The desire to stay at home to raise the kids, to cook and clean, and to be a good wife has never appealed to me. Needless to say, I judged any friend or family member who decided to “waste” their education and careers to become stay-at-home moms. My friend recently told me that she was no longer applying to medical school because her fiancé was recently accepted into a medical program and “they” decided that it would be best for one of them to stay home and raise their children. I nearly fainted (they don’t even have children). Couldn’t she balance being a mom and having a career? Isn’t that what women of the 21st century do?
Of course, it is easy for me to say that balancing a family and a career would be an easy task. My mom made it seem easy. She worked full time as a social worker. But she was always there in the morning to wake me up and always there in the evening to tuck me in. She attended every school play and back-to-school event, and she helped me build every science project. Needless to say, I assumed it was normal for a woman to have a career and have a family. (But I really don’t know anything about balancing a career and being a mother.) Until recently, I hadn’t had the opportunity to appreciate the difficulties that come with being a working mom.
This summer I had the privilege to work with a solo practitioner. She is assertive, eloquent, respected, capable, and great at her job. She graduated at the top of her law school class and now owns her own law firm. She is respected amongst her colleagues and is often asked to talk on radio shows to discuss emerging issues in her field. Although she is busy, because her office is close to her family’s home, she frequently sees her children either by driving them to and from school or them spending time in the office. She is able to balance a high-pressured career and have a family. At least it seems on the surface.
One day, after a busy but successful day in court, I asked her what is one thing that she knows now that she wish she had known before becoming an attorney. Her response, “I wish I didn’t go to law school. I wish I was a stay-at-home mom.” At first her response didn’t shock me. Grass is always greener on the other side. But as I let the words sink in, I thought to myself: Why do I think being a stay-at-home mom is such a bad idea?
The role of a woman has changed drastically over the last few generations. When my mom first applied to graduate school my grandmother cried for a week and asked if she would ever get married (which also could be because of cultural differences). But when I applied to law school, my grandmother told me to finish school first, then “talk” to guys. My grandmother has clearly made a dramatic shift, and she does represents the change and belief that women are and should be educated and valued highly.
We are educated. We work hard. We can do and be anything we want. But if this is true, why do I have a negative stigma with being a stay-at-home mother? Does being a modern day woman mean you cannot or should not take on roles that have traditional been viewed for women? The simple answer is to cut off all gender related roles, but how can we do that if we ourselves hold on to them?