Monday June 26 2006 700 am
Why is it that with all of the advances women have made in American society over the past half-century, we are still forced to choose between our careers and our kids? Why is most of the professional world still structured around the schedule of the man who works from 9 to 5 (except now he—or she—is expected to work until 6, or 7, or later), and then comes home to find his dinner on the table?
I went to school for twenty years, not counting kindergarten or preschool. Twenty years. I have three degrees, and a set of skills that I’ve been told is quite in demand.
But apparently, I and my skills are only “in demand” if I am willing to be parted from my children for 40 to 50 hours each week.
I know how fortunate I am that I have been able to make the choice to stay home with my kids. Many, if not most, parents would love to have this opportunity but cannot. So I recognize that many of you may perceive my comments as overprivileged whining, and there is probably some truth to that. But that partial truth does not preclude another truth, one which is well-known: many, if not most, professional women still have to choose between their careers and their families.
It has been made abundantly clear to me that should I wish to work full-time in my former profession, I could choose from numerous job opportunities in less time than it takes to say, “Hi, here’s my resume.” But as soon as I utter those ominous words, “part-time,” I can almost hear the screams as the purveyors of those would-be jobs scramble to put as much distance between me and themselves as possible.
Of course, I do know several women who work part-time, in arrangements cobbled together after they had their first or second or third child. But in almost every case, these women already had full-time jobs, and were able to approach employers who already appreciated and relied upon their efforts and skills and had a vested interest in keeping them as part of their teams. But for me, who moved to an entirely new region of the country when my son was 18 months-old, there was no pre-existing job that I could convert. I sought a part-time job as a beginning, not a means to hang on. And as of yet, there have been no takers.
There have been positive outcomes, of course. Though we have significantly less money than we used to, we are generally able to make ends meet. I really do know my kids better than anyone else does, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I manage to find some time to write things like this blog, which I’ve always wanted to do. But sometimes I feel that my years of education and my skills are wasted, all because I’ve made the commitment to make time with my kids my first priority. And it’s frustrating beyond measure—and beyond what I anticipated—when I know that I could contribute much-needed cash to the family budget if only someone was willing to pay for my skills for 10 to 20 hours per week.
We’ve come a long way, baby, but I think we still have some distance to go.