As a young woman in the workforce, I am bombarded with media stories about the “Mommy Wars” between working mothers and stay-at-home moms and the “off-ramping/on-ramping” a woman’s career takes if she decides take an off-ramp from the freeway of corporate life to raise children. How to best approach working motherhood seems to be a loaded question, soliciting the harshest critics on either side with no sign of agreement in sight.
Is it possible for women to have it all—a career, a husband and a family?
In the Go-Go 80s, women were told and encouraged to have it all. Films like Baby Boom, Working Girl and even Mr. Mom all showed that women could have successful, high-powered careers as well as fulfilling personal lives—even if it took some creative arrangements to get there.
A generation later, the tides seem to be turning, with a flood of personal stories saying exactly the opposite—having a full-time career cannot be combined with full-time motherhood.
Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk, recently shared her story about hiring house manager to help run her household in addition to a nanny and a personal assistant. She argues that a stay-at-home spouse (or hired equivalent) is a necessity in an age where a high-powered career requires 24/7 focus.
“So I want you to know what it’s really like to be a woman competing with the men who have stay-at-home wives: Expensive. There are jokes about the hyperbole of the annual study that says that housewives are worth six-figures. I think it is not hyperbole. Those men are getting not just a house manager, but someone who adores his kids, is there all the time, and someone who is willing to have some sort of regular sex life. For all that, the estimate of $100,000 a year seems very low.”
“So here’s my advice to women who want a big career and a stable family: You need to earn a lot of money to make that happen. I don’t know a stay-at-home dad who is seriously taking care of kids full-time, over the course of five-to-seven years, without a lot of money in the bank. And I don’t know a woman who has a huge career without money to support a bunch of people to take care of things at home.”
The Wall Street Journal supports Penelope’s advice by showcasing words of wisdom from top executives who don’t apologize for putting their careers first:
“For years, many ambitious women were ducking criticism that a high-powered job meant they cared only about their careers and would never have a family — or have one that was neglected. Now, women who have climbed high up the corporate ladder are asserting that they have a lot to celebrate and nothing to apologize for.”
“After all, plenty of women toil at much lower-level jobs and work just as hard, but don’t get the big rewards of their high-placed counterparts — from substantial compensation to the chance to make decisions instead of just following them.”
It seems as if women are almost forced to choose between family and a career.
Should you work long hours or spend more time with your kids? Will your kids be better off having memories of playing catch or with a fully-paid college fund? What kind of lifestyle will make you happiest? Summers at the beach? Or networking with international titans?
These are the types of decisions that everyone with a family has had to make at some point in their lives, regardless of their gender. Only the individual can truly asses what values they have and what type of lifestyle they want and can afford. I worry that I won’t make enough money to quit my job should I want to stay-at-home with my future children and that I would be robbed of a choice at all.