Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an article that profiled working mothers who had “opted out” of the workforce to raise their children and now would like to return. The article described the challenges they face attempting to return to the workforce and the regret they have about having opted out in the first place. The article also discusses the challenges experienced by working women who gallantly attempt to “have it all” even when there is little institutional support for them to try to make working and mothering work and great pressure to get women who can afford to stay home financially to “do what is best for their children”. Lost in the argument about what is best for the children is what may be best for the mother, long term.
Shouldn't be a part of the discussion?
Working Full-Time and Raising Children Can be Overwhelming
It's a very rich topic. As a fulltime working mom, I don't question why some women choose to quit their jobs and stay home with their children. Indeed, I am surprised that not more women do. The pressures of raising a family are so enormous and consuming that it's hard to have great foresight.Many women who leave the workforce fail to consider the complications of re-entering the workforce because their vision is blurred by the guilt and exhaustion that accompany being a working mom.
The conflict is real. And unlike you job, you can’t quit your kids. (Actually you can, but people go to jail for that…) Every working mom I know feels overwhelmed because our working culture does not support families. Most work because they have to, but find very little institutional support for it. The culture is largely built on the model that one partner works and the other manages the home. It is the outdated model that seems to keep on giving and leading corporations astray.
It's not hard to find financial justifications for quitting either. For working parents with babies or toddlers childcare is generally the family's largest expense. Guilt + Exhaustion + Expensive Childcare = Stressed out Parents in Search of a Solution. Those mothers that can often choose to "opt out" of the workforce and "opt in" to Lululemon Yoga Pants and fulltime motherhood. Leaving the rat race feels good, the households become more organized, and they believe that they "did the right thing" kind of like people who choose to join the Peace Corps. The future when they might return to work seems very distant...
Opting Back Into the Workforce, a Topic that Has Gone Viral
Like all good topics about working mothers from Anne Marie Slaughter’s infamous, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead book, the New York Times piece has “gone viral” and launched a series of follow up articles, including this one. I will be discussing this issue as well as other relevant issues to working women tomorrow evening on Night Talk. Please tune in!
“The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-generation-wants-back-in.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
“Moms 'opting in' to work find doors shut” http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/13/living/parents-mothers-opt-to-work
“Why Opt-Out Moms Can't Catch Up” http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/08/12/why-opt-out-moms-cant-catch-up/