On women, families, and careers

Earlier today, one of my former professors (and a friend) sent me this article by Anne-Marie Slaughter (former policy director at the US State Dept. among other prestigious things). I’ll agree with my professor that the article is one of the most in-depth looks at the subject of family versus career.

A lot of my friends that are also moms chose that career very early on and so only a handful of the moms in my life really understand the decision making that goes into either leaving a profession you have put so much time, effort, and heart into to be home with your family or trying to have some balance of both.

I shared these additional thoughts on the article with my professor:

I think one thing that she didn’t address as well, in my opinion, is that sometimes after having kids your goals and perspective does change and that is OK too.

Former colleagues and sources/contacts ask me all the time if I miss working and I’m not always sure what to say.

There are definitely things I miss: the sense of accomplishment; the gratitude and recognition for the work I did in the form of promotions, awards, encouraging letters to the editor, etc.; election-night pizza party all-nighters; gathering together around a TV in the newsroom to watch a major verdict come down; the rush of a breaking news story; and knowing you beat the competitors on one by a few seconds are a few that come to mind.

There are also things I don’t miss: my sleep being haunted by images I saw in raw, unedited footage; the news director cussing me out at least once a week because we didn’t have enough photogs to cover every story he wanted; the contributors that were never happy and always had criticisms; the pressure to put in more and more hours and split shifts; sticky moral situations; and being told by my editors to make changes to stories or run stories based on the whims of our advertisers are some that come to mind.

In many ways, I had already felt I peaked out in my career as a journalist. In less than two years, I had won a few awards and been promoted to editor. I was ready for something new and I was flirting with the idea of going into law (really glad that didn’t work out!) and then Bean happened (and Sprout and Sparrow) after I’d been assured it was not a possibility.

At some point, I decided that all of the career stuff really didn’t matter to me as much as raising my kids very actively. I kind of can pinpoint this decision. Sometime after Bean, one of the anchors from my first station/job called to offer me a job back there again, a better position with better pay. I weighed it and called her back to let her know that I really wanted to stay home and focus on raising Bean. She told me I was making the right decision and that I can’t get these years back.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to work in 18 years, but I do feel like this is what I want to focus on whole-heartedly. Careers come and go, but you only get one family.

I also think there is something in choosing career paths in all of this. My earning capacity as an average, small-market journalist in what many believe is a dying industry, just isn’t going to be able to compare with that of Stephen’s choice in technology. So, in our situation it really would not have made any financial sense for our roles to be reversed just for the sake of more representation of women in the workplace and “feminist” ideals. Perhaps if I had gone into law, medicine, or some other much more lucrative industry, our decision making would have been slightly different.

One other thing that Stephen and I have talked about is whether we really need two incomes just because we can have them and whether we are entitled to those two incomes. We don’t need them, we do just fine with his. We are very fortunate in that fact. I guess something related to the observation of the “dying journalism industry” I noted above is the way in which I’ve watched so many of my former colleagues get laid off or be the ones to make those tough decisions about who should stay and go. A former colleague of mine informs me that the photog staff at the paper is down to three! So, is it really fair for me to be holding a journalism position that someone else might actually need as either the only source of income or a situation where both incomes are needed for their family? I don’t know if there is a right answer, but it is something I’ve thought about.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I know I have touched a little on this subject before. It is still something I think about from time to time.

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1 Comment

Filed under Family, Journalism, Ramblings

One response to “On women, families, and careers

  1. Barbie

    I read that article too, and I really liked it. Like she (and you) mentioned, I think a lot of it has to do with career paths. She felt like being a professor allowed her the flexibility to be a mom too, while working in D.C. did not. I alway say that I have the best of both worlds-FOR ME. I’m thankful that I get to do what I do. I only work 90 days a year, 1/4 of the whole year, while I get to stay home the other 3/4 of the year. It is the perfect balance for our family. I always try to encourage my little sisters, and other young women I know, to choose a career path that will allow them the flexibility to have a family and a career. It is something I wish more people would have discussed with me when I was in college. They may choose to stay home later on, or work full-time, or find the perfect balance in between, but the key is to go into a field that will allow to have balance.

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