April 8, 1986 · Cavalier Daily

A Woman's Choice: Career or Family?

This Opinion article ponders the societal pressure on women to choose between a career and a family. It discusses the valorization of housewives in the 1950s, in contrast to the unrealistic professional and domestic expectations of "Supermoms" in the 1970s, and concludes that both partners in a couple must compromise so that both are able to achieve what they aspire to in terms of career and family.


1986-04-08 - A Woman's Choice Career or Family.pdf
Andrea Wuerth
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
A Woman’s Choice: Career or Family?
When I think of my future, as the fourth-year student occasionally does, I imagine a challenging, exciting career – New York, maybe Washington, subways, take-out food, a little studio apartment, But in contemplating the next ten years of my life, I realize that there is a possibility that I may get married and then, eventually, may begin to think of a family. Inevitably I will, most likely, be faced with the question of career vs. family.
The dilemma, clearly and simply is this: The most crucial years for beginning a family and for professional advancement come at the same time. How can this dilemma solved? Is there a solution? The frustration is that women have always been told that the only solution is compromise painful compromise.
Women are still plagued by a notion left over from the 1950s: A woman must be the perfect mother, and that perfect mother, if she can afford to, stays home. The first option women have had is to stop working or drop their careers (at least temporarily – for ten years, that is) to stay at home with the kids.
But most women, especially in, intelligent and ambitious women, are bored, frustrated and unappreciated; a Gallup poll recently found that three quarters of at-home mothers want to work. And they realize when they decide to go back to work that it is not always easy to jump into a career again.
One mother who tried this explained, "You are never received with open arms and told that what you did by giving your family time was a wonderful thing. That's something that businesses don't understand.
The second option that women have is to pursue a career and, at the same time, take care of the kids the Supermom solution. This is based on the notion that developed in the 1970s: The woman must be a success on the job and at home. The feeling that developed was that if a woman is not a perfect corporate executive and, at the same time, a wife and mother. something is wrong with her.
But in the 1980s, women are beginning to realize that neither of these options are really solutions. One Newsweek reporter wrote, "Today the myth of Superwoman is fading fast doomed by anger, guilt and exhaustion."
In the most challenging professions — business, law, medicine, teaching, etc. — the days are long and pressure-filled. A woman inevitably feels guilty for having to fit the kids into her schedule and being unable to spend "quality time" with the kids at the end of a long and taxing day.
One working woman said, “I feel guilty when I'm working and my child is in someone else's care.”
Professional and personal development is important: time with kids is important. Hence, The Choice. The dilemma is large, the options are few and a perfect solution is virtually impossible.
So, when I picked up a copy of last week 's Newsweek and saw the cover story – Working Mothers – I immediately flipped to the feature article. The story was entitled, "'A Mother's Choice." This title and the rest of the article left me with a feeling of resentment and disgust, Why is it that parenthood is still a dilemma that women must solve? Why is it a mother's choice, a woman’s decision, a female problem?
Why is it that men, who want successful careers and a family, don't have to make a choice and aren’t burdened by the dilemma? Why is it that only the woman must feel the guilt of leaving the kids when she goes to work or the frustration that accompanies the decision not to work? Why is it only the woman who is told she can't have it all and that she must make a painful compromise and live with the decision?
Men know how exhausting a 50-hour work week is. Men would also realize, if they thought about it, how difficult it is to be intelligent, talented and ambitious and be expected to meet the daily needs of a child…or two or three. But, as a psychologist at the University of Texas concluded, "There is still a sense that it is more dangerous for men to change than women.
Most men would not ask for paternity leave, and the thought of labelled as a "Mr. Mom' by an employer or colleague is considered an insult of the highest degree.
There is something very wrong with that. In the 1980s, men shudder at the thought (if it even crosses their minds) of compromising their career and the thought of cutting down their working hours so that they can wash diapers and spend time with the kids.
Husbands reassure their wives that motherhood is the noblest profession yet are not willing to accept some limits to their own career advancement to take an equal responsibility in child-raising. The point is that they won't unless women begin to insist that men must take more responsibility (and that means more time) for child-raising
If both decide to have careers and both agree to have a family, it naturally follows that both must compromise. There is no one solution for all couples; but it is very important for men and women to seek a solution together and to accept the responsibility and share in the joy of parenthood
I am ambitious. I want a career. And I assume my husband will too. Somehow, if we decide to have family we will both have to make a choice and have to compromise. One executive-mother concluded, “Each woman will have to make a life she can live with.” I conclude: Each couple will have to agree on a life they and their children can live with.
Andrea Wuerth is a fourth-year College student.
Date Added January 23, 2017
Date Modifed December 9, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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