I skirt politics in my blog, but this post deals not with the current slinging of political comments, but with the cultural and sociological aspects concerning women who are not pursuing paid work outside the home. When I wrote my first novel, Orchids in the Snow, about an Air Force wife, I deliberately set in the early 1980s. That was a period when military wives were beginning to question and break away from some of the strict, unwritten social rules that they lived by. I chose to present my characters in a way that was accurate, although it turned out to be not commercially viable from a publishing perspective. That, however, is not the point of this post.
I was one of the inadvertent pioneers in the advancement of women in the Army, and thus my role as an Army wife and mother was not the same as that of my civilian counterparts, but I came to better appreciate their position. That, in turn, shifted my general view of women who chose to remain at home rather than enter the external workforce. When I did research for my first non-fiction book, The Parent’s Guide to Business Travel, that further expanded my exchanges with women who chose to either not work outside the home, to take some time off from an external career, or to pursue a work-at-home option.
In the course of writing those two books, I came to better define my personal philosophy that interestingly connected back to Ayn Rand – bear with me for just a moment. If you recall, one of the themes in Atlas Shrugged is that If you are faced with a contradiction, return to your original premise. It is distinctly possible that you will find a flaw in your premise rather than a contradiction. How does this relate to the rally cry of women who say, “Yes, you can have it all”?
The flaw is in the definition of “all”. In common usage, it is intended to show that a woman can have a fulllfilling external career and a family. I don’t recall how many times I said that myself, and what I now believe is that the real freedom is in defining your own “all”. No single position is intrinsically superior to the other as long as it is a personal choice. The lack of liberation is when a woman is forced (literally or figuratively) into a decision by others’ expectations. Having been suddenly thrust into the role of single-parent, I also understand that being a stay-at-home mom is not always an economic option and I am not going to enter into the discussion about women who are stay-at-home moms based on government welfare programs.
As human beings, we have a tendency to justify our actions and so the, “No, my way is better”, does fly forth with great regularity. There are most assuredly groups who embrace the validity of choice and I hope that we send the message of choice to girls and young women today.