Mothering versus working, or: I don’t know if I want it all, but I sure as heck don’t want it now

Add this to the list of things men don’t have to worry about, apparently.

When a woman gets a job (like I will, and the sooner the better), she’s going to have to face the question of what’s going to happen if she has a family. And if she gets asked that question, she’s going to have to make a choice that’s going to make her the “bad guy” no matter what.

if_you_give_a_mouse_cookie
It’s like that children’s book about the mouse who gets a cookie, then a glass of milk, then a room at the Taj Mahal (or something like that).

It seems like everything I’ve read in the last few weeks has had to do with women staying in the workforce or making the decision to stay home, as if it’s an “either-or” decision. Back in March my roommate published a blog post about how she’s sorry-not-sorry about wanting to become a mom instead of focusing on a career. Then over Spring Break I went home to Chicago to the stack of Time and New York magazines that had big cover stories about where exactly women belong in the workplace and home (because men have to put us somewhere, amIrightladies?).

New York Magazine, March 25, 2013 Issue
New York Magazine, March 25, 2013 Issue. By the way, the article on The Shining was one of the best film analysis pieces I’ve read in a long time.
Time Magazine, March 18, 2013 Issue
Time Magazine, March 18, 2013 Issue

Time carried a story about Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s CFO and writer of the next-on-my-reading-list book, Lean Forward, and New York magazine published an article about the “new phenomenon” of the stay-at-home feminist. I had several qualms with the latter — their only real source was an anomaly in our economy, an upper-class mom who has the time and money to take crocheting classes while the kids are in school — but it kept prompting this question:

“Do I want to be a Mom or a Journalist?”

To which my egalitarian, feminist mind countered,

“Can’t I be both?”*

*Rather, “Why the Hell do I have to tell you?”

New York mag made it clear in their article that many women don’t see it the same way I do. Kelly Makino tried to continue work in school administration, but her husband’s job and two children made her decide to stay home. My mom did a similar thing; when she became pregnant with me, she decided to stay home. Only when I was in seventh grade did she go back to working full time as a teacher, then as an administrative assistant at an office furniture company. She quit in my senior year of high school so she could have more time to spend with me before I packed up for Mizzou, but went back this fall when my sister started her junior year of high school.

Mom had problems with the New York magazine article, too. Since she was a teenager, she has seen women who stay home vilified for being anti-feminist, women who go to work vilified as being bad mothers and women in between considered the lost little lemon drops who can’t possibly balance serving their employers with rearing children properly.

Meet Rosie, the first and toughest "lost little lemon drop" our country has ever seen.
Meet Rosie, the first and toughest “lost little lemon drop” our country has ever seen.

I agree to a point. Women should have the choice, but not be forced to make it. What if I want to have children and continue reporting, editing and writing? Look at Angela Caputo, one of the amazing reporters I worked with this summer at The Chicago Reporter. She has two daughters and also (notice, “and also,” not “but still”) has time to write about the Chicago public housing crisis and harshness of Illinois drug laws.

Having watched Caputo and being a kid of a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve had the opportunity to gauge what works and what doesn’t for certain women. I think the issue of whether women stay at home or go to the office is too wide to pinpoint in one article because we are all different; some women take every joy from motherhood, while others are motivated by the workforce drive. Again, I would like to point out that it’s never a question when a man fathers a child; he can do either one without much criticism. (All right, that’s the end of my patriarchal-society rant.)

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I don’t know what I’ll do if I have children, and that’s perfectly OK. I’m 21, and even though my biological clock thinks I should have popped out two kids by now, I’m content waiting to see what happens. At least I have that much freedom, right?

This wasn’t the first time I’ve written about this issue. Check out my musings from back in April 2011, in which a 19-year-old me divulges my love of screenwriting and (slightly) questions my sequence selection.

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