Thursday, October 24, 2013

(Alpha) women struggle pursuing both family and career.

Mollie Hemingway, Federalist senior editor, presents a darker picture, darker than Margaret Wente’s portrait earlier of “alpha women,” of the female struggle for full lives encompassing both “pursuit of excellence” and “care for others.” Hemingway is drawing from an article by Baylor political science professor Elizabeth Corey, who writes that efforts to balance parenting and professional work have a fatal flaw:
One requires “persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative.” The other requires “attention, focus, care, patience, and self-sacrifice.” They are not happily harmonized.
Corey adds,
this conflict in the soul does not go away, no matter how pleasant and accommodating our colleagues may be, or how flexible our schedules. We are limited, embodied creatures. These limits mean that we cannot do everything to its fullest extent at once, and certain things we may not be able to do at all.
Seems Hemingway raises the right question. Anyway, she generated thoughtful answers from 8 parents, including one father:
  • I worked hard to have a fun, exciting, high-profile career in the sports and entertainment industry. And then I had my first child. I always thought I’d return to work after my daughter’s birth, but some new software got installed in me and all I wanted to do was stay home with my baby. I was shocked. 
  • [Some] jobs, like being a counselor or working with the poor, can demand precisely the kind of other focus that she speaks of so compellingly with regard to motherhood (and, to my mind, fatherhood). 
  • “career pursuit” [can mean] obtaining the skills, credentials, experience, reputation, and position to pay your way. But it can also be portrayed as an idol of narcissism, personal achievement, and self-justification, which supersedes duties to family. . . disturbing . . . this view appears to be going mainstream among our future mothers. . . little room in our culture to admire putting asides [sic] one’s own comfort and desires for the good of others. 
  • Work is done to support our families. This idea of them being such separate things is a fairly modern luxury. I think it’s wonderful for women to be able to pursue something other than domesticity, but family should come first, as it also should for men. 
  • the U.S. workplace does not put families first. Not by a long shot. In the United States, the needs of the workplace always seem to trump the needs of the family, for both men and women. 
  • "Excellence in a particular field requires persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative.” I would agree. Why not then view child raising as a “particular field” in which the mother should strive to use her talents of persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative? Why do we view ourselves as having wasted our talents when raising our children?
  • being able to provide your child with your undivided attention whenever they demand it [isn’t] actually a desirable goal and . . . careers [aren’t] uniquely in conflict with this goal. . . a career is not necessarily in conflict with providing undivided attention on a regular basis, it is only in conflict with undivided attention on demand 24 hours a day. 
  • “limited, embodied creatures” . . . means accepting that we simply aren’t meant or intended or designed to achieve both excellence and nurturing — at least, not in the fullest sense of each. It’s not a depressing or unjust reality, in my view. It’s liberating to accept it and learn to appreciate striving not for balance or ultimate success in two fundamentally conflicting arenas, but rather for a lot of success in one and medium-success in the other. 
With one exception, the unscientific sample agrees it’s hard to do both. And, I would guess, so would most alpha women.


MeiMei said...

I completely agree that our government values work over family, and that we are still struggling, decades into women's lib, to put a value on work at home with the family.

Galen Fox said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Incidentally, the parent who made the comment about the U.S. not supporting child raising enough has also lived in Central America, Africa and Asia.