Candy starts her article in the Daily Mail with the somewhat disturbing claim that, as the editor of a women's magazine, she knows all about young women, "from what they wear to who they want to date" (if that's true, I apparently enjoy putting candle wax in my boyfriend's anus and slapping ruching on everything to give myself a bust). Then she says that today's thirtysomething women "are happiness hunters; they have abandoned career ambition and decided to choose love over work, contentment above the stress of success, marriage and kids above jobs, friends above status."
First of all, like so many articles about opting out, balancing family and career, and the like, this ignores the many women who have to work at jobs that are not necessarily high-powered careers, and don't really have a choice between friends and status. Secondly, the idea that career is about drudgery, dues-paying, and obligation while true happiness comes only from family and friends is kind of a strange one coming from Candy. Why did she and her 40-something friends bother "climbing the career ladder" if it didn't make them, in some way, happy? This is an article about women with the luxury of choosing between a fun personal life and an intellectually demanding job — is she really saying only one of those choices is fulfilling?
It's also not true that everyone has to choose. Candy acknowledges that the 30-year-olds she talks to don't "believe a woman's place is with her babies or her boyfriend" — they just want a balance between family and career. And she points out that women her age may have been afraid to ask for such a balance. She says, "I didn't tell my bosses that I was pregnant until I was nearly five months gone, so worried was I about the response." She and other women her age and older "have probably paved the way" for younger women to ask for reasonable hours, family leave, and the like. Candy and those who came before her proved something that shouldn't need proving — that women can work just as hard and well as men. If women truly feel that they don't have to prove that anymore (and unfortunately, we doubt that this is always true), it doesn't necessarily mean their priorities are different from those of women before them — it just means they feel more comfortable expressing them.
So there's really nothing strange about the 30-something "happiness hunters" Candy describes. Everybody wants happiness. And the freedom to balance work and family is good for everyone, even if you pick work. We should be striving to make this freedom available to more women — and men too. When people get a little flexibility in their lives, we shouldn't be surprised when they exercise it — and we shouldn't assume that their desire to take a day off means they only care about love.
photo by Ben Lister for the Daily Mail