Career Women, Welcome to Mommyhood (or Not?) *Updated*

"I feel like everything went downhill when women went to work instead of staying home."

I heard that line recently during a conversation.  I don't think she meant it in the way she said it, and I think she was looking for other words to describe her thoughts.  Still, after she slammed the CEO of Yah.oo for having a baby and then planning on going back to work mere weeks after giving birth, I took issue with the statements. 

What is it about women that we feel so capable in pronouncing one way wrong and one way right?  I suppose this also applies to society in general, but this is the first time I've felt put down for my choice to work.  And, in my case, it is a choice, not a necessity.

Over the past few months I've read several blog posts regarding the Ti.me Ma.gazine cover, the "Can Women Have it All" articles and, well, variations the the themes.  In general, I felt it was just media playing to sensationalism, and that me, in my insulated world of friends who have careers, was pretty removed from it all.  And then this happened.

Not so insulated am I?  Is anyone?  I don't regret my decision.  I'm sure as hell not going to let random articles or parenting books make me feel guilty.  It's difficult though to just roll my eyes and when it's a friend making these kinds of statements.

When we don't know the circumstances, other than the CEO of Ya.hoo is pregnant and plans on only taking a few weeks off before going back to work, why do we even feel the right to judge her?  We don't know her situation or what she has worked out in the way of childcare, or teleworking, or how much she even plans on working when she goes back!  Yes, most of us would probably not be able to pull it off.  It's probably the most difficult of juggling between a high powered, high pressure job and being a new mother.  But she thinks she can do it.  Her husband is presumably on board with the plan, and Ya.hoo hired her knowing she was pregnant.  How does this affect anyone other than those within her circle? 

It doesn't.  It doesn't affect my life or my friend's life one whit.  My friend seems to have decided she'll stay at home once she has kids.  Good for her.  I don't tell her I think she's wasting her college education if she chooses to stay home.  (For the record, I don't think she is, it's just an example of something I could state that is equally as damning as her statement to me).

Women have been in the workforce for decades.  My mom, S's mom, my grandmother all had/have full time jobs when they had children.  I think we're doing pretty well given that three generations of mothers have been in the workforce.  If working mothers is what caused "everything" to go "downhill", then how in the name of all that is holy, did S and I manage to become productive members of society?  It's a mystery!

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After getting myself all worked up over this issue, I decided I needed to have a discussion with my friend, so I sent a quick e-mail saying that I was hurt by the statement and was wondering if she could elaborate.  Her response was interesting because now, I don't think that her statement was really portraying what she thinks is a problem.  Maybe it's an ancillary part of the problem, but as she's an educator, she cited a whole lot of examples of kids not getting homework done, kids not having a lunch to eat because their parents forgot, and on and on.  So, yes, I suppose some of that could be part of a the larger issue of 2 parents working and not having time to attend to some of their children's needs.  However, I wonder if parents who already tend to lean towards not fully meeting their children's needs are using work as an excuse.  I know teachers have an uphill battle these days, and I think that's the point she's driving at.  Some parents don't discipline, and some parents expect the teachers to discipline, and then the same parents blame the teachers!  I'm sure teachers spend the bulk of their time dealing with those situations.  But is that a 2-parent working problem?  Or is that a parenting problem?  I tend to think it's parenting techniques or lack therof that are to blame.  And sure, because people are stressed out working, maybe they feel like they don't have the time or energy to discipline their children.  It's hard to discipline, it takes a ton of time, and you have to deal with kids who are going to push boundaries non-stop.  It's easier to roll over, not fight the battles, and figure it'll work itself out.  (aren't these the same people who can't figure out how their teenagers turned into the devil incarnate?)  However, I wonder if these same parents would really have a different parenting style if one of them stayed home?

Oh, and her point was also that it's not necessarily women who shouldn't work, just that there should be at least one parent who has a reduced schedule so that more time can be devoted to the child/ren.  So, ok, it was a poor choice of words  that doesn't exactly illustrate the main point.  When she explains it further, I agree that there are some major problems with the way other people parent.  However, are these new problems, or do we just long for a nostalgic so-called simpler time because we think the simpler time (i.e. 1950's) is better?  I'm willing to bet that it was just as hard, albeit in different ways.  The 1950's was hardly idyllic for many groups of people, especially minorities and women.  We're swayed by tv shows portraying how people thought life should be, not how life really was.