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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The lowest of the low

According to the Times magazine yesterday, twenty years ago I made a career mistake and became one of the lowest of the low -- aka a mother who decided to look after her children herself, particularly as I had a good degree.
*cough cough* I must say that I never twigged my status.
I knew there were rumblings about careers etc but I was always determined to look after my children first. Luckily my husband agreed with me. His mother for economic reasons had to work when he was little and he hated it. It worked for me and my situation.
Thanks to my mother's example, I also knew that women who returned to work after their children were nearly grown were able in some cases to leapfrog women who had stayed in work while they had children. The trouble with the Mommy track is that no one has ever been able to reconcile the needs of ill children to the demands of work. My mother benefited from a now discontinued program which was aimed at women who were returning after a career break. I wish those types of programmes had flourished. Personally I know I can focus on my career much easier now than if I had tried to write when my children were little. I always salute women who can...
The other aspect that the whole work or not debate often forgets is that many women have always had to work or were involved in their husband's business. Family run business normally means the whole family is involved somehow. Also people forget the whole government campaign in the late 40s to have women go from fighting Germans to germs in the house.
Anyway, the one thing I feel strongly about is that no one should put people down. People make choices about what is best for them. Each situation has unique challenges.
And I still consider myself a wife and mother first, an author second. Although when a deadline looms, perhaps my family would disagree...

9 comments:

Carol Fishman Cohen said...

Actually, return to work programs have exploded over the last five years. Here's a list of those that have run at least once - many are ongoing: http://www.irelaunch.com/docs/complist.pdf. We run a return to work conference that has been attended by hundreds of people in the U.S. (mostly women)on career break looking to return to work. For the first time, we are making an international stop - we are coming to London on November 2nd at London Business School in case this is of interest to you or your readers.

Carol Fishman Cohen
Co-founder, www.iRelaunch.com
Co-author, Back on the Career Track
info@irelaunch.com

Carrie Lofty said...

Huh. I also have an advanced degree and stayed home to take care of my kids. Didn't realize I was so badly off for the decision. Pardon me while I go kiss my well-adjusted, happy daughters goodbye and head off to a meeting where I'll be discussing my burgeoning writing career...

:)

Donna Alward said...

Yeah, count me in on that list too. I have never regretted my decision to be home with my girls - in fact, I might not be an author today if I'd made a different choice so bah to "bad" career moves. Best thing I ever did.

There is no more important job than raising your children IMO. I was incredibly fortunate that we could manage it financially, even though we've done without some things.

And even now if there is a snow day or summer vacation or sickness, I am lucky that I work at home and can be there for them.

Michelle Styles said...

Carol -- it is good to know that such are going strong in the US. I have never heard of them over here.Good luck. And I hope you get lots of publicity.

Carrie, Donna -- yes, it is funny when you*fund out*. Funnily enough, I would do the exact same thing again! My children's well being is far more important than ephemeral status.

Joanne Coles said...

I have a law degree and often feel as though I should justify myself to people who ask "why have you wasted your degree?". I don't feel the years I worked in a law office were wasted and have never, for a single second, regretted giving up my career when I had my 3rd child. It was my personal choice and I've worked all sorts of home based jobs since to make sure I've been able to stay home and care for my children.

One day, you never know, they may even appreciate it :-)

Michelle Styles said...

Joanne --
MY youngest tried to get me to type when I wrote the blog that he really appreciated me staying at home. So give them time...

And it is odd, no one would ask you to justify your degree or time in a law office if you started to run your own b&b or small business. It is only the looking after of your own children that raises eyebrows. And yet one is doing something very important.
BTW, a law degree comes in handy when you are looking at publishing contracts. Publishing contracts are some of the most notrious contracts around!

Nicole MacDonald said...

Eh I read that stupid article too.

Deb said...

I have a college degree and worked in the corporate world for 20 years. I met my husband and married rather late in life, then had three children (including twins when I was 40); but I had to continue working for economic reasons. When the twins were two, various changes in our family's situation allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years, until they went into kindergarten. When I went back into the working world, I decided to get a job in the public school system--which permitted me to have the same school holidays as my children. I never regret giving up the corporate world, but I also never forget that I'm fortunate enough to have a supportive husband who agreed that we could tighten our belts enough to live on one income. Not every woman has the choice of working versus staying at home.

Michelle Styles said...

Nicole -- yes, it was pointless article because it didn't really support anyone.

Deb -- I'm sure your children will thank you. And of course not everyone can have the luxury of choice. But sometimes it can be surprising what people are willing to give up. Also there is difference between between on the Mommy track and being able to surge ahead. In the longer term, it can be beneficial. I had my children in my late 20s/early 30s so I am now only 46 and have a productive period in front of me (without I hope too many health problems) When you have children later, health problems etc can play a part. The whole point is that there shouldn't be a pecking order and women should be free to make their choices without being told that they are the lowest of the low!