Working Women

I don’t know if you guys have been keeping up with the news lately, but there have been quite a few articles in the last few days about women in the workplace. First, there was the article about the new CEO of Yahoo cutting out work-from-home privileges for her employees until further notice, while simultaneously installing a nursery for her baby in her office. Then, there was a story on the COO of Facebook‘s new book about empowering working women. Lucky lady, she makes $30 million dollars a year, and leaves work at 5:30pm every day to be with her children. Then I read an article today about how women are more inclined to be snarky to other women who have “made” it in the workplace. Apparently I might be a snarky bitch for not being impressed that a multi-millionaire with a slew of people working under her could have time to go tuck the kids in at night. I might also be a snarky bitch for finding it really unfair to make people disrupt their childcare plans at the drop of a hat when your position entitles you to build your own nursery (and no doubt staff it) in your office. But whatever, it’s not like we didn’t already know I had a bit ‘o snark in me.

For the record, I think that making people work from the office can in many cases (and probably in Yahoo’s case) be the best course of option. Sometimes you just need to be with your team – especially if you need to make some exceedingly creative choices to pull yourself out of the rut you’ve dug. And even more so if that rut means you’re being eaten alive by someone like Google.

Also for the record, I think it’s amazing to be able to balance work and home lives, and good parenting is put to the test by making solid blocks of time to spend with your kids. Not that I have kids, or know too much about it, other than remembering how awesome it was when both of my parents could be at the dinner table, or a school event. I shined when they were around, and I’m pretty sure that’s how most kids react to a healthy dose of love and attention.

What I don’t get is that of all the stories in the news today about women becoming high-powered, heavy-hitters, why we don’t have more articles about how detrimental that life can be to our mental & spiritual wellbeing? Or why we aren’t talking more about how to get dads to have the best of both worlds? Or why we aren’t making ways for people to work shorter, harder days to allow them to go home at 5pm? Or why we don’t regularly build childcare situations AT jobs, for free (and not just as factories), so that the whole childcare debate didn’t get so heated?

I’m looking ahead, and I’m scared. Let’s not even talk about the fact that I don’t make enough money to afford to pay all of my bills each month right now; let’s just talk about what would happen if I did. Let’s say that I made just enough money to semi-comfortably afford to raise a child (which would mean four times what I’m currently making). To have that job, I would have to work from probably 8am to around 7pm, maybe later, five to six days a week. That’s how my industry works. So I’ll be making enough money, but I will have no time to spend with my child. OK. Hmmmm.

New scenario! I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom. My husband (don’t have one, but I don’t have kids, either, so whatever) will be the bread-winner. Which means that he will have to be paid six to seven times what I make now to afford both of our student loans, our house, food, medical bills, and child care. Neither I nor the kid(s) will get to see him much, during which time our marriage will grow cold and distant, and the kids will not bond with him as much as they should. He’ll resent me for having to work all of the time and also pay my bills, and I’ll definitely resent him for having to be at home with the kids instead of working. When the kids are old enough to go back to school, we’ll have to shift priorities and figure out how to pick them up from school. This means that I’ll have to take a part time job instead of full time, and I’ll make very little money and have no advancement opportunities. A life of lots of stress and pretty much no sex or happiness (except for what I glean by living vicariously through my children) will ensue. Wow, sounds like a real winner. Hmmmm.

Next scenario. I don’t get married, and I don’t have kids. Or maybe I get married and don’t have kids – who knows if I’ll ever have either of those opportunities? I spend the next couple of years focusing solely on my career and personal achievement, forsaking thoughts of family and relationship issues. I set my limits – only five days a week, maybe six if there’s a big project to get done. No more than nine hours of work a day. When I leave work, I’m on my own time. Double my current salary by the end of the year, however that has to happen, then working up from there. My first checks go to pay off credit cards, and from there, the rest starts to go into retirement savings and vacation savings, then savings for a house/condo. After that, I can start thinking about relationships again, and if my current one is still standing, we can talk about marriage. Let’s be honest – by this point, I’ll be at least 37 or so, meaning that kids should probably be taken off of the table. But I’ll be able to travel to everywhere I’ve wanted to go, to read the books I want to read, and if I’m in the right relationship, enjoy the rest of my time here with a man who makes every day sizzle. If he’s willing to not have kids.

Maybe the question that everyone should be asking is not “Why aren’t women advancing in the workplace?” but rather “Why do women have to chain themselves to kids and life partners to be ‘complete’?”

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Working Women

  1. beretolsen says:

    Interesting yet depressing post. It made me think of this article in Slate that I read a couple of years ago: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/11/going_dutch.html
    It’s basically about how Dutch women work less and are paid less, and are pretty darn happy about the whole arrangement. I’m still not sure what I think of it, but do know that we have some weird ways of deciding if we are happy or not. A lot of it seems to have to do with whether others think we should feel fulfilled or not. Can’t we all decide what feels successful and fulfilling, instead of trying to buy into societal prescriptions?

  2. Anna says:

    Sorry to be depressing – I’m having a hard time reconciling myself to all of these choices I feel forced to make. A lot like the woman who wrote the Dutch article; thanks for posting that, it was a great story, really makes me think. I do have to wonder how Dutch women can work part time and still afford to do anything they want to do, though. Maybe no student loans?

    As for NaNo, I loved it, but I didn’t get that far this year. Maybe next year! There’s also Camp NaNoWriMo, which happens sometime in the summer and is very similar to the traditional experience.

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