Motherhood

According to a Sept. 20, 2005 New York Times feature, “many woman at the nation’s most elite colleges say they have already decided they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children.” In a poll conducted by the New York Times, 60 percent of the female Ivy League students polled agreed that they would begin working part time, or stop work entirely, when they become mothers.

According to this recently published article, today’s Ivy League college women are choosing motherhood over climbing the career ladder. After reading this, I began to wonder, is this just an Ivy League trend, or is this the newest trend for many college-age women?

At Ferris I know many career-driven, motivated women; women who are active on campus, excel in the classroom and strive to become successful in their chosen career path. But what happens when the idea of children are thrown into the mix? I did some asking around to see whether or not Ferris women are headed on the motherhood path as well.

One of my closest friends is currently a pre-pharmacy student. She has a very bright career ahead of her. Obviously she and her man do not plan on having children yet, but when they do, she’ll continue to work. Even with an engineer at her side, and a comfortable lifestyle secured, she plans to balance motherhood and her career.

Another woman I spoke with informed me that she wanted someone at home with their children. But being a pharmacy student as well, she believed the stay at home parent would be her husband. She informed me that, “I will be making more than twice what he does.” And to her, this meant he received the at-home parent gig.

But don’t get me wrong, not every woman is following the career path as strictly. Others I spoke with are following the trend assumed by the New York Times, and planning on staying home or working part-time.

I know this may all sound a bit premature, but this is a choice I know some college-age women are already thinking about. Those with significant others, those with available job opportunities and those with looming graduation dates may have already begun thinking about what they will do when they become mothers. What choice will you make when young ones are thrown into the mix? And will you feel guilty no matter what choice you settle upon?

I suppose this is why the New York Times article caught me off guard. According to the article’s interview with Yale professor Cynthia E. Russett, “At the height of the women’s movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectations that they could somehow combine full-time work with child-rearing. The women today are, in effect, turning realistic.”

Realistic. Now, apparently, it’s realistic to believe that child-rearing and full-time work cannot go hand in hand. But when so many women before us have done so, how is it now, that this ideal is not realistic?

And on the other side of the argument, Dean of Yale College Peter Salovey questions the stay-at-home decision some college-age girls are making years before their future children are born.

“What does concern me, is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn’t constructed along traditional gender roles,” Salovey said.

Traditional gender roles. Our mothers and grandmothers made their lives along these roles, so how is it we can now turn our backs on the lifestyle that harbored our growth and development?

With such intense beliefs and feelings on both side of this trend, it’s becoming difficult for women our age to make a decision that fills both of emotional, educational and personal goals.

And for me, this is where the problem lies. Yes, women fought hard throughout the last three decades to give each one of us an opportunity to make a life for ourselves, a life that we are capable of supporting financially through our education and hard work.

But, our families may have fought just as hard to instill in us the importance of home, love and family security; even if they lay within those so called traditional gender roles some are apt to frown upon.

Is there a difference between the success gained through raising a family and the success gained through a life-long career? For me — no. I think the biggest mistake by the New York Times was considering this type of decision a trend. There is no social wave saying that women must continue to climb the corporate ladder to continue the legacy of those before them, as there is none saying women must adhere to the traditional roles that have served them well in the past.

To me, modern times call for a modern view. It isn’t one way or the other; it isn’t all and none. Each woman will inevitably do what serves them and their families well. Even this early on, before families have yet to begin, we are starting to make these choices. I know I have. Even before graduation, this girl has an idea of what she’ll be doing a few years from now.

Beth Garcia
Former Editor, Ferris State Torch