When we’re little girls we’re told we can do anything and be anything, and in today’s society that almost seems true. After all, women are finally at a place where we’re almost making the same amount a man makes in the same position. (Although at 73 cents on the dollar it is sadly still almost.) Our heads are slowly peeking over that glass ceiling and it’s about time. However, the older I get the more it seems that the sad truth is no matter how far women’s rights have come in today’s society the fact is we still can’t really have it all.
When it comes to balancing family and career, women are still in the same place where we’ve been for centuries. If anything, it’s even worse now for women because there’s so much more expectation from not just society but ourselves. In a society that proclaims women have so much more opportunity now but does little to help the working mother, much less the working mother that’s also a military wife, how do we achieve our goals while also being fully present for our family? It seems that once you have kids if you still, or ever, had career aspirations all balance fades. If you decide to be a working mom you’re balancing precariously on a never ending juggling ball of career, family and guilt. I’m not saying choosing to be a stay-at-home mom is not a valid career or life choice, it is. In fact, I personally believe stay at home moms are the most selfless women on the planet and in the military there are also many stay-at-home moms that don’t have a choice. But what if you don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom? What if you wanted to have a career and have kids? Enter an endless uphill battle filled with guilt.
Perhaps once you’ve had kids, (or will have kids), you decide that you will have it all. You will work full time, growing your career and be there at home for your kids at night and on the weekends. After all, this is what dads do so why can’t you do it too? Unfortunately, natural biology is why. Women naturally feel more guilty being away from their children than men do. It goes back to the hunter/provider vs. nurturer instincts. Most men are hardwired, and even still raised, to believe that being the breadwinner, i.e. the provider, is their role in contributing to their family whereas women are raised to nurture and care for their family. So while a man may feel guilt for being away from his child, he is able to assuage that guilt by reminding himself that he is doing his “manly duty” in providing for his kid and in the military even protecting his country as well, while women often feel that they are failing in their nurturing duty. Add in being a military wife and there’s a whole other host of factors to make you feel guilty for wanting to be a working mom, assuming you’re even at a duty station where it’s possible for you to work. Being married to a service member that is frequently gone on deployments or works long hours every day means that you’re often the only parent who is capable of being home to take care of the kids. It’s no easy thing to decide to put your career “first” over being home with your children when your spouse is away. However, in a society where it’s often necessary to have two breadwinners in the family to make ends meet, it’s also no easy thing to have to deal with financial struggle and sacrifice so you can stay home with the kids. Not to mention the unfortunate truth that our society doesn’t really respect stay-at-home moms the way they should. If you’re a stay-at-home mom you’re often seen as lazy and taking the easy route. If you’re a military wife and stay-at-home mom it’s even worse, then you’re referred to as entitled, a leech on your husband. Never mind the fact that you may have chosen to stay at home so your kids can have some kind of stability in the whirlwind that is military life or maybe because you weren’t able to find a job that covers the cost of childcare in your area.
I’d like to tell you there’s a solution, but the truth is there is no real solution right now that I know of. The world around us needs to change before women can truly have it all and we need to champion and campaign for that change. There needs to be more jobs with hours that match school schedules. After all, with children getting out of school at 2 or 3 it doesn’t really make sense for the workday to end at 5 or 6. Work places need to provide better or even just any daycare options for working moms. With the cost of daycare often rising to exorbitant amounts depending on where you live, sometimes you can’t even afford to work while sending your kids to daycare. There needs to be more flexible schedules for women and more fields need to segway into the virtual support era before women can truly have it all. Unfortunately right now the largest amount of virtual jobs for women seems to be in the fields of fitness coaching or diet product touting. Why should this be all we are reduced to being able to do from home? The workforce is losing out on a multitude of able-bodied, smart and driven women right now.
Whether you have kids already or plan on having kids and still want a career, my point is basically that I feel your frustration. You are not alone in feeling unsure of how to balance career aspiration and dedication to family “correctly”, as if there is such a thing as a correct balance. You are not alone in feeling like you will be judged no matter what decision you choose to make. Just remember that you, and all the women around you, are doing the best they can and we need to be easier on ourselves and each other because none of us really know how to do this right. In the meantime, if we can’t have it all, at least we have each other. We can only do the best we can and try to pave the way for a better path for the women that will come after us.
What do you think about this?