Cultural Courage

I cannot tell you how many women I know who are struggling with the reality of trying to balance work and family. Truth is, there is no balance. I describe it as a see-saw. When do you ever see one of them perfectly balanced? The problem is, so much in our modern lives as parents demands so much more time and attention – I think it’s actually getting harder for working mothers to make it work.

Schools rely on parent volunteers more than ever, because of budget cuts. I split a 30+ student classroom with a teacher every Monday last year and don’t know how the teacher would have accomplished what he wanted without parent help. And I just covered one day – other parents do much more than I ever could. After-school activities like sports teams are also more time-consuming than they were when I was a kid. My 12 year old has three two hour practices a week for a B-team and two games on the weekend. The last one was in Red Bluff. We met in the parking lot at 7:30 am. I had to make sure we got back in time to get him to school for a play in which he was performing. This made it impossible for me even to see my other son, who also had to travel to Red Bluff for two games. late in the day. My husband and I passed each other on the road. I did get to see him at 10pm. Sound familiar to anyone out there? Half the weekend, gone. And no laundry done.

As for the husband/wife balance, husbands are doing more domestic chores and childcare than ever before. However, women still handle more of the domestic duties. For whatever reason, that’s just the way it is. I know I’m the one who does the doctor/dentist appointment scheduling, carpool coordination, birthday party planning, dry cleaning pick-ups etc. My husband and I have tried divvying up the duties more evenly but I just get it done without reminding and faster.

Just last week statistics came out showing more women are earning graduate degrees than men for the first time ever. Great news. But much of that education ends up wasted. A persistent pay gap and glass ceiling still exist – for a variety of reasons. Frankly, though, most mothers I know have dropped out of the work force (and they realize they are lucky to have that option) because they cannot do it all. At least very well. Even flex-time is a perk I’ve never seen offered and is so rare in other industries, that I’ve done news stories that highlight the companies brave enough to try it.

And bravery is what changing all this would require. I know that bottom lines are what drive businesses and the prospect of offering benefits like health care to part-time working Moms doesn’t always pencil out. However, we aired a story today about a new CareerBuilder study showing even single working mothers who are struggling in this economy would be willing to accept a smaller paycheck to work fewer hours. And believe me, when they’re at work, working mothers FOCUS to get the job done. No time to chit-chat. We have to make life efficient. The productivity would pencil out.

In exasperation, I said to a co-worker today it may take another 100 years to see a cultural shift that would allow more of a work/life balance. However, I hope it doesn’t. And I’d argue it would be best to offer Dads the same flexible opportunities. No way to truly change the culture and have them take on more domestic duties without being given time to do it all, right?

Comments

One Comment

  1. Ran Slaten says:

    I absolutely do not understand how wives/mothers (and especially single moms) are able to accomplish all the daily challenges and events. They have a minimum of three jobs and still only have 24 hours in a day. I have immense respect for women who deal with this stuff every day. Just the event of having a baby would probably kill a man. God could not always be everywhere at once, so He invented mothers. Hats off to you wonderful human beings..

  2. Ran Slaten says:

    I absolutely do not understand how wives/mothers (and especially single moms) are able to accomplish all the daily challenges and events. They have a minimum of three jobs and still only have 24 hours in a day. I have immense respect for women who deal with this stuff every day. Just the event of having a baby would probably kill a man. God could not always be everywhere at once, so He invented mothers. Hats off to you wonderful human beings..

  3. DUHH says:

    I am woman, hear me roar.

  4. Karl says:

    Ah, in the aftermath of the feminist movement is this dilemma: the “choice” that feminists fought for has become an “obligation” to many. Women in today’s culture are made to feel like they’re not doing enough if they decide not to work and care for their family. Be honest Pallas, you say you handle more of the domestic chores because it gets done quicker if you do it, but isn’t there a part of you that feels you’re not doing enough if you ask your husband to do thosre things?

    My wife made the choice to be a stay at home mom, and I fully support it. I also still do a share of the household duties and I schedule the doctor’s appts because I know how much work raising kids is. I know that most of the broad generalizations you made in your blog are statistically true, so I’m struggling not to be offended by them. I would gladly switch roles with my wife if she wanted to go back to work and got a job that provided the same income mine does. But here’s a truth no one wants to discuss: while many women are struggling with choosing to work or not, men for the most part have accepted that we don’t have a choice.

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