I mentioned this in another thread but I think it needs its own thread. I have noticed an interesting trend with women I know and that is how many of them have given up the rat race to become stay at home moms. Another trend I am seeing is the opposite and that is how many women I know who are not marrying at all.
Growing up I lived what can be best explained as a Brady Bunch lifestyle. This show which was on during my early life (and in syndication as I got older)is the way I often describe my childhood. My mom gave up a career she loved to stay at home with me and my brother. The reason was that back when she was becoming a mother the woman’s movement was just starting. Oh there have always been women who worked and had kids but these women were often attacked. My mother being more traditional than many women she worked with felt it was best she raise kids full time. Luckily she had this choice as my dad made good money. As a result I think I had many advantages my friends with working moms didn’t. She was able to teach us how to read and write before kindergarten and both me and my brother always did well in school. Later on she became the perfect mom and she was a Brownie Leader, homeroom mom, school helper, and pretty much anything that could be done in the classroom she did. She became friends with my first grade teacher Mrs Silverstein whom I absolutely adored and was devastated when she moved to California. In between school she would shuttle me to all my activities such as dance (I was chosen to hold the flag in several parades and the teacher wanted me to study at a famous school like Joffrey), CCD (religious education), gymnastics (where the teacher advised me to quit because I was way too tall to ever be a gymnast and at 5’7 I never would have been successful) and all the various acting and music classes I took.
I mention all of this to kind of explain where I am coming from. Most of my friends lived the same life and as children we were taught that as girls we were mothers first and foremost. The friends who had mothers who worked were often ostracized by women like my mother who would often say they weren’t “real” mothers. Later on though my mom did go back to work and eventually became manager of a print shop for a friend of hers. Side note but this friend of hers had two salesman who went on to successful careers in acting and comedy. The one salesman is a famous comedian that my dad grew up with and he knows his family as do I.
I suppose this background could explain many of my female classmates but then the 80’s happened. What I find interesting about the 80’s is that while Reagan was far more conservative than either Ford or Carter this is the era when the superwoman/career woman exploded. Maybe it was because at this point many families needed two salaries to survive or many other things, like the divorce rate increasing but more women went to work. This was shown quite heavily in the sitcoms of the time such as the Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains and Who’s The Boss. The few shows that portrayed a stay at home mom were often shows set in the past like Happy Days or the Wonder Years. This is also when my mom went back to work. I was in high school during the 80’s (graduated 1989)and we were pushed to go to college and get education. I don’t even know if women were pushed to consider being a housewife anymore in school. Unlike during my mom’s era girls were not required to take home ec anymore and we had many sports to play which I enjoyed being as athletic as I am.
So then me and my female classmates got an education, a career and then something strange happened. Many of my classmates, the ones who wanted careers like lawyers, doctors, and CEOs had their first babies and quit to stay at home with them. These were not unskilled women, in fact one childhood friend was at one point a news anchor at a La Crosse television station and eventually became the pr director for the state of Wisconsin. Another person I knew was a radio personality. In fact many of the women I worked with in radio ended up becoming stay at home moms. Why? I don’t understand it but in a way I do and I wonder if it goes back to the way we were socialized or maybe the way it’s always going to be. Maybe they got tired of competiting with the big boys knowing being female they will never be equal in the corporate world. Maybe the idea to be a mom is a stronger feeling than having a career.
Interestingly there is a certain demographic I have seen the opposite and this is my black classmates. Most of them did attend college like my white coworkers, and many have degrees. However not as many are stay at home moms and many are single moms. Contrary to popular belief while many are raising kids they had or adopted out of wedlock very few are on welfare. Most are career women who didn’t want to marry or never met mr right.
This all ties into me. I never had the desire to be a stay at home mom, though in the last couple of years it’s something I have considered. While I may have considered being a mom, most of the guys I meet still expect their wife to do most of the childcare and housework, even men who want their wives to work. I find this hypocritical of men but at the same time being that men who have careers tend to go farther than women I understand this. While I know I would prefer to be married and have a career my choices might be limited to never finding work again and never marrying or never working again and being married and perhaps being a mom. I am striking out with jobs but am having a little better luck with men. Then again I may get a dream job and decide not to have kids but to be honest never having or adopting kids kind of saddens me. My biggest fear is being a crazy cat lady who yells at the kids to stay off my lawn while I am eating tuna fish out of the can. Being unemployed and single just seems the saddest thing. I have met women in their 50’s who concentrated on a career only to have it go away and that scares me because at that point being alone might also be without my family or elderly parents. Then again my parents are still healthy and until a few years ago so were my grandparents.
To sum all of this up I really don’t know what is the best thing for women in our culture. I am glad we have choices not available many years ago but is it good to have all these choices? does it affect our futures? will those women who never have kids regret it years later? will those women who gave up careers resent their kids and husband? why don’t men have these same issues is it because men are in control more than women? there’s so many questions to be asked about all of this.