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Working Women And Family Lifestyles Essay, Research Paper
WORKING WOMEN AND FAMILY LIFESTYLES
The issues and concerns of this course are ones with which I am able to identify. Having been married for eight years, a working women and mother qualifies me to give much insight to each of the components listed in this course. My essay will address the following:
Past and present status of women in the work place
Balancing career and family
The future of the family
In addition, I will expand on the implications of single parenthood and how it affects women’s careers and raising a family.
PAST AND PRESENT STATUS OF WOMEN IN THE WORK PLACE
Every day in some office, bank, store, school, or wherever women work, someone announces an engagement or a wedding. But unlike past generations, the announcement doesn’t automatically mean the employee is leaving. She is just adding a new dimension to herself-marriage. Unlike her predecessor, she will work for a much longer period because she can decide when to begin her family. If she decides to have a family, her leave of absence is apt to be less than five years, because she is a member of the new breed of women who attempt to combine the roles of career woman, mother, and wife into a workable package.
Wives have been working for a much longer period than most people think. Before the Industrial Revolution, even wealthy women worked long hours supervising the needs of large families, household servants, and slaves. Most American families engaged in farming then. Often husband and wife worked together in order to make a profit. During the time of the Revolutionary, women worked in the fields plowing and harvesting, because all males were away fighting the war.
By the eighteenth century, women were employed in all occupations working side by side with men. This may sound unusual, but, in those days, all occupations were based in the home or at a nearby office or workshop. Women and children helped male family members build successful firms.
The nineteenth century brought the beginning of a technical era with the center of economic activity moving away from the home into factories and offices. Most occupations came to be viewed then as unsuitable for women or incompatible with their chores in the home. Very few jobs remained that were considered appropriate for women. As a result, most upper and middle-class women left the work force. As the American population grew and the labor shortage eased, the opportunities for women became even fewer. By the nineteenth century, the practice of paying women less for the same job done by men was well-established.
Just a glance at today’s classified ads in any newspaper will refute the argument that a “woman’s place is in the home.” In the past, women worked mostly out of necessity. But now, many women work because it is self-fulfilling.
When I was a child, both my parents worked. During the eighteen years I lived with my parents, they earned MBA’s and in my mother’s case a Ph.D. I grew up believing that to be successful, I must go to college, establish a career, get married and have kids. It never occurred to me to be a housewife and stay home.
I did go to college at eighteen but dropped out to get married at age twenty. I worked while my husband finished school. I wanted to wait to have children until I was in my later twenty’s and hopefully have the chance to finish school and establish a career. Life did not quite work that way. At twenty-one the first little, “surprise” bundle of joy came along. So by age twenty-two, I had a year old baby and was working full-time. I did not feel right about staying home. I did not think I would be respected.
Four years later I had another baby girl. I continued to work but not climb any ladders to success partly because my husband moved every two years for his company and partly because I was not focused. I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up and in my heart I wanted to be home with my babies, for awhile at least. I wanted the opportunity to further my education before choosing a career path. Money and childhood beliefs of success kept me at work.
I am thirty-two years old now. I am very close to earning my B.A. degree and I am finally in a position at work where I feel I can move forward.
Looking back, I realize several things. First, being I had always worked at low paying jobs, and not having a formal education, I should have dedicated those ten years to my children. I now know the value of devoting time to raising children which I will discuss later. Now that I am divorced, I see I gained very little by working all that time. I have to work now and I do enjoy it very much. However, given the opportunity to raise my children full-time, I would.
BALANCING CAREER AND FAMILY
Dual Career Couples. The average young couple planning to continue working after marriage does so for the most altruistic reasons. Their employment is a cooperative venture which will help the marriage financially and socially. There will be no more “your money” and “my money”. Sharing and decision-making will be mutual and equal. But as human beings, they are subject to the frailties of people. One major threat to any marriage is competition. Competition between couples is a natural by-product of today’s concept of marriage as a partnership of equals. While striving for mutual closeness and togetherness, young married’s are also struggling for individuality and trying to develop themselves as persons. In the book Marriage and Families, author Essie E. Lee states that one noted sociologist feels that two growing selves will certainly be more competitive than a merged pair, in which one person (usually the wife) probably did most of the merging.
According to Marriage and Families, different kinds of competition within a marriage include:
Competition for expression of growth and individuality.
Competition for attention
Competition for power
Competition for money
Competition for self-esteem
As multiple-income families become standard practice and men and women understand more about the needs of each other, husbands will have decreasing need to view women’s desire for self-development and fulfillment as a blow to their masculinity.
