Career vs. Family: Is There a Choice?
- Monday, April 02, 2007
There was an interesting and frankly surprising article that appeared recently in the New York Times, written by Judith Warner entitled, Katie Couric Strikes a Blow for Sanity.
Ms. Warner begins by saying, "Katie Couric has done all of us a favor." What might that favor be you ask? As you may know, Katie Couric has joined CBS News as Anchor and Managing Editor of The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, making her the first female solo anchor of a major evening television network newscast in the United States.
However, this is not the "favor" that Ms. Warner is referring to. When recently asked by reporters if she would travel to Iraq, Ms. Couric said she would NOT, "because a single mother of two had no business taking such risks in a chaotic war zone." The fact is, dozens of journalists have been killed or seriously injured in Iraq since the war began. Ms. Warner writes, "By unapologetically putting the well-being of her two daughters above her career, Couric has made an important - and very unusual - statement." Ms. Warner continues by saying, "Today, most white-collar professions require nearly limitless devotion, and ambitious people find it almost impossible to say no to unreasonable work demands."
I could not agree more! Ms. Warner is addressing the systematic destruction of the barrier between the demands of the marketplace or career and the obligations of family. The shield which once existed between the marketplace and family is gone. The marketplace now reigns supreme and therefore if family and marketplace come into conflict the family is expected to give way as if this is only natural.
Unfortunately within a culture so driven by consumerism this is natural! Consumerism, which is a philosophical juggernaut in American culture, produces a cultural mindset which idealizes "lifestyle." This artificially constructed lifestyle comes to us through media, advertising and entertainment and can unwittingly become the object and aim of our lives. In other words, we can assume an idea of what our lives should be and look like based on the imaging and messages constructed by Madison Avenue. These do not represent real life and worse they only emphasize the external - the right car; the right home; the right wife; the right body and so on and so forth. This would explain the American obsession with appearance and style because these are the prevailing values that we rely on to judge people.
Where the consumerist vision is adopted as the principle measurement for life satisfaction and meaning, career will always supersede family. To those inculcated in consumerism they naturally believe that the best way they can serve their family is by providing material goods or the "right" lifestyle. But life, in reality, is about much more than appearances and possessions - at least it should be!
Without debating the details of Katie Couric's commitment to or notions of motherhood, on this point she is absolutely correct and I applaud her stand. She has drawn a line and a quite reasonable line I might add, despite criticism from many of her peers. Ms. Warner concludes by saying, "If enough women - and men - insisted that their families were as important as their jobs, maybe the culture would slowly change."
If being a columnist for the New York Times did not give you a clue then the fact that Judith Warner co-authored a book with Howard Dean should make you realize that Ms. Warner is no social conservative. Nonetheless Ms. Warner, along with a number of liberal minded thinkers, recognizes the deleterious effect of oppressive consumerism on the American family - a fact that too many conservatives and Christians do not see or are not willing to change.
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