WOMEN & CAREER & FAMILY
by John Spritzler
March 16, 2023
[The URL of this article for sharing it is https://www.pdrboston.org/women-career-family ]
[Very related, the film "Birthgap - Childless World PART 1"]
Women should not have to choose between a) being a stay-at-home mother or b) having a fulfilling non-child-raising career. The third choice "c"--doing BOTH of the above during their lifetime, is denied to most women today. Women should be able to choose any of these three choices; all three deserve the greatest respect. But in our society today most women unfortunately have only the option of choice "a" or "b."
Let's first see what the chief obstacle is for women who want choice "c," and then consider what can remove that obstacle.
First of all, it is no longer possible for one working class parent to earn enough to decently support his or her spouse and children so that one parent can be at home with the young child(ren) (which is optimal for the child(ren)) while the other one is off at work elsewhere. The ruling class reduced wages to make this no longer possible. Forcing wives to go to work for a wage was called "women's liberation."
Secondly, if a married woman wants to have a fulfilling non-child-raising career in our current society, she has to forego having children and raising them at home so that she can finish undergraduate college and then immediately start climbing up the career ladder either by getting an advanced degree or starting a full-time career-path job. She cannot take a couple of decades off after graduating from college to have and raise children before continuing to pursue a non-child-raising career because very real age-discrimination would make that extremely difficult: being twenty years older than younger people competing with one for graduate school admission and/or job hiring and job advancement is a serious disadvantage making the prospect of success dubious at best for most women.
Even if a woman wants, instead, right after graduating from college to have children who will be raised by their stay-at-home dad while she advances in her career, there's the problem of nobody then earning enough money to pay the bills.
This is why lots of women who are pursuing a non-child-raising career suffer great anxiety from knowing that their 'biological clock is ticking' while they pursue, childless, their career.
If a working class married couple wants to have children and wants one parent to be home with them, then they will have to make the sacrifice of managing to survive somehow on the income of only one parent, an income not intended (by our ruling class) to support a family decently. The only other option is to give up having one parent staying at home with the child and instead use paid child care so both parents can earn a wage. This is not ideal for the child, and due to the high cost of child care it might not even be financially feasible.
For all of these reasons, women today who want to be stay-at-home mothers and also have a fulfilling non-child-raising career are in very difficult situation.
How to Remove the Obstacle
If women could, contrary to how it is today, take a couple of decades off after graduating from college to have and raise children at home before continuing to pursue a career, then women could both be a stay-at-home mother and also have a fulfilling non-child-raising career. But does this make sense? Is it at all realistic? Is it biologically feasible?
Yes, it is realistic to end the age-discrimination. Though not common, the fact is that people can begin a career two decades later than most, and be very successful as well. I did it.
I graduated from college in 1968 and did not begin my career as a biostatistician until 1988 when I entered graduate school to study biostatistics. True, the admissions committee was split almost down the middle on whether to admit a person of my age (41 years old) but they ended up having no regrets. I got a doctoral degree in 1992 at the age of 45 and then worked in my career as a Senior Research Scientist for 20 years until retiring at the age of 65 in 2012. This is doable. The age-discrimination is not written in stone.
And yes, it is biologically feasible for a woman have and raise children at home AND then go on to have a non-child-raising fulfilling career. The 'biological ticking clock' is not the problem!
Consider this perfectly reasonable scenario. A woman graduates from college at the age of 21. She then has a child when she's 21 and another child when she is 23. She stays at home raising the children until the youngest one is 17 and she is 40. She then enters graduate school and gets a doctoral degree at age 44. Then she works in her career for 21 years and (only if she wishes) retires at age 65. Obviously the numbers can be greater or smaller than in this scenario, but this scenario illustrates that there is no inherent reason why a woman must choose between having children and having a fulfilling non-child-raising career.
The problem is thus not biology. The problem is that our current society is not arranged by the kind of people (i.e., most ordinary people) who WANT women to be able to be a stay-at-home mother and have a fulfilling non-child-raising career. Nor is it arranged by the kind of people (i.e., most ordinary people) who want parents to be able to have a decent standard of living with children and with one parent being at home with the children and one working elsewhere.
The kind of society that is arranged by most ordinary people is an egalitarian one, as described here.
The age-discrimination that is the key obstacle today is as removable as any other irrational discrimination. The people opposed to such discrimination have to prevail against those who support it. This is the same with racial and gender discrimination: it can be fought if there is a will to fight it. And since such discrimination only benefits the few while harming the many, it can eventually be defeated.
WHAT DO THE GOP AND DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS?
The Democratic Party aims, at best, to make the minimum wage $15/hour. This is a poverty wage, insufficient to decently support a family with two children even when both parents earn this wage, never mind sufficient for one parent with this wage to support a spouse and children. The Democratic Party nowadays courts middle class women with careers but ignores the fact that most working class women cannot be mothers and have a non-child-raising career. The Democratic Party ignores this grievance of working class women.
The Republican Party (its MAGA wing and non-MAGA wing) glorifies the stay-at-home-mother role of women--a role which, yes, deserves glorification!--while, just like the Democratic Party, at the same time showing contempt for women by ignoring the grievance of working class women who cannot be stay-at-home mothers and also have a fulfilling non-child-raising career.
Both parties are beholden to the billionaire ruling plutocracy, which does not want the wealth produced by the working class to be fully enjoyed by the working class, as it would be in an egalitarian economy described here. We need an egalitarian revolution, as described here. Until the wealth working class people produce is shared fairly among them and not diverted to the pockets of the hyper rich billionaire class, it will remain very difficult for a working class woman to enjoy the opportunity of both being a stay-at-home mother and also having a fulfilling non-child-raising career.