Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Woman's Place

In a multi-national study of 24,000 adults in 23 countries recently released by Reuters, respondents were asked to respond to the following statement: "A woman's place is in the home, true or false?"

Provocatively worded, yes.  Even more provocative were the statistics it yielded:
"[the survey] showed that people from India (54 percent), Turkey (52 percent), Japan (48 percent), China, Russia, Hungary (34 percent each) and South Korea (33 percent) were most likely to agree that women should not work.

And, perhaps surprisingly, people aged between 18 and 34 years are most likely to hold that view, not those from the older, and more traditional, generation."
Okay all you old school feminists out there, start freaking.  It would seem that the liberated younger generation sprung from your loins are starting to assert their own "freedom of choice," recognizing that sometimes the workplace isn't the greatest place to be.

Now I'm all for women working outside the home... provided that there are not more pressing matters to be attended to inside the home.  And if the family can swing it.  And that's a big if.

And it doesn't just "happen."  Not in this economy.  Not in a financial and cultural system such as ours where dual incomes are assumed and housing rates and the cost of living reflects this, painfully in some cases.  No, choosing to stay home means choosing a whole host of other potential hardships: loneliness, loss of income, career-track derailment... not to mention an interminable sentence of regular diaper changing and laundry folding.  So who in their right mind would choose such a lifestyle?

A mother, that's who.  Because from the moment of conception, her life becomes utterly other-centered, and all those big dreams and career goals necessarily take a back seat to that little bit of immortality you've conspired to bring into the universe. 

Does this rule out a future in the workplace, a foray into politics, a potential professorship one day down the road?  By no means.  These may still be in the cards ... but not in the immediate future.  The here and now becomes much more focused, necessarily given over to the child who depends utterly upon you, more demanding than any boss and more pressing than any deadline.

It is not impossible to be a mother working outside the home... but neither is it ideal, contrary to what we may have had drilled into us growing up.  I can remember so many conversations with girlfriends and classmates which included the phrase "But I don't want to be just a mom," followed by furtive approval-seeking glances cast round the group or classroom.  Because although we were programmed with a deep reverence for choice ... there were some choices that were just unacceptable, not to mention archaic.

Which is odd, all things considered.

As it turns out, at least according to this study, there are more and more oddballs cropping up round the world, women embracing the bold choice to take on a most serious and demanding task worthy of all their training and pedigree: parenting their own child.  Apparently it's a even more specialized market than we realized, and it can't be done by just anybody.

Or rather, can't be done as well by just anybody.  Because although you might be the best lawyer your firm has employed in 50 years, the best pediatric cardiologist in your geographic area, or the most charismatic second grade teacher in your entire district... no one can be a better mother to your children than you can, and that's a fact. 

So the next time somebody tries to bully you into reconsidering your "free choice" to be an at-home parent, be sure to call to mind the nobility of your work, and the specialization required to be the heart of your home ... and kindly clue them into the highly specialized and wildly sought-after market niche you're filling: somebody's mom.


  1. I actually agree with you to a point on this, that the parenting years are but a blip on the radar compared to a lifetime, particularly when you only have one child like us. IN 6 years, my daughter says she is off to Wellsley or Vassar. I will be an empty nester. . .My only problem with this is that both extremes deal with unneeded binaries, that you cannot be a real professional and good parent. This is a false zero sum game that just is not the case. This scenario also falsely assumes that only the mom does the parenting. My wife stayed home for 1.5 years, but we are both school personnel and used daycare during the school hours during the school year (175 days in Texas). I have been an active father, scheduled play dates with other kids, planned parties, helped with soccer though i had no utter idea what i was doing. She has until this year always gone to school with one of us, where we worked.
    Again, your scenario is a false dichotomy, and ignores the variety of circumstances and happy mediums.If you friend me on FB, I can show some video/pics etc

  2. Amazing, we agree on something! :)

    Though I think you missed the points I was striving to make.

    Both parents are critically important to a child's healthy development, but this post was specifically about motherhood, and the very real cultural pressure that women face to cast aside their primary vocation in order to pursue what is held in higher esteem as a more "worthwhile" or critical contribution to society, or who are simply without the necessary support to fulfill their roles.

    Nothing effects culture - and history - more radically or permanently than raising a child to adulthood, forming them in virtue and wisdom.

    I'll find you on facebook after lent - trying to be tech lite for a season.

  3. cool, i just think this whole career/mommy track pick two roles against each other and it does not havae to be such an either/or thing. . .with the right planning, spouse, etc both can do both well. In fact, I was almost the one to stay home as we are both school personnel and made the same amount of money. Sometimes I wish I had been the one to stay home for those two years. Seeing how we only work 185 days/year and had only one child it really did not make that much difference in the end.

  4. Jenny, Love this and you! Your Mom, who lived through the "old school, hippie, Ma Ma Mia, self agandizing generation. Sincerely, "just a mother of seven (7). Mommy

  5. Because although you might be the best lawyer your firm has employed in 50 years, the best pediatric cardiologist in your geographic area, or the most charismatic second grade teacher in your entire district... no one can be a better mother to your children than you can, and that's a fact.

    I beg to disagree.

    I would have made a hprrible mother, and that is a FACT. I chose to remain childless because I did not want to provide my kids a hell on earth. It is difficult enough if one's father is an a**ehole, but what if the mom is?

    You may take care of the biological evolution, I will take care of the cultural. You will survive in your biological offspring, I will survive in my memetic offspring.


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