Are Women Really Liberated? Work, Stay Home or Have it All?
Having lived through the Civil Rights which splintered black and white, the media hype of Red and Blue states separating the nation, the most profound reaction of a movement has come from Women’s Liberation which fabricated a rift between mothers, career women and those who want it all (in addition to thoroughly confusing men). Infighting among women has stalled their progress in the workplace, in finance, status, appreciation and respect as well as pitting women against women who choose different life paths. What happened to us?
Leave it to wars to transform women’s lives. When men create wars, women became multi-taskers holding positions as mothers, homemakers and workers. During the Civil War, women managed the plantations or were soldiers. During WWII because of the lack of men and need for products and services, women found their rightful place as talented providers. In the military, they were WACS, WAVS and pilots; on the assembly line, engineers, riveters and machinists. Even in the domain of mathematics and science, women ran the new computer technologies.
However, when war is over, the productive women were expected to go back to their lives as homemakers and moms. After experiencing the respect, fulfillment of the workplace contrasted by the lack of appreciation of at-home-mothering, this was no longer enough for them. Thus, the movement, which had been percolating for generations, took hold with women’s desire to vote, participate, work and have the same rights and privileges as men. How have women behaved with these newfound freedoms and feelings?
The postwar television broadcasts were propaganda-filled with subliminal messaging for women to again feel satisfied in the home. Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver portrayed the ‘typical’ American family where mama stayed home, dad worked and problems were solved in 25 minutes. However, subliminal messaging travels only so far in reality. With more and more women in the workplace, thinking and believing, we could ‘have it all’- career, marriage, family, and housekeeping- many of us were asking more and more of the men. Having been enculturated to believe they should be sole breadwinners, men did not know what to do with such requests, longing for the days of Ozzie and Harriett. Many of us thought, “I’m doing it all, what do I need a man for?” So the divorce rate skyrocketed. The rift between those that chose non-traditional routes were ostracized, chastised or dismissed as rebels and heretics while some of those who stayed home felt resentful and jealous. Then Phyllis Shaffley and Gloria Steinem became figureheads for opposition camps.
A first-hand account of this division came during my divorce in Pennsylvania. The courtroom was filled with all females (excluding my ex-husband) judge and both prosecuting attorneys. When the judge discovered I wanted to home school my children, she made her beliefs known. As a licensed educator, I was qualified and beyond reproach in this regard. However, the judge wielded her biased authority meshed into two important and telling decisions: 1) to equate my degrees with a potential salary and earnings, therefore, leaving me without child support in order to ‘persuade’ me to join in the workforce instead of caring for children at home. 2) She found me mentally unstable sending me to a psychiatrist. As a practitioner, it was easy to observe the tactics used to ‘break me’. The psychiatrist scheduled10PM appointments in the hopes of exhausting me. However, as luck would have it, I discovered her Achilles’ heel and turned the tide. Each of the women in this scenario had strong beliefs about mother’s working, children being socialized, at home mothering while demonstrating a sense of guilt and animosity for not staying home themselves.
In a nation where more single mothers raise children, most in poverty, the rhetoric and delusion of political debate on all fronts reflects a desire to return to some ideology of the ‘good-ole-days’ that do not and never did exist. Therefore, a new paradigm for mothering, parenting, career, work scheduling and defining family must become a national debate and dialogue. Both Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg with Lean In and Marissa Mayers, CEO of Yahoo, are prominent in this debate. However, Sheryl is a billionaire, married to a millionaire and Marissa equally as wealthy enabling them to hire home and child care, unrepresentative of the majority of the female population. Nevertheless, their premise of women needing to exert assertiveness to ask for raises, more responsibility and feeling worthy, are enculturation characteristics that all women must transform.
Women bring a different set of values and skills to the workplace than men. Workplace redesign and rescheduling to secure women’s mental health and happiness and that of their children requires a change in the infrastructure of ‘work, family, child rearing’. The ‘traditional work schedule’ 9 to 5 with four walls was instituted by men who had women at home. A new model -be it home or office- where women can be close to their children during the formative years to allay the enormous guilt factor that mother’s feel (as well as form bonding and stability for the child) is crucial.
Redefining family will also be valuable. Family in a few modern homes is nuclear. It is becoming more and more two men, two women, single mom or dad with very few parents opting for marriage, and even much less choosing to stay-at-home. Women delay children during child bearing years in order to gain status, job recognition and placement instead of going into the workforce and raising children. A new model that accommodates mom at work, face time with young children, whatever that may look like would benefit both child and mom. So women would have more incentives to workforce achievements and be less inclined to judge each other on choices.
Highly valuing mothers, Scandinavian countries, have solved a multitude of problems (parental guilt, respect, appreciation, financial support, child behavior problems, and decline in prison populations) by paying mothers to stay home for up to the first six years of a child’s life. Modern corporate models like Google and Facebook have a broader perspective of the workplace atmosphere, scheduling and work climate. When a new model of ‘the work day’ becomes commonplace, when mothers are able to spend more face time with young children, when women start behaving like leaders and not like men, the division between women will no longer have a foundation in animosity and progress in the workplace will be a reality.
Dr. Daria M. Brezinski
Dr. Daria M. Brezinski is educator, psychologist, entrepreneur, author, TV and radio show host and mother. In addition to having owned the first environmentally friendly wholesale retail store, holistic health center, been president of a college, she has a private practice, is Executive Director of What Wize Women Want 501©(3), Encouraging Women’s Voices to Make Informed Choices and Inspiring Women’s Roles to Guide Children’s Souls which promotes, educates and funds women. Just One is a project towards Education, Vocation and Relocation for single mothers. She has a TV Show, which highlights and promotes women in the community and conducts women’s socials. www.WhatWizeWomenWant.com or Daria@DocDarB.com