It is important for women as well as men to be self-sufficient. But there is also the danger of overemphasizing getting clear of people who are closest to you. It is impossible to establish intimacy without a lot of time and experience with each other. A career wife may tend to grow out and away and into herself instead of growing up. A successful marriage allows each partner to grow and permits sharing and realignment of roles as each changes his or her own conception of self.
In my marriage, competition was very high. Since I could not stay at home with my children, I would have liked to work on my career. Once my husband started climbing the upward ladder and becoming very successful, I was a resentful that I could not have the same opportunities. I was willing to work towards job success but did not have the flexibility to do so. When the kids got sick, I left work to be with them. When my husband was transferred, I was quitting one company and starting with another. Also, my husband was not supportive of me finishing school nor was there the money.
As mentioned previously, I believed success in the workplace was the key to happiness and respect. I saw my husband getting recognition, winning trips and therefore, in my book, a better person and more self-fulfilled.
As I see it, there were several problems. First, I had no focus. I was working because I thought I should plus my husband wanted me to for financial reasons. I was torn between feeling guilty for not being home with my children and not moving ahead at work. It made me very frustrated. I needed to be more assertive and discuss with my husband how I was feeling and possibly make ends meet without working. Secondly, I feel my husband could have been more supportive. His focus was his job. He relied on me to take care of the home and kids plus bring in a few bucks without complaint. I did do that for a long time. I am a very proud person and did not like to fail or admit I may be failing. My discontent to me was a failure. Plus, just as I was given an opportunity to move forward at a job, we were being transferred. I feel he should have been a little less controlling and more supportive of my goals.
I am all for the man in the family being the bread winner and chief financial support for the family. I never felt competition to be better than my husband. I just found it exceedingly difficult to not be able to excel at anything whether career or family. My parents both worked. However, unlike my husband and I, they complemented each other very well. First, they were in the same field and worked together for success in their careers. They went back for graduate studies together and one never transferred unless the other had a comparable job. I remember my dad tending to my brother and me as much as my mom when we were sick. Everything seemed to be shared. That is how I thought my marriage should be and where my frustrations stemmed.
Child Raising Issues. It is the unusual woman who successfully applies her skills and talents at home and in the working world. In too many cases, the home and children appear to be neglected. Physical neglect is obvious, but emotional neglect is not too clearly defined. In the book Sex, Career, & Family by Michael Fogarty, Rhona Rapaport an Robert Rapaport, many women who dislike children and housework but through choice or circumstances stay home inflict deep emotional damage on their children. On the other hand, mothers who are happy create happy homes and children, whether they work or not.
Two-career families may have children, but they do not build their whole lives around them. They are not as involved with their families as women who stay at home. As referenced in Sex, Career & Family, a study was done of 15,000 women three years after their graduation. These women had planned careers for themselves. It was found that the career-committed didn’t want as many children, on the average, as the homemakers. They were also more willing to let others care for their children. In two-career homes, the babies do not come all at once at the beginning of the marriage, but in phases with the wife’s work commitments.
The environment of two-career homes molds the character of children in a different way than homes where mothers do most of the rearing. Mother-child relationships are less emotional. Parents seem to have more rights, particularly rights to privacy and a shared adult life. Many sociologist feel that wives in two-career families are more interested in a relationship with their husbands than in the homemaking women, who tend to seek their major satisfaction from their children.
For several reasons, my children were not the focus of my life for a couple years. First, I had my first child well before I was emotionally ready. I had only been free of my parents for a couple years and married only one. I did not want the responsibility a child brings. Second, I wanted to finish school before children. Third, there was a growing discontent in my marriage and finally, working full-time took away from the children. It wasn’t until I divorced that my children became my primary focus.
Once I divorced, it was natural to dive into my children. I was happy for the first time in a long time. Several incidences since my divorce have changed the way I think about raising my children and the time I spend with them. Two women I met in Phoenix were both stay-at-home moms/wives. Their children idolized them. Their children were calm. These women had time for all the plays, fairs, boy scouts or the other million activities children are involved. They were raising their children, not some daycare center. I remember a particular weekend, while going through a divorce, my youngest said she wanted to go to Patty’s house. Patty was her daycare provider. I was glad my child was happy with Patty but sad she found her security there and not with me. Seeing all these circumstance with other families and within my home, I slowly began to change my thinking and focus more towards children. I also had the opportunity to take six months off work to be with my children. This time was wonderful. My kids loved having me there when they got home from school. They were sick less. They were better behaved. I became involved in school activities. I really enjoyed it. I know I could be very content staying home with them full-time. However, that is not an option.
