This week after being overwhelmed with articles on women’s choices from one end of the spectrum to the other, I decided to take this Monday to write my thoughts on the subject. A substitution for the Woman Entrepreneur of the Week.
I started thinking about this when I caught a glimpse of the front page of New York Magazine this past week and was looking forward to reading the top story; “The Feminist Housewife”.
The timing could not be more perfect for this article. The past month have been filled with endless articles about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. The week before was the conversation on Marissa Mayer and her policy changes at Yahoo. The chorus was singing, rise to the top, be the woman we all can be, break through those glass ceilings. You can do it all even if you get blasted from the press and everyone around you.
Bottom line is, nobody can have it all if you are a man or a woman. It is not possible. No matter what choice you make as you go down the path of life there are always compromises to be made. Being honest about them is a whole other ballgame.
The article about the Feminist Housewife was interesting. It portrayed women who have made a conscious decision to stay at home. Some women depending on their generation believe that these women, who are educated with solid jobs that are seeing an upward trajectory in their careers are making a mistake by opting out of their careers. We worked so hard to get here, how could you possibly decide to stay home like a 50’s housewife?
The answer is simple. We live in a fast paced world that is very different from the land of Ozzie and Harriet. Years ago when I was running a company in garment center, I would hear the same story from many of the women buyers over and over again. They worked incredibly hard with serious long hours and so did their husbands. They would get home and most evenings just bring something home for dinner to make life easier. The kids would either be picked up at daycare on the way home or they were teenagers who were doing whatever they wanted in the afternoon with zero supervision or guidance. Dinner would be stressful as the night was filled with angst of homework, household chores and catching up. The night would end and they would all go to sleep and do it again the next day. On the weekend, the majority of Saturday would be spent running errands in order for the weeks to run semi-smoothly. It was terribly stressful on everyone including the kids. So if one of the parents salary is just covering childcare, if they even have that, then the idea of having one parent run the household and the other person bring in the cash makes for a less stressful environment. Of course, if both people have bought into that concept. What would be wonderful is if half the people who choose to stay home and run the household are men. Maybe some of those men are better at keeping schedules, doing laundry, making dinner, helping the kids with homework and organizing their lives. Then nobody would even have the conversation about women opting out of their career to stay home.
Here is the other challenge, once you get off the train, for let’s say 10 years, how do you get back on? Sheryl, Marissa and others have been groomed their whole lives just like Jaime Dimon (Chase), Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs) and Robert Iger (Disney) to graduate from college then go on to on to graduate school and run a largely traded companies. These are not people who started their own companies with an idea, but run these companies.
I stayed home for four years when our kids were young. We went apple picking, we baked chocolate chip cookies, we spent plenty of time at play dates and parks, I even ran the soccer division (the only woman on the field). I managed our lives and for a time, it worked for me, until it didn’t. It didn’t because I wasn’t happy doing that anymore. I mentally needed more. I wanted to think about growing businesses instead of what was for dinner. I still think about what I am making for dinner but I wanted to do that while thinking about business. I was able to get back on the train and reinvent my career.
There are more choices now than ever for everyone. More women are starting their own businesses and more men are too. There are opportunities to work in flexible situations where you can be a bit more balanced. Technology has changed the workplace but it has also changed the home life. You can order your groceries online, yet we are also running at a very insane pace. I get the reason why someone in the household wants to stay home and be the constant with their kids. I also get the reason why someone does not want to stay home but figure out how to have their career and kids too. I understand both sides.
At the end of the day, it is all about what works for you and what works for you and your partner. I was sitting at the playground at my nieces school this week watching the 4-10 year old kids running around the playground. As gender issues are the constant hot topic these days, I zeroed in on the boys all over the basketball court slamming into each other trying to get the ball in the basket and only one girl joining in on that fun. Across the court were the swings, where most of the girls hung out and played while chatting. Is that nature or nurture? I am a believer that most of it is nature.
So, the beauty for women is that we have options galore, actually more than men. We can get educated and lead the charge like Sandberg, we can get educated and choose to take a different career path, we can stay at home, we can go in to non-profits, we can become anything we want. We can leave the game and we can come back to the game. But at the end of the day, that one thing that we have zero choice in is that we all need to applaud each other no matter what choices we make. I want to stop reading about other women disrespecting choices that women make. We are women and we can make any damn choices that we choose. Life is long and we should each do what makes us happy in our own personal life without anyone passing judgement on the choices we make. Bravo to the woman who choose to leave a career of law and stay home and bravo to the woman who choose to start her own law firm when she has three kids under 4 at home. It is her choice and we should applaud the fact that we get to make those choices.
Featured image via shutterstock