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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

College women set on at-home motherhood

The NY Times ran an article yesterday called, "Many Women at Elite colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood."

It's basically a story about college women at Yale University who have already decided that when the time comes to have kids, they won't wonder about whether or not they should continue a career or take time off to be with their kids. "My mother's always told me can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Cynthia Liu told the Times. "You always have to choose one over the other." The majority of those college women surveyed said they'd choose family.

I wrote the following as a comment to Elizabeth's post at Half Changed World:

Two of the things that bothered me most about the article: 1) it did NOT talk about how moving in and out of the workforce isn't easy. It isn't easy to find a job that will let you drop to part-time after you have a baby. It isn't easy to take three, four, or six years off to have kids and then jump back in. These young women just assume it will be easy for them. These incredibly educated women plan to leave corporate America for a bunch of years while they raise their babies. This is what my group of mom-friends has already done, but we are just floundering, wondering if we'll ever get back in there in any meaningful way. But it does tell me is that this trend is not going away. And 2) It did not talk about how corporate America is going to *HAVE* to change and adapt to these women. Otherwise, I fear we are moving backwards. I fear that businesses will become even more hesitant (even though it's illegal), to hire women in the first place, especially women of child-bearing age.


I think it's great that these women know that they want to have kids early in life. When I was in my late teens or early twenties, the idea of having kids was about as appealing as dabbing rubbing alcohol on an open wound. So the fact that they know they want kids and that they want to be with those kids, they are at least a step ahead of me.

But fulfilling their expectations won't be easy unless our society learns to value motherhood. It reminds me of a piece that Miriam at Playground Revolution wrote earlier this week called, "On my mind." It's about how we're always talking about stuff, but nothing is really changing. And that really hit home for me. I commented:

...What are we doing? I'm always talking and writing, writing and talking about these issues that affect women/mothers in the work place, but really I know nothing about making any kind of change....


So to buck the trend of me just writing and talking about stuff, I'm giving myself a homework assignment. Assignment #1: I'm going to identify two people who are working on women in the workplace issues and see what I can do.

These Yale women might want to work and take time off to be with their kids and then head back to work along a smooth road, but unless some serious changes happen, it will probably be a lot bumpier than they envision. I know it has been for me.

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, in all seriousness to those young women who seem to be counting on their ability to ease right back into the workforce after a five- to ten-year hiatus: good luck with that.

    I know a few women who have done that, but not one of them has found it to be easy.

    I'm also amazed at the sincerity with which these young women speak about their future plans. At 18, I was certain I never wanted to have kids or get married. Heh, whoops.

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  2. I wasn't ready for kids when I was in college.

    Unlike these young women, I decided (when I did have kids) to try not to go back to work at all.

    I can't even imagine how hard it would be if I ever had to return to the workforce.

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