So here we are. Much like that rollicking plane I rode all those years ago when I was pregnant and my future was unknowable, I have landed safely. As I write the conclusion of this book, my children are well on their way to being independent adults. After years of the push-me, pull-me of work-life imbalance, I can again be fully engaged in my career without the constant distractions of having children at home. Looking back, only now do I see that the answer to that issue of “balance” isn’t trying to have it, but knowing that the imbalance we feel at any given moment is temporary. Careers are long; pauses are short. I couldn’t be more excited about what is ahead.
And yet, as I have shared, I do have regrets. One stands out above them all: I’ve spent the last few decades hunkered down, focused on my own issues, worrying unceasingly about how I alone could navigate the challenges of work and life. Meanwhile, in the more than twenty years since I became a mother, as I obsessed in my personal silo, we as a nation have not moved the needle on how we support families. And like our government, I did nothing to help.
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The long list of strategies and ideas I uncovered as I wrote this book are solutions that may help relieve work-life integration for women who are college-educated and privileged with resources that can enable them to find personal solutions. But there are many more millions of American women who do not have the resources or support they need to overcome their burdens. The daily challenges of trying to support their families in a system that dismisses the realities of caregiving are heartbreaking. So while this book was written for women like me, in writing it, I have come to see we desperately need solutions that work for all Americans. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It is shameful that our country does not offer its citizens paid parental leave, paid sick leave, and universal child care. We are better than this. I take ownership for my role in letting our country abandon its citizens. You can, too.
Ask yourself: Do we want women (who are generally tasked with being the primary caretakers) to be prevented from bringing their talents, experiences, and skills to the workforce as fully as they are able? Do we want men to be locked into the role of primary breadwinner and miss the chance to be fully engaged fathers?
And this isn’t just about our fulfillment as individuals. Do we want our economy to suffer because one-half of the population is handicapped by a culture that doesn’t allow them to be fully engaged? Do we want our country to fall behind other industrialized nations because of outdated models of employment and old-fashioned ideologies of what it means to be a parent? Put simply, if we want to remain competitive as a nation, how we work has to change.
We can argue about working mothers and stay-at-home mothers and One Percent mothers and welfare mothers, but all of that arguing doesn’t get us the solutions we collectively need. Rather than privilege our differences, we need to come together to find solutions that can work for all of us.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead is famously quoted as saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Today, we need more than a village; we need an army. It’s time to start fighting for the rights of the next generation, because if we don’t, women’s careers won’t be the only thing that suffer. Our country will, too.
The following are recommendations for how we can begin to support the women, the men, and the families of America. It starts with you.
Rather than privilege our differences, we need to come together to find solutions that can work for all of us.