Career Option: Stay-at-Home Mom?
- Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Rosie the Riveter, the iconic young woman with sleeve rolled up and arm flexed in the famous portrait by J. Howard Miller, inspired many American women in the 1940s to leave the traditional domain of their homes. They filled positions that previously had belonged to men who were drafted or volunteered to fight in World War II. Rosie's "We Can Do It" slogan seemed to capture the spirit and ambition of many women as they entered the workforce and experienced the sudden expansion of career opportunities.
Since then, women have made impressive strides both educationally and professionally and, today, the career opportunities available to them are unparalleled. Women are now awarded more bachelor's and master's degrees than their male counterparts and receive nearly half of all doctorates and professional degrees.1 While these gains are very positive, it is unfortunate that society has convinced some young women to elevate a successful career above all else. In short, the emphasis on "girl power" and our career-glorifying culture have perpetuated myths that have caused too many women to overlook the value and merit of embracing another role: Mom.
Myth #1: Only uneducated women stay home to raise children.
A study by the Center for Work-Life Policy showed that approximately 40 percent of women take time away from their careers at some point in their lives, usually to raise children. The New York Times calls the trend the "opt-out revolution." Many of those who "opt-out" are highly educated and successful. A study of female college graduates from two prestigious universities showed that 57 percent of female students in Stanford University's 1981 graduating class had left the workforce while just 38 percent of Harvard Business School graduates in the 1980s are still in fulltime careers.2
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior research fellow at Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, says the findings reflect an increasing trend among women in their childbearing years. "More and more women are discovering that a life where career is everything is not satisfying or fulfilling after awhile. They are also discovering that no one can take the place of a mother when it comes to their children; they are choosing to leave the workforce to raise their children themselves."
Myth #2: Staying at home to raise children equals career suicide.
Temporarily calling time-out on a full-time career doesn't mean a woman has to completely forsake her career and leave her ambitions behind. The Internet has revolutionized the career world, making it much more feasible for mothers to work from home; Many maintain part-time careers or become entrepreneurs. Such ventures give mothers the opportunity to benefit from the convenience, flexibility and supplemental income of a career without having to work in the office everyday. It also makes the transition back into the workforce a bit easier.
"For so long, it seemed like women had to choose to either have a career or be a stay-at-home mom, but modern technology offers women the opportunity to do both," said Rebecca Hagelin, conservative columnist and vice president of communications and marketing for the Heritage Foundation, to the Beverly LaHaye Institute. Hagelin, herself a successful woman with a distinguished career, temporarily left her career to start a home-based consulting business in the mid-1990s to accommodate raising three small children. It is a decision she does not regret. "My family is my priority," Hagelin said.
Today, in addition to working for one of the nation's most respected conservative think tanks, she writes widely circulated articles, pens a weekly column, interviews frequently on cable news and radio programs, and has published her first book, Home Invasion.
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