Thursday, November 17, 2011

Working Vs. Staying Home

Many of my students had addressed, either in class or in their journals, the issue of gender roles in marriage and when it came to raising children. Many felt that it's the role of the husbands and fathers to work, to provide financially for the family, while the women should stay home, be supportive of the husband, and primarily raise the children. And there's a certain amount of validity to this in that someone does, in fact, need to go out and earn a paycheck, while someone needs to care for the children while they're young. There is something to be said for one of the parents providing a level of care that the child might not otherwise get, as well as being there for those important moments.

However, many of my students have different perspectives, being younger, unmarried, and having grown up in a more conservative state than I. Some of their logic is the result of inexperience (as mine would have been, too), or is simply a cliche. One student noted that gender roles were important when raising children because the father could play ball with his son and the mother could take her daughter shopping.

Yet as a woman, I appreciate the Catch-22 that many of my friends and acquaintances are facing: Either one's career stagnates (there are exceptions), or someone else watches the kid. Obviously, if one is a single parent, or the family needs the paychecks that both parents would bring, that decision is made for you.

Women tend to face this struggle more than men. Among other reasons, it's acceptable and expected, when financially possible, for women to stay home; yet women get judged both for staying home with their children and not having a career, or for having a career and not staying home with her child.

I don't want to be the parent who stays home with her kid for the duration, although I would have less of an issue staying home with the kid when she's younger; once she's in school, though, off I go.

We've only really begun looking into adoption so we don't have a lot of information yet, but we won't be able to adopt until we're more financially secure. Yet both of us working would mean that our child would need to be put in daycare until she started school, unless one of us were to stay home with her, which in turn would likely mean a drop in income - unless we work different shifts. (And shift work brings a whole other set of issues; the type of work we're both qualified for doesn't lend itself to shift work, which means the type of shift work we could do may or may not cover the cost of day care. It also means that we would rarely see each other. Additionally, one parent would literally never get to sleep, if the stay-at-home parent were watching the child all day then working at night.)

Ironically, adjuncting would be a good job to have while raising a child, although what it makes up for in flexibility it detracts in pay. One of the big reasons I considered teaching at the secondary level was that it would mesh with our child's life, while still paying decently.

For a variety of reasons, some of which are my own doing and some of which are not, I'm starting my career a bit later than do many other women, so I constantly and consistently feel like I'm about 10 years behind everyone else. This is ridiculous and I know it; this is not a contest. I'm not an especially competitive person, either; I want to do as well as I'm able to, but I don't feel pressured to get a postgraduate degree, chair a departmentm or present at a lot of conferences. I'll teach as long as I can teach, although I do have to watch myself there, because I feel seeds of bitterness in watching other younger people grab full-time teaching positions sooner, while I've been job hunting for a full-time position for four years.

I'm loath to give up a career for a child, yet I'm loath to think that I might miss an important milestone, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment