Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Young women turning to full-time motherhood, Or how I aspired to be a concert pianist

There is a NY Times article about young women in elite colleges planning to abandon career aspirations in favor of home-making. Here's the article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/national/20women.html?incamp=article_popular_1

My reaction to it is as follows:

On the one hand, I am disturbed by what seems to me as a regression to the 1950s: these women could have careers (as much as Title VII will protect from bumps on the career path), but they're choosing motherhood. However, several things are worth noting:

1. These women are in their late teens - at that age, I still thought I'd be a concert pianist (I was unusually dense for my age).

2. Maybe most of them will marry men who could support such a lifestyle, but some of them will realize that they have to work, or else they eat poorly. (I realized that when I married my husband, a former civil rights lawyer and currently a professor, that if we want Piper to have the kind of education Scott had, we both better work).

3. The way the choice is articulated ("working" vs. "staying home") means that these women clearly have no idea that raising children is more than walking to the park or baking cookies. I have had to take care of Piper for more than half a day only on a few occasions. Once, I called Scott and asked him to leave his meeting early, because I was exhausted and so inept that I could not figure out how to go to the bathroom while watching Piper. Taking care of Piper is more work than I've ever done in my life - and she is a fairly undemanding baby.

4. I love Piper more than I thought possible. But taking care of her all day bored me to tears, and I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and holding a funeral for my dead neurons. Scott reports the same feeling. Feeling bored taking care of my beloved baby sends me into the pit of guilt, but honesty will prevail.

So, to summarize my long tirade: there is no telling where these women will end up. Right now it is all talk for them. As they say, "man plans, god laughs."

P.S. Here is Slate's critique of the article.
http://www.slate.com/id/2126636/

To summarize it in one sentence, the article's references to "many" women are misleading, the NYT author did a sloppy job, and her "studies" are fatally flawed.

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