Lisa Belkin is perhaps the nation's foremost chronicler of highly ambitious females and coiner of the phrase "opting out" has decided to opt out of her weekly "Life's Work" column (see what I did there? I kid). Anyway, Belkin's last column discussing the work/life balance among women and after nine years of covering this topic, she comes to the conclusion that there are "no answers — just endless and penetrating questions." But she also notes that in this time of economic peril, those questions might change entirely.Belkin acknowledges that the idea of work/life balance is a privileged one — many women in this country don't have the option of not working, and they certainly can't easily find another job that treats them better than the one they already have. But even for women who have those high powered jobs are going to feel the burn of this economic shift. "The sorts of initiatives that make work more family friendly are also the newest, and it is likely that when cuts have to be made in companies, these kinds of programs will be the first to go," Belkin posits. She also caught up with those women profiled in the original "Opt-Out Revolution" article, which was published almost exactly five years ago. The fates of these women who left high powered jobs to be housewives have been a mixed bag. One is going through a messy divorce, and "It was tough for her getting back to work, she said, because she had allowed a gap to open in her résumé — as tough as her critics had warned it would be." Another woman who opted out in 2003, Katherine Brokaw, "is now the dean of students at the Emory Law School, proving that you can take time out and land very well." So what can we learn from the 9 years of Belkin's columns, besides the fact that there are no easy answers? I think we can learn that our decisions about work don't have to be so fraught or fatalistic. Portrayals of women navigating the shoals of work and life tend to be charicaturish. Women who opt out are painted by their opponents as nouveau stepford wives; women who seek the executive suite are dismissed as uncaring mothers. When I first started reading about the idea of a work/life balance it struck me that I had never really thought about the issue because my mother seemed to do it so effortlessly. She worked full time as the head of the psychiatric unit at a local hospital until I was eight or nine, all the while maintaining a private psychiatry practice. When I was older, she jettisoned the hospital job and kept her private practice, seeing patients four days a week. Did this choice keep her out of the upper echelons of her career? Undoubtedly. Does she regret it? Not at all. Did I suffer because my mom wasn't around 24/7 when I was little? Not remotely. Looking Back, Moving On [NYT] The Opt-Out Revolution [NYT]
I am totally terrified about the work/life balance. I just don't understand how I will NOT take time off to breastfeed my baby (I really wouldn't like to limit pumping... the term "expressing milk" seriously makes me queasy), but how I will then be able to get back into the workforce smoothly.
And I'm going to be a teacher, so on the one hand it's such a woman-dominated profession that tons of people do this, but on the other hand it seems disruptive to my class to leave for extended periods, probably a couple of times since I want more than one kid. Any Jezebel teachers out there have insight on this?