I have read and listened to several pieces where women discuss working outside the home. The most disconcerting aspects are how most, if not all, feel the need to choose between starting a family and pursuing a graduate degree and/or a career. I have so many feelings toward this but the main one being: Why must women choose? For that matter, why must men choose?
As a woman and mom who has specific educational and career goals, this topic is close to my heart. After many years of believing that my first priority is mommying, I felt cloistered by the decision–the right decision–I made early to have Emily and Andrew. All the passions that arose once I found the right major I felt forced to place on the back burner.
One specific memory is when pregnant with Emily: I told Ben I really wanted to get my masters. I wasn’t sure in what at the time, but I wanted to start preparing. He supported me unequivocally; however, knowing I was pregnant and being an active member of the LDS church, I felt the Prophets and other leaders had deemed this decision unrighteous.
So when I graduated, and Ben began studying for the MCAT and doing all the other things necessary to prepare for medical school, I felt a surge of jealousy. It hurt to say good-bye to him. I felt abandoned and, worse, unrecognized for my natural intelligence. But, I told myself, I was doing the right thing by choosing my family first.
Coming from the place I am now, not feeling pressured to stay at home with my kids as well as not believing in eternal consequences, I will say there is more than one option. I, and others, shouldn’t have to choose between work and family. Instead, women and men should push for more family friendly work environments.
I have this vision of husbands and wives, partners, or any type of family group standing up to companies who do not allow flexible work schedules, telecommuting, or more paid time off. All these companies–and especially the examples with which the heads of these companies set–are anti-family. Studies have consistently shown that happy home lives correlate with content and more productive employees. Think about the ramifications of making work places in such a way that all people–from the top to the bottom–felt they did not need to sacrifice their family’s needs to keep their position or help their company reach their “bottom line.” I am not saying that there wouldn’t be times when work would need to come first, I am suggesting that we band together to encourage companies to put families first. To allow for a more balanced work/home life. I mean, a family initiative within families is all fine and dandy, but change can’t come until we make a concerted effort to alter policies and laws toward a more progressive and employee/employer-friendly workplace.
I don’t know about you, but I will not let my decision to be a mom interrupt my desire to work; nor will I allow my desire to work interfere with my current and future family planning. I will have as many, or as little, kids as I want without putting any educational/career goals on the shelf.
My question for you is, how can we make this work? Any suggestions or alterations to my vision? Do you feel you must choose between work and family?