Monday, April 23, 2012

Is "working mother" redundant -- and why hasn't society caught up?

Sometimes I think feminism was a male plot, thought up by a bunch of guys fed up with working all the time. "Sure, sweetheart, go ahead and get yourself a job -- but you know you still have to cook and clean for me and take care of the kids."

And the bit about not wearing bras? Tell me a guy didn't come up with that. (And before you all jump all over me, I know feminism was/is about way more than a woman's right to work -- and going bra-less.)

But let's get back to work, specifically parenting and work, as in paid employment.

If our society truly supported the idea of women working outside the home, why aren't there good (as in decent paying and desirable) part-time jobs -- for both sexes? Why don't more companies allow employees to work from home, at least part time? Why don't schools operate on the same schedule as businesses do? (As my teenage daughter has said many times, she would have no problem staying at school after classes ended, especially if all her friends did too, and either doing her homework or an activity until 5:30, which she used to do when she was younger.) And why is it so hard to find good, affordable childcare?

I, like many educated, intellectually curious women I know, love to work. I also love my kid and want to spend time with her (as most parents, I hope, do). So, years ago, I made a choice -- to become, basically, a freelance writer/editor, so I could work from home, even though I like working around other people, and being able to leave my work at the office, and the security (steady paycheck, health insurance, paid vacation) of having a "real," i.e., corporate office, job. And I feel very fortunate that I could do this. (Btw, contrary to popular belief about work-at-home moms, I do not sit around in my PJs all day, watching TV and eating bon-bons.)

However, as my daughter has gotten older, I have yearned to work outside the house, albeit not full time -- or the 50 to 60 or 70 hours a week that many employers now consider full time. But good luck finding a decent paying part-time job or a job with flexible hours or one that would allow me to work from home part time -- especially within 30 minutes of our home.

And I know I am not the only mother -- or father -- who feels this way.

Speaking of "working mothers," anyone else feel that phrase is redundant (besides Ann Romney)? You ever hear the phrase "working father"? (That would be a rhetorical question.)

And another thing, re the whole stay-at-home mom vs. working mom war? Enough already. Let's declare a truce -- and give each group the support they need (though fat chance employers are going to be creating a slew of good part-time jobs any time soon, and I doubt women who must work full time are going to feel less resentful of women who don't have to work any time soon).

Finally, a word about "parenting" books and articles (which are mainly books about mothering -- or making women feel guilty or stressful or bad about the choices they have or have not made). Do NOT read them. They will just stress you (and your spouse and friends) out.

Who knows your child best? You do. And no two children, or parents, are exactly alike -- so how can a parenting book or article be right for every parent and child? They can't. It's like horoscopes -- amusing to read (at times), but don't take them seriously or base your life on them.

You want to know about breast feeding? Here's what you need to know: breast milk is great for babies, as it helps with brain development and immunity -- and it's free. So, if you can and are comfortable with breast feeding your kids, do it. But if you are not, formula is fine. Don't drive yourself and your kid crazy. The end.

And speaking of formula, there isn't a magic one, or a book that can guarantee you if you follow or read it you will produce a smart, happy, healthy kid. Though there are things you can do as a parent that will increase the odds, such as feeding your child healthy, nutritious food, and minimizing sugar and processed and junk food; making sure she gets a good night's sleep as much as possible; reading to him regularly and minimizing TV and computer and video game time; and telling your child, every day, you love her.

Okay, I am done ranting now. Back to "real" work.

1 comment:

amy said...

Nice rant! And well said.

I too work at home and will admit I do so in my PJs sometimes... that is way I have an aversion to video conferencing. It does not, however, impede my performance.

Love the term 'working father'. You should claim it, own it, tweet it and then get a book deal.

Thanks J, loved the post.