A New York Times opinion piece about work/life balance (“A Toxic Work World“) is making the rounds and stirring up a storm of comments. The author points out, among other things, that the culture of overwork is not a gender issue but a work issue where equity will mean we value care giving.
We have a definite bias towards exhaustion and “110%” as proof of value in our culture. Its a system that benefits men overwhelmingly as Joan Williams brilliantly explains in her book and in nice bite sized video bits.
My reaction to the piece was colored by a conversation I had a few days before it came out. I was in a salon getting a service and chatting as you do about kids and current events and the nice for a change weather.
The woman waiting on me has a daughter a year older than mine and is deep in the college selection process that we’ve been nibbling around the edges. She was telling me her daughter wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and was working with the guidance counselor trying to find the right school in their price range.
But she was convincing her daughter to drop law because no one can have a family with that kind of lifestyle. If she goes into the health field she doesn’t have to be a doctor, she can be something where she can go part time for a while when she has kids.
I understand that every family is different. I understand that we all have our own values.
But I don’t understand why a 17 year old girl should make life choices today to accommodate possible future children that she may or may not want or need to stay home while they’re young.
I tried a few examples, anecdotes and facts to shake the mothers view. But she would not be persuaded her daughter could have it all. She knew better.
Our culture limits us and we limit ourselves.
Lets try not to limit our children.