When I first heard about Lisa Belkin’s Opt Out Revolution article in the New York Times, I was angry. Angry at my fellow professional women- all fired up and frustrated that women were leaving professional jobs to stay home. How can we change the world if we just stay home? This made me mad.
But then, I read Lisa Belkin’s article and I had a hard time feeling that the world REVOLUTION was justified here. Belkin writes a poorly researched, anecdotal article about how some of her friends who just had babies are happy to be stay at home moms. I had a few concerns about her professional-womens-doomsday prophecy:
a) Belkin was writing about a very small group of acquaintances and assuming that they represented a revolution for the whole world. It would be like me noticing that a few of my friends stopped drinking coffee and then write an article called: “The Anti-Caffeine Revolution” only to have it picked up and written about by everyone. For 5 years. It’s insane.
b) The women that Belkin was writing about were almost all new moms. Sure, they were pumped to be out of the office, enjoying being moms. But in two, three, or even six years, when the kids are older or back in school, do these professional women really plan on never returning to work? I highly doubt it.
c) This article has nothing to do with a revolution. It only applies to women who have the financial means to stay at home. And really, out of these women, how many have left the work force forever? Show me the numbers. The numbers Belkin does reveal only highlight the fact that women are not in top CEO-like positions. Well, this is not a revolution. And whether because of roadblocks to women in general, or because women with families do decide not to strive for 80 hour work weeks, this does not mean women are out of the work force. Belkin also refers to women working part time, which I thought was work. And when you have a two year old, is this opting out of the workforce because you scale back on hours for a few years?
and d) Some professional women have always, and will always, quit their jobs when they have children to stay home and be the care givers for those children. This used to happen all the time when it wasn’t really an option to keep working and drop the tots at daycare. Or when dad wouldn’t scale his hours back to help out, or when women weren’t bringing in three figure salaries. Now a days, it’s possible. But to call this a REVOLUTION. I mean seriously. The French Revolution resulted in the upheaval of the people, murder of the monarchs and a complete restructuring of the political system. The American Revolution gave the U.S. it’s independence from Britain. And even Dance Dance Revolution can brag about being in dozens of countries with more than 100 versions and over a thousand songs.
Opt out revolution my ass.
And then….today, a press release from the American Sociological Association shows us some numbers and research that goes beyond: “Hey Sally, what up? How’s the ole book club? Ya, you workin right now? No. Great, how about Kathy? No, K. I’m putting together this thingy for the New York Times and was just curious. Toodles.”:
Wow. No Shit. Women with children are actually working more then ever before. Sociologist Christine Percheski has some great, real information for us:
Percheski’s research shows that the number of women with young children who work full-time year-round has increased steadily, growing from a rate of 5.6 percent of women born 1926 to 1935 (referred to as the “Baby Boom Parents” by Percheski), to 38.1 percent of women from Generation X (born 1966 to 1975). More professional Generation X mothers of young children were working full-time year-round than their counterparts in any previous generation.
Percheski even found that many professional women were working more than 50 hours a week.
“Contrary to an opt-out revolution, professional women—including mothers of young children—are working more than ever,” said Percheski. “Despite this increase in women’s employment, we can not assume that combining professional work and family life is easy for most women. Indeed, many working women successfully combine these roles by making great personal sacrifices, including curtailing their sleep, civic involvement or leisure time.”
Amazing what you can find out when you do your research before making bold, highly volatile, not to mention false stetments:
Percheski used cross-sectional data from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey to examine trends by 10-year birth cohorts of college-educated professional and managerial women in the United States from 1960 to 2005. She analyzed labor force participation; full-time, year-round employment; and work hours exceeding 50 hours per week. She is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and the Office of Population Research at Princeton University.
But of course, you wont read about Percheski’s study in the New York Times or elsewhere. The truth is just far less sexy and gets way fewer letters to the editor.
But for women like me, this research gives me some good amo when I hear people talking about how chicks nowadays just want to stay home and bake cookies instead of say….running for president.
Pass it on…..