Some mothers and daughters garden together. Some mothers and daughters get manicures together. My mother and I submit Op-Eds to The New York Times together.
Since they've already published eleven Letters to the Editor, I strongly doubt we'll get printed (although big thanks to my partner in Hipster-Bashing Crime for submitting on our behalf). Nonetheless, read this article and ask yourself if there might, just maybe, be voices missing from the "many" women cited (ahem, 138 surveyed at Yale-- now, that's just shoddy statistics work). Here's what EJ and Pam had to say:
Today's educated, economically-privileged young women are fortunate to have the choice of seeking full-time employment, full-time motherhood or some combination of the two without overt judgment or barriers from supervisors, neighbors or family. In that spirit, the women cited in "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood" should not be criticized for their early plans to place their future children over their future careers. I feel, however, that the article and the debate are incomplete. I would like to speak for the children of working mothers, particularly their daughters.
Growing up, my sister and I were constantly aware that while we were our parents' first priority, we were far from the only priority. Our family was fortunate to have financial resources for great child care (often my mother's students), but the restricted hours that we had with our parents made family time more valuable. My sister and I were trusted to take care of ourselves after school and had to be independent and resourceful in finding ways to keep ourselves busy. In short, we were not a child-centric household-we were, and are, instead focused on family and community.
As the daughters of a businessman and a university administrator, we were exposed to a vast array of individuals and lifestyles we never would have encountered had we lived solely in a child-centric world. Interacting with their colleagues made us more articulate, more informed and exposed us to many hard-working, kind-hearted role models. For a child or teenager, there is nothing quite like the encouragement of being listened to, taken seriously by an adult whom she respects. That validation and support from my mother's students and colleagues is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
We learned that work can be both challenging and rewarding. Our parents' experiences have given us realistic expectations for how hard we will need to work if we are to achieve our professional goals. I have no illusions about realities for working parents, and while I hope for a more flexible and equitable environment if and when I become a mother, I am realistic about that likelihood. I fear many of the women who expect to have children and reenter the workplace after five or more years of full-time parenting are in for a rude awakening.
Most importantly, my sister and I had a living example of the difficulty in balancing family and career. We witnessed our mother work hard at both, sometimes to the point of neglecting her own needs. We saw her bravely overcome professional challenges and, through hard work and phenomenal people skills, rise to the top of her field. We learned what it was to be proud of our parents' achievements, and that made their pride in ours even sweeter. Our best personal and professional role model drove us to play practice after hosting New Freshman Orientation for two thousand students.
Feminism is about freedom to make choices and pursue them with equality of the sexes. Still, I hear women my age discuss their future as stay-at-home-moms and I wonder if that decision is truly in the best interest of the child. Is it really best for a child to grow up thinking she is the center of her parents' universe? Or, might it be in everyone's best interest for that child to become a member of a stimulating, supportive community of individuals?
It deeply worries me to hear high-achieving young women say that they can't be the best worker and the best mother. What is "the best" in either of these categories, and who determines it? Combining work and motherhood is difficult, but my sister and I are living proof that the product is often better off for the effort.
As EJ's mom, I am gratified and grateful to know how she has benefited from my choice to have a career, successful marriage, and two wonderful children. As an educator and a mom, I urge young women to work for all they aspire to. With hard work and much joy, they can be successful as both parents and professionals. Full-time parenthood and community activities can be the right choice for some educated women - but there are risks with that choice that are not always considered. Death, disability, or divorce can devastate a one-income family, dependence upon a husbands's income can cause imbalance and stress in a marriage, and stopping out for a number of years can harm one's professional growth. I've known hundreds of college students- the characteristics of academic accomplishment, work ethic and character, social skills, self-reliance, and community-mindedness are found in young adults from a wide variety of backgrounds, including those with moms who have demanding careers.