Last week in Women's Studies we watched a really great documentary about women in the creative arts who were balancing work and family. While their specific career path was what we were learning about, I think that many of the ideas presented in the video could be applied to working women in general. All these issues intertwine but here are some of the ones that I have thought of in terms of my own personal journey:
Issue #1 - Mom, will you stay at home or keep working?
So you have a baby. Now everyone around you is asking, what now? The first issue, obviously, is money. Can you afford to stay home or work? According to the U.S. census., the average woman in 2005 made $33,075 per year and the average man in 2006 made 43,317 (insert anger and disbelief here...). In many households, the choice of "stay at home or not?" is irrelevant, there isn't enough money for one person to stay home. Or one person makes the bulk of the money and the other has all the healthcare benefits.
The second, is what do you and your partner want for your family? In my family's case, my mom and dad both decided early on that my mom would stay at home and my dad would work. They worked together financially and logistically after they married to make sure that this would be possible. It's not my ideal partnership for me but they're very happy and I've had an extremely stable, loving household all my life.
But if both parties are working, the baby needs to be in childcare. According to the National Association of Child Care Resources and Refferal Agencies, infant child care in a center costs anywhere between $4,560 - $15,895 a year in a center. That's a huge chunk of someone's paycheck!
Issue #2 - Okay, you've made the first decision, what now?
If you're staying at home, what are your responsibilities? Are you completely responsible for all cooking, cleaning, laundry and childcare? When do you get time for yourself during this 24/7 job? How long will you stay home and will you be able to still qualify for jobs when you enter the workforce again?
If you're going back to work, how much are you working? Full time, part time, out of your home? Are you staying in the same job or taking a different, more flexible position? Where will your child go for childcare? What happens if your kid gets sick? Will you be "mommy tracked" in your job because of your split focus (or have you been "mommy tracked" already before even having a kid)? How will the household duties be split, now that they will grow exponentially.
Issue #3 - Living "The Dream"
So you make all these decisions, you're at home or you're at work; you're doing the cooking and he's cleaning, whatever. How will it actually work? Are you in a partnership where your goals are the same as your partners? Do you have schedules where you can work, take care of baby, get everything else done, and still make time to be a couple? How supportive of your family life is your job?
One thing that really depressed me (and others in the class) about the women artists film was that 3 out of 5 of them ended up divorced. It makes me wonder, can you really "have it all"? As a woman, can you be happily married, be a good parent, have a career you enjoy and not collapse from a nervous breakdown?
"The master's tools will never destroy the master's house"
One bright side of the film that I liked was the ability for these women to stop trying to "make it" in already created, male dominated structures, but to create their own life pictures that worked for their lives, families and selves. One woman stopped auditioning for Broadway shows and started her own business doing theatre camps. For years I have wanted to eventually become an entrepreneur because of the freedom I think it can create. My hope is that I would be able to do what I love, create my own schedule, be financially independent and feel fulfilled.
Check back on me in about 20 years if you care to! haha