Monday, July 2, 2012

Where you come from shouldn't matter as much as where you're going.

Can't we all just get along?

On Slaughter's article...

I don't care about all of the press slamming her for the "dream job" and her revelations about living away from her family making it hard to parent. Yeah yeah. I get it, you are poking holes in her dream world and her public admission of the inner struggles she faced as she gave up an amazing professional opportunity to return to her family. Whatever.

The author admits that she writes about her own sphere which are high powered women who juggle parenting with successful careers. Great, a view from the top. You mean it isn't all rainbows and unicorns?  OK, nuff said critics.

Having just finished the Women in Advanced Computing (WiAC) summit it seems that instead of focusing so sharply on one woman's confessions, we should look to ourselves and our community. Women seem too critical of one another. There are the mommy wars and women who pick on the successes or failures of one another. Men are smart to stay out of that battle.

What we need instead is a community that supports our individual choices as well as the situations that are not necessarily by choice.

It appears that those of us who have found successful careers work too much because we have something to prove, whereas the woman who is scraping by to make a living is working too much because that's what she has to do to make ends meet. Do we women professionals with that additional income feel left out if we aren't as busy as the single woman with great aspirations?  Gosh I hope not (looking in the mirror a bit here to figure out why I'm running myself ragged... ).

I currently have a good career and a spouse who contributes both financially and as a strong parent to our children. It wasn't always that way. Growing up the child of a single mother, I had a first-hand view of her stress as she tried to work and parent. She didn't have a degree though she did eventually put herself through college to earn an AA. Working a job that barely provided for both of us, there were many conversations about how we'd pay the bills or fix a broken car. She had only me to confide in which wasn't always the ideal situation for a kid.  There were also a lot of things I witnessed other kids my age doing and having because they had a larger household income and two parents. My mother used to say "life's not fair" and that was her way of teaching me to accept reality.

That said, I also don't think you have to be a single parent to struggle with your career choices. There are some women who might not have had the opportunity to go to college out of high school or didn't realize how hard it would be to work without a degree or specific professional skills. Some of these women work hard to put themselves through school later in life so they can change careers, re-invent themselves.

There are days that it feels like it's too much to balance work and home and do both successfully. Then I remember that my mother didn't have another parent to share the home workload or to provide an income and it seems like I can make it work.

How do single women (parents and non-parents) cope with their hope of a successful career (to increase their earning potential, to necessitate working one job to pay the bills, to feel fulfilled) and balance the rest of their lives (desire to have a family, raising kids on their own, desire to get a degree, desire for a better job)?

I think the first step is realizing that not everyone is like you. We all traverse individual paths to where we are today. We make choices yet some paths are not always available or unclear when we are making these choices. Stop throwing stones and instead be a role model or a mentor. As Madeleine Albright said "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

Where you come from shouldn't matter as much as where you're going.

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