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Motherhood vs. Career ~ Is There No Compromise?

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In the 50s, most women were simply mothers. By the 1970s, women had joined the career track and were working hard to break through the glass ceiling. In the 80s, women wore shoulder pads and power suits in attempts to appear more masculine and powerful – but despite zeitgeist films like Mr. Mom and Daddy Daycare, and the rise of groups of Stay at Home Dads, the perception remains that it’s women – not men, who must decide between parenthood and a career. Is there no compromise?

Despite perceptions, women have always worked. There was work to do around the farm, and women counted chickens, milked cows, churned butter and raised children without the convenience of take-out food. In the 1940s when the men were off fighting World War II, that left only the women behind to work in the bomber plants and Rosie the Riveter was born. But with women working and men working, who does that leave to take care of the family?

Childcare is one of the major issues behind the motherhood versus career debate. Some people are firmly behind day care from birth. Others feel it’s fine once a child is a toddler, but that it’s important for someone to stay home with the children in the early years. Whatever your feeling may be, realize that it doesn’t have to be the mother – the father could stay home with the children; aunts, uncles or grandparents could care for the children. Parents could take turns working from home. There are lots of options.  In our household, we decided that my husband would stay home to take care of the kids and I would have the career.  He has been a stay at home dad now for 18 years.  I know that I couldn’t be as successful at my career if he wasn’t at home taking care of the kids and all that needed to be done around the house.  It was a choice we made when our youngest was born and we have not regretted it in any way.  Sometimes the finances got tight but we always knew that it was better for one of us to be home than to have the kids in daycare.

Some types of career are more conducive to parenthood than others. Education has long been a popular field for those who want to be able to devote sufficient time to their families. With two months off in the summer, a week in December and a week in the spring, many parents find that they are able to enjoy vacations with their families and spend time together in the after school hours.

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Other jobs with flexible hours also work. Freelance writing lends itself easily to parenthood, as does any job that allows a parent the flexibility to work from home.

More and more industries are making this possible. The computer industry seems to fall under two extremes: on the one hand, some companies don’t care what hours their workers keep as long as they get the job done. They offer unlimited vacation time, flexible schedules and work from home opportunities. Other computer-oriented jobs, on the other hand, are calling their workers in more and more, offering in-house exercise gyms, in-house social activities, even cots for naps or spending the night at the office. With a message like that, how does a person with a family hope to survive?

Keep in mind the phrase, “It takes a village.” Who can you enlist? Are your parents or in-laws in town? Do you have brothers or sisters? What about the parents of other children in your child’s class? Some parents have worked out the idea that there can be a co-op, sharing rides, carpooling on various days of the week or even babysitting or making dinner. Consider finding some like-minded parents who can help out.

In the end, whether a woman decides to “lean in” to her career on all four cylinders or whether a woman chooses a career that works easily to balance work and home, there’s one key phrase to keep in mind: “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Figure out what makes you happy, and then go do that.

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