Friday, October 22, 2010

Who Does She Think She Is?

Today I am heading down to Grubstreet to attend a screening of Who Does She Think She Is? The film is about the obstacles mothers are faced with when pursuing a career. There will be a discussion afterwards led by Jane Roper, of Baby Squared.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, something I've been thinking about a great deal lately. It is no secret that motherhood, or parenthood (let's include the Dads here too) isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be and really, I find most of the discussions of just how hard it is to be incredibly boring (unless they're funny, then bring it on, we all need a good commiserative laugh). Yes, you have to make tough choices. Often. Having a baby completely changes everything.

What I do find interesting is that men seem to have an easier time weathering the transition. They usually able to stick to the same career path. They don't cut hours, switch jobs, or reduce expectations for themselves.

There are always exceptions, but in my situation, we chose a pretty traditional approach. My career took second stage when we had kids. I left my corporate position. The plan was for me to work some sort of flexible job, or not at all, until our youngest child (we planned for 1 or 2) was in kindergarten. I opened a store, I started writing, all things that could work around the family situation. This is the part where I should tell you how much I love my kids and how the sacrifice has been worth it. Duh. Of course I love them.

We are two years away from Little Guy starting kindergarten and I am working to fully come to terms with the fact that my original plan was ridiculous. To be successful at a corporation (and I'd want to be), I'd need to go back to putting in the 10-12 hour days, working late into the evening, not to mention nailing down an MBA. The truth is that, because of the kids, and the way I am choosing to raise them, I will never be able to return to the career I had before. And to top it off, Hubs' career has now become more demanding and he travels a good bit, so someone needs to be home. He also makes more money that I will be able to upon re-entry, which means that I will likely be the one juggling the appointments, the sick days, etc. Taking a step back was my always my choice, but I'm not sure I understood the longer term implications.

The path I have taken is the same for many of the mothers I know. A lawyer friend took reduced hours (and got knocked off the partner track), a doctor took an administrative position, a writer became an editor (not that editing is less demanding, but the hours were more conducive to family life, and this gal loves to write). Some of the women I know, women with advanced degrees and tons of talent, have stopped working entirely. Yet I can't think of one man in our circle who has done that. Why is that?

So the question is not about equality, I think we've gotten way past that. The question seems to be about whether it is more wrong for a woman to choose career over family than it is for a man to make the same decision. And why, when the time comes, isn't it just as likely that one OR the other will take a step back?

Is motherhood that different from fatherhood? Does it have to be? Maybe.

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