were 7 and I talked to you about boys? You thought they were icky, but I told you that one day you would like them. I know you didn't believe me then, but I've seen all of the "I <3 Aragorn" doodles on your day planner, so I know you believe me now. Well, I know you think that being a mom is boring and that it's not a "real" job, but one day, your ovaries will start yelling at you to have kids and you'll want it more than anything in the world. I know you don't believe me now, but one day you will, and I don't want you to be as surprised as I was."

Perhaps part of the problem is that women's increasing desire to enter the workforce hasn't been complemented by an equally increasing male desire to be involved in housework. I remember reading a statistic in law school that women, on average, regardless of how many hours they work outside of the home, spend twice as much of their free time on housework as men. (I really wish I had the source for that, now, but then again, this isn't a scholarly paper, so it's not like you can dock me marks, right?) Now, I know there are some fantastic men out there who contribute as much or more to the household chores as their wives. I know there are some SAHF's who have devoted their lives to the work of a parent. But that makes my undocumented statistic all the more sad, because it means that even with those guys bringing the curve up, the rest of them are bringing it all the more down.

Now, I'm not here to complain. I'm just observing. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.


* Come on, I know I will never get away with naming my real daughters Rohirric names, so let me do it with my hypothetical ones, okay?


P.S. As a reward for reading all the way to the bottom of this post, I have a special treat for you. We have good news: Jeremy got a job today! Hooray!


Your Mom Prints Zines said...

Yeah, the fact that there is no accompanying change for men sucks. That'll be the next stage in equality of the sexes, the stay at home dad.

And congratulations to Jeremy! You both must be so excited.

Kelsey Catherine said...

Oh Jule Ann...you're dragging to the surface all my concerns again!! haha...I'm glad I'm having this freak out questioning what I should do at 20, and at the point where i haven't fully thrown myself down the career path...not to worry though, you can never fully throw yourself down that path, so long as you continue to strive towards whats in your heart, and what God has planned for you...
P.s. Love the LOTR children

christianlady said...

Ahh, women and work. I worked until my first son was born, then I tutored part time only 6 hours a week. That ended when we moved out of state and I had my second. I was going to be a teacher, that's what my diploma says. I ended up being a mother, which includes being a teacher. I accepted this role fully and don't want to work until they are older if not until they leave the home. We have struggled financially, but that's just part of the deal. The American dream is a bit materialistic anyway.

The article really got me at certain points. The assumption is that women aren't leaving the workforce because they WANT to spend more time at home with their kids, but because they have to. I wish it were that women were choosing to stay home as I did, in order to know my kids. No career is more important to me.

Funny, my husband does a lot around here. He works 50 hours a week or more, and this past few days (his off days) He did laundry, dishes, cooked, planted flowers in the yard, walked the dog, and bought groceries. During a 7 day week he makes a meal at least twice, and does maybe 3 loads of laundry including folding. I don't ask him to do it, he just does. I'm not sure why. I think he might do more than men with women who work. Again, don't know why!

Congrats on the job, Jeremy!

Sarah said...

The push to "have it all" is a terrible lie and deception that I've certainly fallen for and it extends first to the issue of career and family raising and then reaches far into the other areas of my life.

As a fellow writer put it yesterday, the reason our generation grapples so much with feelings of disenchantment is because we were far too enchanted with our ideas of life to begin with. The clash of reality meeting with our unrealistic expectations is traumatic.

How do we relay to our children that they have the world at their finger tips while still pressing that there is more to life than personal fulfillment (if that elusive state is ever found at all)?

I've pretty much worn out the book of Ecclesiastes this past year dealing with these exact issues.

EarthenForge said...

Wow - that's so great that Jer got a job! How encouraging it must be for you both - things are looking up! :)

As far as the article and stuff, I've been reading similar things, too. But some of what I've read has included more personal stories that do include a lot of woman who are glad about the changes. That is, they're happy to be there for their kids, even if it is a little overwhelming at times. Some of the women I've read about (I wish I'd kept the article now) fully intended to return to the workforce after a few months, but once they took one good look into that precious little face, that desire slipped away.

Not all women feel that way, but it just goes to show that there are a lot of mixed feelings out there. And, most certainly, a limited amount of energy to go around. My fantasy is to be a little more established with my pottery skills before I have children so that I can do a little creating and selling on the side. But I'm trying to be realistic - I know how wiped out I am after babysitting a 2 year old, so we'll see.

EarthenForge said...

I was just doing a little internet research to see if I could find an article I thought you'd enjoy - I didn't find it (it was originally in print, anyway), but there's a slew of varied opinions and articles out there about what women choose to do reguarding work and children.

One of the most troubling aspects about all this is the attempt to make it more controversial than it should be, or attempting to create vastly opposed sides. Women need to support each other, not feel smug or jealous or in competition with each other over who's the better mom. Anyway, not everyone even has the luxury of varied options.

But I like what Dooce said about one of the beautiful things about feminism is the choices it give us about working and motherhood. If the pendulum swings too far away from tradition and we all feel obligated to work full time and be mothers, we wouldn't feel free at all. Hooray for options, hooray for freedom! :)

Jule Ann said...

Thanks for all of your comments, folks! I really appreciate it.

Earthenforge: Your comments reminded me of a recent post on Sarah's blog, which discusses the female tendency to cut each other down rather than focus on their common ground.

Christy're said...

My husband and I divide up the housework 50/50 as much as we can--although right now he has two full-time jobs and I only have one, so I'm putting in more hours of housework to equal his extra hours of work. Most of my girlfriends think his 50/50 attitude toward housework is really strange, but I think it's great! He thinks it's the right way to handle it but also he wants to make sure I don't end up resenting him as so many women do their husbands.