My job is great. It is the first step towards career advancement I have ever taken. Do I have the drive to go further? Definitely. Career advancement is a very exciting prospect. However, being a single parent, I have to be the one responsible for the kids at all times. It concerns me a little, both for the employer and my children, how much time I can give. It is a catch 22. I want to put my all into my work and receive self-fulfillment that way, but I don’t want to sacrifice any time with my children. They are too important to me. At this point, I am taking my job one day at a time and weighing and measuring the opportunities that come along.
I believe a woman has three security valves, a man, a child, a job; in my code it stands in that order, yet in real life the order is reversed. Also, I believe that only a man with whom I would like to make a couple should be able to calm my anguishes, my distresses; but in real life it’s my work that does that. I hate to admit all these contradictions in myself.
Re-entry to the Workforce The way in which the contemporary married woman with a family integrates a work career into her life is usually by accommodating to the “social facts” of life and choosing the least stressful options open to her. Though highly qualified women may be assumed to have a range of ability and creative potential comparable to men and, like men, seek to develop a lifestyle in which they can function in their various roles efficiently and productively with some degree of integration between them and satisfactions deriving from them, the social supports for women are lacking. Once the decision is made to have children, a massive dilemma arises.
On the other hand, women are seen as fortunate to have the choice as to whether or not they work, as the family livelihood does not usually depend on the wife but on the husband in his role of provider. On the other hand, her range of options is in fact severely curtailed by virtue of the fact that she is expected to carry responsibility for familial roles and to subordinate her own career aspirations to those of her husband.
This narrowing of options, coupled with the tendency for environmental institutions to aggravate the difficulties faced by highly qualified women, creates a situation where the onus is thrown very much on to them as individuals to create solutions to their dilemmas. The easiest path is to fall into the conventional role of housewife, at least for a time. Another alternative is to make irrational choices, do unsuitable work, be exploited in jobs of lower status or interest than they would command if they were men. Another alternative is for the woman to interrupt her career, dipping out and re-entering as family situation and stage allow.
There are intrinsic and extrinsic dimensions of career aspirations, and the women – though dropping their level of aspiration when they encounter the difficulties arising from the integration of a career with traditional domestic roles – do not alter their intrinsic aspirations, i.e. the specific kinds of interests and values which they seek in work. They wish as much as men to have the kind of career in which they can do an interesting job and work relatively autonomously in relation to supervision. They value the idea of cultivating a reputation for extreme competence in whatever line of work they pursue, and feel that the experience of creativity in work is important.
The intention ultimately to return to work is now far more widespread than in the past among married women. According to the book Marriage and Families, nearly 80 % expect to be working when their children are grown. The early returners are ones whose commitment to work is a matter of principle. The later returners may not be committed so much to the general idea of women’s careers, but they may recognize that they will want to do something to keep themselves interested and to feel useful.
Many women want to work. Many women have to work. Many women choose to stay home. However, no matter what a women chooses to do, she is different than any other woman. I say this because I read and see similarities in myself as that with other women. Yet, my maturity, priorities, and lifestyle make these similarities different from other women. According to studies, women get their greatest satisfaction from work. I too feel great satisfaction when I accomplish projects at work and receive positive feedback. I also feel great satisfaction when I have spent quality time with my children; when they seem happy and fulfilled. In my marriage, I felt great satisfaction having loving arms to come home to and someone to care and provide for me. This is where fulfillment for women differs. It is a matter of needs and priorities.
When I was first married, I worked to support my husband through school, and, since I did not have children yet, for something to do. The seed in the back of my mind was finishing school and career advancement. At that point, I did not know what career I wanted. When my first child came along I took time off but was back at work within a year for financial reasons. I settled for less than what I wanted because I was not ready for the additional responsibility of a higher paying job and I did not have the confidence to pursue further. When the next child came along, I was back to work for financial reasons. At that point, work was very dissatisfying because my paycheck went to pay daycare and little else. It did not make sense. Now, I work out of necessity because I am single.
What I have learned throughout the years is that my needs have changed. Whether it is because of circumstance or maturity or a little of both I am not sure. I am glad I worked throughout my marriage because it has made it easier for me to support my children as a single parent. However, if I had to do it all over again, I would be home with my children to make sure their needs were met. They are the single most important thing to me. When I was married, they were not. My husband was most important, then my children, then work.
As the years passed and I gained maturity, confidence and experienced great emotional stress, I now feel I can focus on my future. I am satisfied taking small steps towards career advancement. I do not have the goal of achieving loads of money, a stressful job and a good title as fast as possible. I want to be available to my children while still providing them a decent lifestyle. My fulfillment will come when they graduate from high school or college happy and secure. I have twenty years after that to dive head over heals into a career. The women next door may set different priorities or think I am nuts not to excel at work faster when it is offered. Though I admire here for her fortitude, I know what is important to me and having that focus will make me happy and that is all that really matters. Gone are the days of making decisions based on what other people think is right for me. It has taken me fourteen adult years to figure that out, and it very well may change in the future, but for now I know where I am going!
