Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Work vs. Staying Home: Why do we have to choose?

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans have come a long way in terms of child-rearing. Fathers are often much more involved in raising their children, and many stereotypes regarding the traditional roles of mothers and fathers are becoming less prevalent. Why is it, then, that there is still such a divide between mothers who stay home and those who work?

In recent years, the development of hidden "nanny-cams" has flooded the internet and news programs with images of abusive or inadequate caregivers who appeared to have experience with children and stellar references. Finding suitable, quality childcare is very difficult, especially with the added paranoia that nanny-cam incidents have caused. Many, if not most, mothers would prefer to rear their own children, without depending on help from potentially unfit strangers. However, for many women, staying home is not an option. Financial burdens require many households to earn two incomes just to pay the bills, requiring many mothers to work. Some women have worked to establish successful careers, and feel that giving them up would take away a piece of their identity and in turn negatively impact their home life.

Regardless of the reason, the fact that mothers have to choose between working and raising their children is quite disheartening. Women have made many successful strides in the workplace that have put us on a great track to achieve equality with men. Yet we are hampered by the issues that arise when we become mothers. Some workplaces have accomodated the unique needs of mothers by allowing for telecommuting and flexible scheduling options, but these types of positions are hard to come by. Why is it that more workplaces have not stepped up to the plate? Flexibility in work scheduling allows a parent to have the best of both worlds: a successful career AND priceless time with his/her children. There is clearly a need for such arrangements. Just look at the number of "work from home" advertisements in most parenting magazines, or the number of mothers who choose to sell products from companies such as the Pampered Chef or Tupperware.

How can we make our voices heard and advocate for generally accepted standards for flexibility in the workplace? Are their organizations currently in existence that are already doing this type of work? If you are out there, please add a comment to tell us about your work. I will be happy to feature you in a future post.