The Female Breadwinner, Ctd

Jan 28 2013 @ 7:36am

A reader responds to a recent post:

Whenever I see an article (as I often do) that complains about how women can’t have both a well-cared-for family and a top-notch career, all I can think is: isn’t that because nobody can have a well-cared-for family and a top-notch career? Both are full-time jobs? There’s not enough time in a life to do two full-time jobs well. That’s why they’re called “full” time. I don’t know anybody who is raising great kids who hasn’t made significant sacrifices in their career to do so. Nobody, man or woman.

I get that feminism in the ’80s promised women that they could have the best of both. Isn’t it time we admitted that feminism was wrong? What women deserve is the freedom to make that choice. They can’t be shoved into domestic roles if they don’t want to be. That still happens far too often, and it should be stamped out wherever it can be. But this idea that women (or men) deserve both, and are somehow being cheated if they’re not getting both, is a fantasy.

Related to this thread is an unpublished email from last summer responding to the post “Can Modern Woman ‘Have It All’?”:

I am a Primary Care Physician, mother of three, bread-winner, married to an extremely supportive husband and surrounded by fantastic neighbors and friends who help enormously with my kids (Hillary was right: It takes a village). I arrived home the other day, exhausted and overwhelmed from needy patients, staffing issues, financial woes of trying to keep a struggling Primary Care office in business in this world, and found the Atlantic sitting in my mailbox. It encapsulated exactly what I have been trying to convey to friends and family for years – I cried while reading it. I have attempted to explain this to friends who stay home, friends without children, and my male counterparts for years, but Anne-Marie Slaughter so eloquently summed it up: I’m the Mom.

And that is entirely different than being the Dad – aside from just the biology – that I have the uterus and the breasts, it’s that I don’t want to be away from my children, I don’t want to miss their growing up (any of it), and I feel inordinately more guilty when things with them are going badly. When I made my choice to become a Family Doctor, I was pregnant with my first child (third year of medical school). I knew even then I wanted the shortest residency possible, the least call nights and the most flexible schedule, to be with my unborn child (and the two that came next). I didn’t want to be a surgeon or a cardiologist – this requires much longer training after med school and many more hours in practice.

And it wasn’t because my husband and family couldn’t do a great job. My husband teaches – home at 4! summers and school vacations! – so even childcare wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be a successful specialist, expert in her field, and infinitely better paid. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the skills or the smarts. It was because: I’m the Mom. I want to be there.

I don’t want to generalize, because I think there are some men who have the same compulsion, and I think there are some women who don’t. But by and large, women just have a biologic imprint that absolutely compels them to want to be with their children. As we speak, my son is home barfing with the babysitter. My husband (again: a fantastic father, dedicated, loving, present) isn’t too worried, and will get home when he gets home. I am positively aching; I just want to go home and rub his tummy and take care of him.