After writing about gender and children, I ran into two blog posts about the other end of the debate – the work-life balance that it takes to be mother and have a career. They come from two very different sources, which I think highlights how prevalent this issue is in society. The first article is from Sisterhood, a blog run by the Forward newspaper (to which we subscribe), entitled “Making Room for Ima on the Bima”. A recent graduate from JTS Rabbinical School laments the difficulty (and outright chauvinism) she experienced during her job search – questions asked about whether she could handle being a mother and being a rabbi, which she suspects prevented both her and her female colleagues from getting jobs at the same rate as their male colleagues, despite being in similar life stages (i.e. with small children). More importantly, she proposed the life experience of being a mother would undoubtedly be helpful in a profession that requires compassion, sympathy and patience, all of which are increased by parenthood. The comments on the post were also particularly interesting – one pointing out that perhaps she would benefit from talking to female Reform rabbis, the earliest of whom are now getting toward the end of their careers, and another pointing out that life experience in general, not just parenthood, should be considered an asset for rabbis joining congregations.
The second article, from the NY Times, intentionally provocatively titled “Should Women Be Doctors?” talks, among other things, about the rising incidence of part-time doctors. The article is particularly interesting because discusses two different conclusions reached by bringing the same data. On the one hand, medical school is an investment both by the schools and by the students, and perhaps we’re not getting our “worth” out of the doctors if they choose to work part-time for any part of their career. It gets pretty deep – should the women have become doctors in the first place, if they can’t or won’t be doctors full-time for their entire career. Should they, instead, let someone else (i.e. male or a woman not wanting to have children) take their spots at schools and in jobs? On the other hand, perhaps part of what’s going on is that the old model was not sustainable. Is it fair on anyone to make them work 100 hours a week? Or to put the pressure on that if they don’t do it, they are somehow misusing their education? My own father is a physician, and the demands on his time have been numerous and varied. Only in the last few years has he stopped having to make hospital calls. My parents plan their vacations months ahead, and when they decide to move or he retires, he is required to give at least three months notice. The first comment to the article also points out something important – since 80% of women become mothers, to discriminate against them in this way is basically to discriminate against women. Consider then, that each of the viewpoints laid out were espoused by women, and you add yet another layer.
I found these articles and the questions they particularly interesting as I am starting grad school in a few months, and preparing to spend a fair amount of money on it. Knowing that there will likely be a period of time in which I won’t be working as well as a period in which I might work part-time, I have asked myself a couple of times if it’s worth it, especially since it’s likely that this might happen fairly soon after I get my degree. The answer, since I’m still going to grad school, is yes. Even if I didn’t work a day in my life after school, it would probably still be worth it for having fulfilled a dream of mine. However, I think I have more to offer than being a mom. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-mom, but I want to keep contributing as an individual as well, in a professional sense. I can’t see what the future will bring, exactly, or what my professional contribution will be exactly. I want to help fix non-profit organizations, and I want to do it well – whether that will be full-time or part-time, it’s hard to say. It will likely be complicated, especially in the world of non-profits that often expects miracles from three full-time employees doing the work of five. Maybe I will be in the position to make a difference – to help figure out how to get the most from people while still getting what we need from life.
Oh, and one last article that I saw on this subject – Our Lefty Military. I admire the military for a lot of things, and this is definitely one of them.
So, female professionals and family concerns – what’re your thoughts?