Legislation Affecting Women at Work. Legislation addressing working women is growing each year. Many bills are introduced each session dealing with child care availability, leaves of absence for dependent care, affirmative action and equal opportunity issues, equal pay for equivalent work, minimum wage, health insurance, and job training. Although some of these bills are never voted into law, it is clear that the issues are ever pressing on the minds of women and lawmakers alike. As with any legislation, time and pressure from special interest groups will turn the tide.
FUTURE OF THE FAMILY
Because of the high percentage of divorce rates, single parenting is the wave of the future. Poverty is the most important difference between the families headed by women and men. Although women from all segments of life work, the female family heads finds the climb to a higher income level extremely difficult. The number of poor families headed by women continues to rise, while that of men is steadily falling. For several million of these women, the barriers blocking their way continue to be inadequate training and education for the current job market and, in some cases, heavy child-care responsibilities.
The traditional household with the husband at work and the wife as housekeeper, wife, mother, and family representative in the community will never disappear. But the woman who assumes more of the male traditional role will do so by choice. Women who have achieved self-respect and confidence in their abilities have come too long a way toward equality to stop where they are. The problem and challenges of the technological era are too great for the concerned, well-educated, ambitious woman to be content to sit on the sidelines with her knitting while men make all the decisions that count.
Young people see the heavy male-dominant role disappearing in most marriages. In its place is a sharing of work, play, child-care and child-rearing. Women will continue to work before and after child-rearing. Many women will combine the two. Husbands and fathers will play a greater role in housekeeping and child-care. A father may take a leave of absence to take care of the children. If the wife is offered a better paying job in a distant city, the husband will investigate his own job possibilities in that same city.
Some sociologist say an educated woman has three main outlets for her energies, ambition, and involvement. She can express herself through her own career, involvement in her husband’s career, or through her children. Most pour much of their energies into their own careers, although many rear children and help their husbands. In contrast, most women who stay home devote their time and energies in promoting their husband’s career and are deeply involved in child care and child-rearing. As more and more women seek higher education and/or employment, communities will need increasing numbers of well-trained child-care substitutes.
Life is very uncertain anymore. Couples marry and divorce so often. It is difficult to be secure. I sometimes wonder if the trend for women obtaining better careers is because of the high divorce rate or if divorce happens because women are more into their careers. Whatever the case may be, I recommend setting goals and sticking to them but be flexible for your changing needs and circumstances. Women need to be involved in household finances and, if working, need to establish their own 401k accounts to protect them for the future. If work is most important to a woman, she should put off having children until she is absolutely ready to postpone career aspirations. Most importantly, a woman needs to follow her heart because neither her, her husband or children will be happy unless she is happy.
As for raising children, I hope my little ladies grow up with the knowledge that no matter what they choose in life-a stay-at-home mom, marriage and career, or marriage, career and family- what is important is how they feel about the situation and what fits in to their values, goals and lifestyle. I want my daughters to choose what is right for them and not make a choice based on what other people think. I don’t want them to flounder like I did. I want them to know that whatever they choose is great as long as it makes them happy and it is what they want. I think the best advice I can give them (though children usually don’t listen to parents about long term advice, they usually have to learn for themselves) is to begin formulating goals as early as possible. For instance, if my oldest daughter wants a full-time, successful career, she should focus on achieving that and not let an early marriage or children slow her down. She can easily begin a family later. Or if my youngest daughter would like to have a large family, or be mostly involved in her children and husband, then she should insist on that and communicate with her future spouse so they can both work together to achieve that goal. I wished I would have been that mature.
Lastly, hopefully my girls will understand that no matter what they choose, it won’t be easy but worth the effort and sacrifice in the long run. I especially hope I raise them to not allow sexual biases get in the way and to achieve what they want regardless if it is deemed a man’s job or woman’s job. In fact, my children see me do both. I mow the lawn, wash the cars, take out the garbage and do dishes, laundry and clean bathrooms. I also work, go to school but love to have fun water-skiing, snow-skiing and coaching and playing softball. My new husband does the same except he is indeed the bread-winner of the family. That to me is a fairly well-rounded parental example. I hope my children surpass me, at parallel age levels, in all ways.
University of Phoenix
WORKING WOMEN AND FAMILY LIFESTYLES – (UD)
Theories and principles related to the past and present status and role of women in work, behavioral, and socialization patterns affecting career choices and leadership abilities. Dual career couples, child-raising issues, and the future of the family. Special problems of re-entry women and current legislation affecting women at work.
GENERAL EDUCATION: SOCIAL SCIENCE
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