Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Neo-traditional

I get the sense that there is some kind of neo-traditional thing going on with young women and their life goals. It makes me re-think the assumptions I grew up with and I like it. A few weeks ago the New York Times published an article about a study that has found that a large percentage of young women who are studying at some Ivy League universities plan to become stay-at-home moms once they have children. I'm sure this has a lot of "Feminists" up in arms but I think it's kind of cool. First of all, the fact that these young women have even thought about their futures to the point of getting married and having children puts them way ahead of where I was at their age. Coming of age in the 80s, I was mostly just thinking about where the next party was and what kind of dumbass thrilling adventure I could find next. Family and children weren't even on the map for me when I was in college. It wasn't cool to be thinking about that kind of thing and even less cool to admit it if you were. Raised with Free to Be You and Me and the whole women's lib movement, it seemed like some kind of betrayal to consider full time domestic committment an option when the Enjoli woman was singing "I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in a pan. And never let you forget you're a man." We were supposed to go out and conquer the world like our mothers never could since they were supposedly stuck at home tied down by their apron strings.
I've seen this neo-retro attitude closer to home with my own students. Today in class, while practicing conversations about wanting to do things in the future, a student said she wanted to become a housewife. I started to talk with her about it a little because in light of the NYT article I found it interesting to see it might not be just an Ivy League phenomenon. The student told me both her parents work and her mom probably earns more than her dad, but both she and her sister want to stay home with their children when the time comes. I told her I thought that was cool and that it's hard work. I also mentioned that it must drive some of the female professors my age and older a little crazy to hear it. I've heard other students with working moms comment that they spent a lot of time in day care as kids and didn't like it and wished they had been able to spend more time with their moms around.
I realize not every family can afford to have a stay at home mom. Probably most can't. But for me it's nice to see younger people valuing that role. It also makes me feel less guilty for the choices I'm making about my career now and allowing me to realize that my students might actually understand and possibly even respect that I arrange my teaching schedule around my parenting schedule, and not just their convenience. They might find a 2pm class would suit their leisure, but it doesn't fit my life at the moment. Maybe they didn't even care that I dashed out at the end of afternoon classes last year to be able to make it in time to pick up my daughter from school. For so long I had this rule in my mind that said it wasn't professional to appear to have a life outside of my role at work while I was at work. And in my personal life I was encouraged to think that any yearning I had for traditional family roles was backwards and wrong. I still think that people should have a choice, as far as reality will permit it. It's just kind of funny to finally allow myself to consider all the choices as well.

1 comment:

momof2 said...

I consider myself a feminist, to a degree. And I think there's nothing more admirable, than a woman who choses to graduate from an ivy league school and go on to stay home with children. She's accomplishing her educational goal - for herself - and living a dream of fulltime motherhood. When someone can have a power career yet decide to stay home and do the more than full time job of being a mom- that speaks volumes. That's living according to your own priorities and not society's standards and I think it's wonderful.