Working (Wo)Man

Yesterday, a friend on Facebook shared an article from The Guardian, citing a speech given by former Prime Minister Blair’s wife.  Well, rather than me telling you what I think the article says, you can read it for yourself first.

Audrey and I discuss this topic often, and she added an interesting article/interview she recently heard, written by a woman having her own awakening on her career.  In short, Mrs Slaughter realized, after struggling with a high-power governmental job and a son struggling through adolescence, that women actually can’t “have it all” – at least not all at once.

But, here’s the part she and everyone else seems to be missing: it should be the same for men!  We also can’t have it all, all at once!

My problem with the Blair article isn’t that she’s calling out stay-at-home-moms, though the writer tries to paint it that way.  If you look more closely at the quotes, she’s decrying a certain type of woman who simply marries for money and wants to be taken care of.  The portrait of the woman she paints is a dependent, snotty brat who just lives off the coattails of someone else’s success.  This woman’s shortcoming isn’t that she’s not working – but it’s that she’s not contributing.  What if this article had been written about the growing number of men who marry for money?  Gender dynamics are changing in this country – and the XBox playing, couch sitting, directionless demographic of men is growing while the highly educated, highly motivated demographic of women is also growing.  Had this article been written about men charting a similar life-course (ignoring education and career while all the time planning on marrying for money), the reaction would be – in a word – outrage.

Back to the Slaughter article, though.  Slaughter seems to come to the same conclusion  Audrey and I came to long ago – that we weren’t willing to put our career above our family.  Many women make that decision – and as a result of that decision end up putting their careers on hold to be a stay at home mom.  But in our case, we both agreed that neither of us should to put career above family!  The question we asked ourselves was, could both of us chart a career path that would allow both to work and both to contribute in the home?  It’s our little experiment, and so far (knock on wood) it seems to be working out.  We realized we might have to get off the ‘fast track’ to leadership and responsibility in our jobs in order to keep the right balance that would allow us both to work and have plenty of time with our son.  We also realize that it might change as our family changes or either of our careers change.  But for now – thanks to great employers and managers who are taking a greater interest in work-life balance – we feel like we’ve been successful.

What the women’s movement has done – evidenced in the Slaughter article – was to adopt the “man’s world” philosophy of “advance your career at any cost.”  Still today – in most households – especially one-earner households – it is generally accepted that the man’s career can/must advance at all cost to the family, whether that means moving more often, more business travel away from the family, more time in the office, or more outside pressure and stress being brought into the home. My assertion is that this “advance your career at any cost” philosophy is dangerous for both men and women.

I stumbled across a quote more than a year ago when Aud and I were going through the decision making process about what we should do with her career – whether it needed to be put on hold with WEJr’s birth, or whether there were other options that would work for our family.  This quote, from someone I deeply admire in our Church, opened my eyes.  This decision wasn’t really all about her, as I had originally thought.  I actually had a huge responsibility – as the man:

“I don’t think women [alone] need to think about children – I think fathers and mothers need to think about children… What seemed to be the talk [during the women’s movement of the 1960’s] was ‘How do I get out of the home?’ — ‘How does a woman get out of the home?’  Or maybe even out of marriage — or out of whatever… I think that model should have been turned 180 degrees and it should have been, ‘What do we do to guarantee that men stay in the home or than men contribute in the home?’  I’m all for shared workload.  We can wash dishes together and we can do the laundry together and we can pay the bills together and we can figure out what the income tax is together, but it seems to me that to just think of ways to get away from family, and away from home, was exactly, diametrically, opposite to the model we should have been pursuing.  And that is: In such times, how do you keep fighting to say in the home – including the husband – that he does not just blissfully walk out the door and take his little briefcase and go off and never have another thought all day or all week or all month about the greatest responsibility that he has and that is to be a husband and a father and a grandfather?  …  I think that all the forces that spin us centrifugally away from the home, we have to fight that, and have those forces reversed as best we can, and have that circle coming back into the home for men and for women.”

– Jeffrey Holland
from the MormonChannel podcast “Conversations” on 12/6/2010


4 thoughts on “Working (Wo)Man”

  1. You are lucky with your situation. Many jobs aren’t that flexible. Usually someone has to go to work and someone has to stay home, or both go to work and a nanny or daycare watches the kids. That’s the choice that most people face due to the nature of jobs these days. It is necessary for one of the spouses to “put a career above family” in terms of time being gone from the family, but that’s where you have to make extra efforts when you are at home to really be there. And there are also probably certain paths or choices to make at work that will allow more time with family. I know some people can get overly focused on work and furthering their career and completely neglect their family.
    I still hold my position that if possible, the women should stay home with the kids! You still have to pray about it and maybe make changes according to different situations, but I still hold to the moms being at home.

  2. I agree with you and Aud on so many levels. My husbands practice isn’t necessarily flexible in terms of hours but I help out with accounting, marketing and anything else I can while he makes sure that he is sharing the load at home.
    When I was at BYU I had a female professor who taught mon/wed/fri while her husband (also a BYU professor) taught tues/thurs classes. They had 3 small children at home. It really opened my eyes and helped me realize that there are several ways to raise children and make a living. Each family has to figure out what works for them.

  3. We have been having this conversation a lot lately too… and it came down to being willing to sacrifice. I’m so glad you posted that Eldr Holland quotation. I’d never heard it before. I know that we are lucky, as you guys are, to have the flexibility to take off when our kids need us more than usual. I also know, however, that no matter how capable we are, neither of us will never be the CEO of a company or reach our “potential” in a career sense. And that’s the choice we’ve made… And I just pray that we don’t regret our choices 20 years down the road like so many grandfathers I know regret the choices they made to “have it all for the sake of the family”. It doesn’t work for everyone, but thank goodness it works for some of us.

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