Thursday, January 24, 2013

Having it all

As I've been doing the big tenure-track job search and finding my way into a capital-c-Career, I've been thinking quite a bit about roles, expectations, and differences.  There was an interesting (if somewhat depressing) study published not long ago that found that men who are married fare better in the academic workplace than other groups, specifically unmarried individuals and married women.  If you're a married woman, you can probably guess the reason- a wife at home takes care of things like housework, kids, schedules, etc.  At least that's the expectation, whether conscious or not, of those making the hiring and promoting decisions. 

The expectation that a woman will be a help-mate to her husband in this day and age makes me want to scream, but you know that already, right?  The flip side of that, of course, is the idea of having it all for women.  It's not seen as the norm, that a woman be able to have both a family and a career, but something special and a mark of having "made it" or somehow being lucky.  For men, having it all is the standard procedure; for women, it's something to be achieved. 

First, why should having it all be something extraordinary and special?!  Secondly, why is the expectation of having it all nearly always couched in terms of wanting children?  What about someone who has no desire for children?  Why is being a successful woman defined in part by being a mom?  Can we just accept the idea that sometimes having it all is having everything that you want, having happiness as you define it?  Isn't that the real desired outcome- agency and choice? 

How about we let individuals decide what's right for them, and judge them on their merit (not some perceived benefit of having another person involved)? 

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