Thursday, August 03, 2006

Women and Work

Maxed out. Stressed out. Worn out. I am out and out ready for a change. Well, after years of planning, gathering the much needed courage to ‘quit’ I am ready….so I began to clean up the mess of 14 years from my file drawers, reading, deleting and of course ‘saving’ e-mails in archives. Majority of my e-mails consisted of e-mails exchanged with my beloved husband about our munchkins….some are heart-breaking…to recall those mornings when a wailing toddler wouldn’t let go of my leg…those teething days when my child depended more on Tylenol than my warm lap…shuffling between baby-sitters and pre-schools. It made me think hard on ‘why did I continue to work?’ It is hard to pin-point one single reason but I will share my thoughts on it from self-experience as well as gathered from having conversations with different mothers who I worked with over the years.

Yes, I enjoyed working, but that is before I was reincarnated as mother of our three children. There are lots of women who hold two full-time jobs, one at work and one at home; but I always have had trouble finding the elusive balance between work and family.

The two worlds waged a daily tug-of-war over my attention and devotion. As time went on, my maternal instincts began winning out over my long-range plans at work. As holding down the two full-time jobs, is wearing me down; becoming a stay-at-home mom is looking real attractive. Nonetheless, here are my observations from the experience of work-life for 17 years as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.

Although today’s women are still assigned responsibility for the family relationships, many women's satisfaction does not correlate highly with care giving.

Women need to understand and develop both aspects ‘pleasure and mastery’ of well-being, to feel good about themselves. Women who work hard at a challenging job are doing something positive for their mental health. Marriage and children do not guarantee well-being for a woman.

Doing and achieving are at least as important to the lives of women as are relationships and feelings. Being able to generate some income is critical for self-approval, growth, security, and development. Monetary rewards and interesting careers are definitely confidence builders for women. If that side of a woman's life is neglected, her self-esteem is endangered.

Developing self-interests of and close relationships help to balance woman's life. A woman needs her own time, space, and her own life. To be totally dependent on a male and/or her family for fulfillment is perilous.

Today's woman is encouraged by some to be independent and career-oriented. While it is true that more women are developing careers, it is also true that many have a long way to go to catch up with men. Most women say they would like a career along with successful relationships and happy families. However, for many females, timing is a problem.

The phase of life devoted to forming relationships and establishing families is also the period of life when career-oriented individuals devote almost exclusive attention to developing their careers. Since many women in the workforce also carry the primary responsibility for children, this responsibility is often a time-and-energy restriction to career development.

Because in many circles, women are expected to be home makers, they find it difficult to take the time necessary to acquire job skills. However, without adequate work skills, a woman must be cared for financially. This fosters a child-like dependency on the "caregiver."

Women without their own assets are at risk of losing their financial support from separation, divorce, death, or their partners' loss of employment. They are also in danger of losing the financial support of their children. Therefore, job skills, far from being selfish, are extra insurance, both for her children and herself. In fact, in today's times, many people consider it selfish to have children without the job skills necessary to support them. Whether in or out of the job market, women often suffer feelings of guilt. If a woman stays at home, she thinks, "I should be contributing financially." If she works, she worries, "I should be at home with my children."

This generation of women has been prepared to enter the workforce and have actually done so in record numbers. But all too often the woman, husband and even segments of society itself believe in this selfless, all encompassing role of motherhood. Such an image leaves women bearing most of the responsibility for child rearing. It also leaves them guilt ridden and filled with fear.

Overwhelmed with guilt, some women quit work entirely, a solution that can leave women economically vulnerable and depressed. The choice should not be whether to work or stay home. Couples should share the responsibilities of parenting; when a woman is emotionally insecure in quitting her job. Mothers need to let some of the responsibility go to fathers and respect that men have equal say in parenting decision. Yes, men are capable of nurturing as much as woman and sometimes even more; when given the chance. Women may have to make some material and/or career sacrifices in order to spend more time with their children. In fact, for many mothers the greatest luxury is time. So from what I have observed around me, for many women, stopping employment altogether is not a reasonable answer for the years of motherhood. Having faith in One Provider Akaal Purkh, careful planning, setting priorities, commitment and support form the bedrock for a family to obtain parenting freedom.



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