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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Having a choice won't muffle my voice

Women--or parents--who want to be at home some of the time raising their kids have very limited choices when it comes to continuing on the path that includes business meetings, project launches, responsibility, and kudos. Please correct me if I'm way off.

In response to a previous column about feeling underemployed, anonymous friend wrote:
I don't want to sound insensitive to your angst, but realize that there are thousands of women who would love to have the choice you have. They work not because of ambition or career, but survival. (Not to mention the millions of women throughout history who had no choice but motherhood).
Why isn't it okay to not feel fulfilled? Yes, I'm extremely grateful that I'm able to sit back and think about what I want. Isn't that what feminism is all about? Being able to make a choice about how to live and work and raise kids and do it at any pace we like? To not be held back or discriminated against if we decide to take a pit stop to have a baby or raise a family? To be able to head back into the workforce at a job that has a flexible work schedule or job-share options? Oh wait, we don't have those options. Or at least most of us don't.

Because I get to choose, I feel that there should be choices.

So why isn't it okay for me to feel frustrated by this? I know that I'm fortunate to be able to make a choice about when and where I work. But that does not disqualify me from feeling that the system needs improvements. This isn't about pitting women who want to work against women who have to work or against women elsewhere in the world who have not option but to raise their kids. This is about needing giant changes in corporate America that encourage and reward companies to make returning to a job postpartum as appealing or more appealing as learning to bake Mom's apple pie.

Should I just be silent? Should I not question the system because I don't have to work for "survival?" Pipe down because I'm I should just be grateful I'm not forced to work?

Just because I get to choose to be home with my son does not mean that my brain isn't working and I'm no longer qualified or able to manage a project, meet deadlines, collaborate, create snazzy PowerPoint presentations. I can do these things as well as--if not better than--my childless or male counterparts. Why? Because I'm extra motivated to meet my deadlines and collaborate efficiently so that my employer sees that I'm driven to make a part-time or job-share or work-from-home-some-of-the-time or flexible job a success.

Sadly, though, most mothers won't be given the part-time option to prove that she too can do these things with zeal. I understand my angst and drive to create awareness about the inequities in the workforce won't solve world hunger or end the war in Iraq so that our troops come home alive. That, however, doesn't mean it's not worth being pissed off about.


  1. Anonymous2:36 PM

    OK. Let me explain. It's me again, Anonymous Friend. My intent was not to incite, though looking back at what I wrote I can understand your response. Please allow me to clarify.

    I was not really responding to the political message, but the personal one. I've followed your blog for a while now, and I've seen you descend from the high you reached in April and May, after your first freelance publication, to today's "Money Losing Venture", "Bliss to Piss", "Disillusioned, discouraged, discontinued", and "Uber Quitter".

    So, when I saw "We Are Underemployed", which was in fact an edited version of something you wrote back in January, the symbolism was just too strong to ignore. It seemed as if you felt you were back at square one: searching for options that don't exist, as if your successes of the past 6 months were non-existent.

    Maybe it was the irony of your longing for corporate life that inspired me to comment. I live the corporate life, and it stinks! I long for the freedom to freelance, to work on projects that *I* want to work on, rather than following the sometimes inane paths laid out for me by my superiors. I think a lot of those embroiled in corporate culture would agree with me.

    This is NOT to say that you have it easy; raising a child IS a full time venture, including unpaid overtime. I understand that quite well. But, having the freedom to freelance, without the intense financial pressure that usually accompanies self-employment, seems to me to be an ideal situation.

    Could it be that you expected too much too soon from your new career? After all, there are only so many hours a day, and you do have your parenting responsibilities. Maybe you set the bar impossibly high the first time around. Or maybe you were too accustomed to the mundane security of the corporate world, and were unprepared for your recent setback.

    The fact is, you are in a position to take a step back, re-evaluate, and do it better next time. You have the freedom to do that. And, because there is not a lot of financial pressure, you also have the freedom to FAIL sometimes. So maybe you should take some risks, go edgier next time! You're pissed off about lack of corporate opportunities for moms and dads? So do a survey of the family-friendliness of big companies in your area. Even if you don't sell it, you can publish it here, and you will have done a service to women (and men) in the same situation you are in.

    I just hope you don't give up entirely on a promising new career, just because of one little setback.

  2. Anonymous1:59 AM

    I totally agree with Anonymous (OK, I'm also Anonymous)

    You gave up on freelancing too quickly. You don't stomp off of a job because of one bad experience, so why quit freelancing because of one annoying editor at one publication. There are many publications out there.

    I think you had an unrealistic fantasy about freelancing in your mind and withdrew when faced with reality. It's not all or nothing. I seriously think you should pursue another project.