Monday, June 29, 2009

Who's going to take care of the children?

Last week on 60 Minutes there was a story of a group of Australian women are who are going back to being the 50s style stay at home housewife after having a stint at being a career woman. These women are in their late 20s to early 30s that had a taste of the corporate world and then decided that being a fulltime mother and wife was preferable. As a woman in her 20s working towards a potential career in the public sphere, I was completely appalled when I initially watched the segment. Our mother’s generation did not fight for women’s rights for a small group of women to undermine all working women and their ambitions. Women have and continue to work very hard for legitimacy in the working world and to me their stance on what women (as a general entity) should do is appalling. These women claimed that it is impossible to juggle children and the corporate world and that the feminists of the 60s and 70s duped us into thinking that we could both. Their assessment of the situation was that women who are mothers would be better off staying home for the children and husband, ensuring a stable family life for all.

On principle, I believe that if a woman chooses to stay at home, it is her prerogative and she should be commended (as well as fathers who chose to stay home and raise children). I see such a decision as a sacrifice to be willing to take on a task that is purported to be equivalent to having two full time jobs in terms of stress and ethic. But I categorically refuse accept that it is the woman’s role to be home and raising children or that it is even necessary. Women have made a lot of changes in their lifestyle in the last few centuries while men have generally continued to what they’ve been doing for centuries. To this day no one expects a man to have children by 35, no one expects a man to stay at home when he does have children and no on expects the man “to have it all together” at all times. So where have we gone wrong?

Women’s liberation have a come a long way to ensure that we do as well as men in academia and that we can go out and have enjoyable sex without regrets. But at the end of the day after all of that, women are still the only ones that can bear and have children and so we continue to impose the unspoken burden on women to marry and have children. Baby formula changed that burden with regards to breast feeding so there is no doubt in my mind that natural bearing and birthing of the children will one day become a thing of the past. I trust that science and technology will give us at least that much. But who’s going to take care of those children?

Women have been behaving like men to get ahead for decades but men have not done the same. Most women would cringe if men behaved like women so what is the solution to this problem? It seems like society forgot to address all the issues before giving the green light to women to take charge of the workplace and their sexual lives. Studies have shown that children fare better when they are raised by their family rather than day care. So I ask again, who’s going to take care of the children? Both sexes have been given the ability to serve society in many ways and I firmly believe that it is neither the man’s nor the woman’s job to have to raise children. Where men are physically stronger, women have been given better negotiation and empathy skills. Without the input and perspective of both men and women, a society cannot be expected to develop in a healthy and inclusive manner. So it is imperative that we have a significant amount of women in the private and public workforce.

The clear cut answer to this problem has always been relationships. Relationships are the building block of society and it doesn’t take a woman to raise a child but a village. What we lack in society is a balance between our individual pursuits and our responsibility to our society. We no longer have healthy relationships with our parents, our aunts and uncles, our cousins. We try to move as far away from our family and “do our own thing”. We no longer maintain healthy friendships with people we can trust and count on. We no longer know the first names of our friendly neighbour. The working women of this generation no longer stay in touch with the one friend that does decide to stay at home and raise the children. The problem is that we ARE trying to do it alone when we should be involving everyone. I am not suggesting that we revert back to some form of communitarian cult-like culture. What I am suggesting is that while our individual pursuits are necessary, those pursuits have harmful affects when we decide to start a family which by nature is inherently contrary to the “individual pursuit”.

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