"Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work"
The article covers a debate among sociologists for reasons women seem to be entering the workforce in shrinking numbers for the past five years. It does briefly offer some compelling explanations (can you say recession?), but the examples it gives don't really match the explanations.
I am so tired of journalists using a single example of an extremely privileged white-collar (and white) woman staying home as an emblem of this trend. I want to tell the woman in the picture, "Gee, it must be tough to give up your tech exec career and be supported by your patent lawyer husband because you can't balance work and family. How much did your standard of living drop because of that choice? And boy, it's too bad that you didn't 'get' equality at home. Ever think that might have something to do with who you married and how he was raised?"
I've been thinking for a long time that the conversation about work/family balance needs to shift off the shoulders of women and expand to include their husbands and partners - and sons. For every woman like the one in the article who leaves behind a high-powered career, there is a husband who agrees to be the sole breadwinner--at least for a while. And however they balance that, that's their choice, not just hers. Why do no pundits realize this? I'd like to see what the woman's husband thinks about her choice and the impact it has on their family.
The article gives a brief nod to how single moms are still rising in the workforce, but doesn't delve very deeply into the economics of dual, lower-income families, rather it mentions one married woman who has to work but wishes she didn't have to, with no explanation of the circumstances behind her choice (student loan debt? ill child or parent? insane mortgage for a McMansion, or a shoebox in Manhattan? luxury car-leases? gambling problem?).
Neither real-life example in the story resembles that of most of the people I know. I know people who make severely limiting choices about lifestyle and standard of living in order to finance a spouse staying home, and I know a lot of women (like me) who like working, choose to do it, and have husbands who are equal partners in the family sphere - as well as comparatively modest lifestyles, that make it possible.
But I know this is not the case for every working family. The article actually says women might have to "give up" household duties in order to keep advancing in the economy. As if we're clinging desperately to the toilet brush as an emblem of our femininity. Or more to the point, as if many of us (particularly the lower-income-earning ones among us) have decent choices for childcare, even if we wanted to 'give that up'. How about suggesting that men 'pick up' those duties? What if we raised our sons -and our daughters- to demand an economy that allows both parents to better balance work and family? I just can't fathom why this conversation is still so focused on the woman's burden.
So how 'bout it, urbanmamas? What's your deal, and how did you strike it? Do you work at a traditional gig? Stay at home? Both? Support a family on your own? Read the article and tell me if it rings true, or whether I'm just a lucky woman with an axe to grind.