Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

careers that shouldn't conflict with motherhood

Last week after my entry about why engineering is a good profession for mothers, I wanted to stress that it's an unusually good profession for mothers, and started an entry about how ironic it is that so many of the fields considered "traditional" for women are unusually BAD for mothers.

Especially teaching. Rigid schedules, long hours, and low pay seem to make it the epitome of failure when it comes to work-life balance. But I couldn't write a whole entry clarifying my point because it broke my heart to say that. Teachers do so much for our society. As much as I want to tell a high school girl, "If you want to be a mom someday, engineering blends really well with it!" I don't feel like it's right to say "and by the way teaching DOES NOT, don't be a teacher it's a real mess!"

It's bad for society that people have to look at who they are and what their talents are compared with the cost of childcare and make up a balance sheet for it. I'm currently reading "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" by Judith Warner and it's an excellent book, and it makes the case that if we value what everyone can contribute to our country we have to subsidize, and set standards for, early childcare. She interviews hundreds of mothers and finds that a lot of them who've chosen to stay home didn't really choose it, they just couldn't afford childcare. And a lot of women who stay working are also stretched to the brink, just to afford childcare. The system is awful for both society and our kids. Every other industrialized nation is doing a better job subsidizing childcare than the US is, we have this rugged individualistic approach to parenting that tells parents "do it all yourself, research it all yourself, take your kids to every carefully chosen activity" but it's awful. A lot of us don't know it, but we feel it.

Here's where I find myself caught in the middle as an engineer who chose a lucrative job in my field, married to a stay-at-home dad. I always have this urge to tell women "Be like me, get your degree in something that pays well!" but I feel like that undervalues some things that really are valuable. And I feel for friend in college who got a philosophy major with no real plan for how it'd play out in the career world... in college I was snide to some of those people, who never had to put in 24 hours straight on a senior design project, but now I don't want to just tell them they're all damned and have to give up what careers they have when they have kids just because it won't win the childcare balance sheet.

I always wonder... does everyone deserve a college education? If society was footing the bill, would we let everyone choose any major they wanted? How many artists can we support here? I don't think 18 year olds inherently choose marketable degrees, if college was free how would we as a society strike a balance between the things people want to do, and the things we need them to do?

But that's not the point of the book I'm reading or this entry. I think the degree question should only come after we've addressed the childcare/value question... let's get to a point where we have too many smart qualified teachers in the job market before we tell some "okay, enough of you are majoring in elementary education". Give the writers we have a chance to write and raise their kids at the same time. Reduce turnover. Get someplace good.
Tags: feminism, motherhood
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