Posts Tagged ‘working’

What’s In A Choice?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Obviously, by now everyone has heard of Occupy Wall Street. The other day, a friend posted a link to this chart, which is a great summary of what OWS is about and why they feel that way.

I’m not going to talk about the movement itself, but I am interested in something my friend said in reference to the data in that chart: “…to say that more women {with children under the age of 18} work today because they have no choice and not because they like having a career in a society where it is acceptable and because discrimination has been drastically reduced is silly.”

And my immediate response was: Well yes. But also no. And definitely. But really not at all. Why do women work? Or more specifically, why do MOTHERS work?  Can there possibly be a more complicated question?

The stickiest part of my friend’s statement is “no choice”, isn’t it? On the one hand, yah for feminism and the opportunity to have careers outside the home that aren’t just placeholders until we can snag a husband! On the other hand, pretending your cashier at Target would rather be making $8 an hour ringing up your face cream and Funions instead of at home with her own kid is bullshit.

I know plenty of moms who love their jobs, love their work, love having adult conversations around the water cooler about The Real Housewives of Wherever but who would quit and stay home with their kids in a HEARTBEAT if they suddenly won the lottery and could never work another day in their life. I also know that if childcare was free and I could have any job I wanted in the whole world I would absolutely leave my kids to be raised by strangers (said in your best judgy voice) a few days a week while I trained dolphins at Sea World (hey, sometimes your dream at 6 years old is STILL YOUR DREAM).

But real life doesn’t give everyone those options. If you’re a single mom? You have no choice. In a lot of cities there is no way to support a family on one income. Sometimes your partner gets laid off. Or maybe their job doesn’t offer health insurance. Or maybe they’re in school pursuing their dream and you’re supporting them – so you have no choice but to work to put food on the table but it is BY choice that you have chosen that choice.

There are days where my choice to stay home doesn’t even feel like a choice. SOMEONE has to watch these kids and we can’t afford a nanny. I mean really, if I had my CHOICE I’d spend one day a week at the spa getting massages and drinking cocktails so I could be the super calm, zen-like mother I aspire to be.

I don’t think “why women work” is something that can be measured or put in a pie chart or even summed up in a sentence. There is no box on a questionnaire that says “all and also none of the above” so using it as part of a your political movement can be tricky. I think the only thing you could get everyone to agree to would be that in an ideal world all women could make the choice they WANTED to make and not the choice they had to make.

So, why do you/do you not work?

Here’s my answer – I always planned to be a stay-at-home-mom eventually. We are able to afford it right now. I became a military spouse right after college and never established a career I would have wanted to go back to post-kids and I haven’t found anything I can do from home (besides blogging, obviously, which doesn’t exactly lead to BUCKETS OF MONEY.) So I think it is about 80% by choice and 20% not by choice although that’s the least scientific percentage ever.



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