To Be or Not to Be? (A Working vs. Stay-at-Home Parent)
I was giving some more thought to the discussion we had in class on maintaining a work/life balance. The conversation was really interesting, because everyone seems to have their own unique view of whether or not to work if and when they start a family. I mentioned this in class, but at the risk of sounding repetitive, I think it’s important to realize that we often emulate what our own parents did. If your parents worked during the day and came home and had family time at night, that’s likely what you will want to do with your family (assuming you had a good experience with that). Similarly, if your mom or dad was around during the day to take you to soccer practice, pick you up from piano lessons, and having dinner prepared when you got home, then it isn’t surprising if that’s what you want to do, too. (By the way, this is an interesting link to tips for balancing work and family: http://parenting.ivillage.com/mom/workfamily/0,,nxjr,00.html).
I’m a psychology major, so it’s not surprising that I attempt to relate everything to a psychological theory. I found it particularly interesting when the class started justifying their parents work/life balance. At one point, someone argued that they didn’t think stay-at-home parents represented a very balanced lifestyle. This was a very interesting point, but if I remember correctly, it was made by someone whose parents both worked (?). Either way, it made me think of something called the “Social Desirability Bias,” which is the tendency to present oneself in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. I bring this up because I feel like it came into play in our conversation. It seemed that at times, social desirability was used in justifying individuals’ parents choice to work or stay at home. We all (for the most part) want to defend what our parents did, because we are proud of them.
My mom was a stay-at-home mother. She worked part-time, but for the most part, she dedicated herself to being a mom to my brother and me. I personally loved having her around. Granted, I have an excellent (and very rare, from what I can tell) relationship with both my parents, and unlike most of my friends, I love spending time with my parents. Just as my mom did, I want to stay at home and raise my kids, whenever the time comes. This isn’t to say that I want to give up my entire career and devote my every waking moment to my children, but I do want to be involved in their lives and in actively raising them. And I have no doubt that this propensity to do so comes as a direct result of the way my parents raised me. To me, part of my career IS my family, and I don’t think I’d be happy if I couldn’t be fairly involved.
I suppose what is the most important thing is that there is no “one right answer.” Everyone has their own preferences and desires in how they want to live their lives. For some people, working full time as an investment banker and seeing their family during the weekends only is fine. It works for them. For others, working during the day and seeing family in the evening and weekends is what works best. Either way, I think that each person ultimately discovers what works best for them, and this turns into their work/life balance. We all have different goals and desires, and what works best for me is not going to be best for the next person.