The Opt-Out Revolution
Posted by Gail | Filed under Thinking Out Loud
Ten years ago the New York Times labeled women who chose to leave careers to raise their kids “the Opt-Out Revolution”. According to a 2003 Times article, “It’s not just that the workplace has failed women. It is also that women are rejecting the workplace.”
According to the Stats Man, in 1976 only 31.4% of mommies with a child 5 or younger were working, and only 46.4% of mommies with school-aged kids were working. Care to hazard a guess want the numbers are now?
Almost four decades later, the numbers are 67.2 and 79.3% respectively. Seems like stay-at-home moms are a dying breed. But are moms going to work because they want to or because they have to?
I’ve always worked. I always believed I had to be self-sufficient. The idea of not being able to take care of myself, well, it wasn’t even an idea. When I first had my children, I kept working. I took four months of with each of my babies because that’s all I could afford. Longer would have meant debt and that WAS NOT an option.
When I did return to work I chose to hire a nanny rather than using daycare because I worked from home, so when I wasn’t busy I could spend time with my kids. There were lunch-time walks in the park or quickie kisses in passing. And once the kids were in school, every afternoon where it wasn’t freezing, from dismissal at about 3 p.m. until about 4:30, was spent on the school playground, chatting with other moms, eating ice cream (in the summer), and watching the kids play. Miss Sharon, the children’s nanny, would bathe the kids, stick ‘em in their PJs and I was back on duty as mommy at 5 p.m. to wave her goodbye. I was never late for Miss Sharon. If a client tried to insist that I be on duty when I had to be with the kids, I simply said, “I’m sorry, I have another appointment.”
I’m still using that line.
For moms who aren’t self-employed, this isn’t an option. But what if you could have the perfect work/life balance, what would that look like to you? Would you work a five-day week? A three-day week? Would you work longer hours for four days to have a three-day weekend every week? Would you commute just three days a week and work the rest from home?
I was fortunate enough to be the master of my own time. Well, sort of. I did get up at 4 a.m. to write. And I did spend most of the money I earned paying my share of the bills and the kids’ caregiving. But that was a choice I made and I was happy with it. What it meant was that I could have time with the kids when there was time, and I could work when the kids were asleep. (I’m so trained to 4:00 a.m. that it took me a decade to move my wake-up time forward to 5:00 a.m.) I kept my hand in so that when the kids went to school full time, I wasn’t trying to wedge myself back into a career I’d left behind.
According to that old New York Times article, “There is nothing wrong with money or power. But they come at a high price. And lately when women talk about success they use words like satisfaction, balance and sanity.”
Does the insanity of having to be in too many places at the same time ever reach up and grab you? How have you achieved balance, if you have? What would you do differently if you could?