Sandberg’s Working Woman versus Stay-at-Home

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There are some interesting things happening in the world of women and work. I should know, right? As a Smith Alumnae in my early 30’s, trying to carve out a career and figure out the way to a meaningful life, I am the epitome of the internal and external struggles of the modern day woman.

There are two paths women see as viable options towards a happy lifestyle. One path is summed up in Good Morning America’s story about ‘women putting a modern twist on traditional roles‘. As Emily Matchart explains, the ‘new domesticity‘  is a revert back to the early 20th century housewife whose skills include canning, knitting and child rearing. She cites catalysts such as increasing environmental concerns (w/ particular reference to food), the current state of the economy and the harsh realization that the [American] dream of women climbing the corporate ladder has been more akin to pushing shit uphill. For many small families, childcare is just as expensive as one partner becoming a stay at home parent – so why not go back to a simpler way of family traditions?

The second path is one that has been in the works since the days of Gloria Steinem and the women’s liberation movement. Sheryl Sandberg has reignited the movement by coining the term “leaning in” – women supporting each other in the corporate world to help achieve their ambitions (particularly in leadership roles). For women fighting their way into the workforce, people are left wondering why women are still getting paid less than our male counterparts and do not hold as many executive leadership roles. In the tech world, conferences painstakingly search for female CEOs who can speak lest they have an otherwise all male speaker line-up. Lean In is a community of support and  has come at perhaps a historically crucial moment when more and more women are ditching their corporate suits for cooking aprons.

I am stuck in the vortex of both ideologies. I went to Smith – the educational incubator of the likes of Julia Child, Gloria Steinem and Sylvia Plath. Women who helped pave the way for us now 30-somethings to be equals to men in the working world. Personally, there is an ambition to hone my skills and further my career, to be a part of something that could change the world and to earn my own way. That’s the strength of an all women’s education. On the other hand, and I believe my generation in particular (Gen XYZ), holds life as something to cherish and we are finding great value in those “chores” that have been traditionally seen as inferior to the success of having a career.

While I continue to find my way in the world, I see a consistently greater shift in the mentality of my female peers and friends towards the life of homemaker. Cause let’s face it – if the biggest stress of my day was what to make for dinner, life would pretty grand indeed.

Both paths are significantly different but equally rewarding in their own way. I suppose it’s a sign of the times is that the path less-corporate is now becoming not only  more socially acceptable, but more popular amongst today’s 30-somethings.

What do you think?

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One thought on “Sandberg’s Working Woman versus Stay-at-Home

  1. I love your piece and have totally been there in terms of stay at home vs work. It is a hard choice. When I was at home (and I wouldn’t have traded that), I did feel undervalued and a bit passed by in terms of work advancement. That’s probably why I did so much volunteer work- it gave me a sense of purpose and recognition that I was capable. When I was working, I often felt guilty about not doing enough with you kids or being so behind with the house. To be fair, I was able to wait until you were all in school before I went back to work and even then, after a year of full time, I opted for part time for the next several years just to achieve some balance in my life. Of course, this is all in education, which is more woman-friendly than the corporate world and which allows the summers off- exactly right for being home with young kids. I don’t know how women decide how to make it work these days, especially in America’s short-sighted work environment. My gut says that if you make the commitment to have kids, you should (as a couple) make the best choices you can to nurture them (especially in the early years). The guy should not have an automatic opt-out and should contribute equally to the care (although that is probably a good topic for another blog!). Yeah, life was simpler in the olden days, but not as stimulating or rewarding for the women. Can you have it all? No. You have to decide which part is most important to have and be at peace with your decision.

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