Sunday, April 20, 2008

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.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sflohr said...

I find this comment pretty interesting in that I also thought about this topic as we left our classroom discussion, although in a slightly contradictory mindset.

During our classroom discussion most expressed that they feel they will try to imitate the environment they grew up in. Now don't get me wrong, I had an amazing experience growing up and I couldn't have imagined a better one. However, I did feel like I was the odd man out because I don't think I will raise my family the same way, but I don't think that means I will provide for my children any better or worse of an upbringing.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom and was always around. I really did love how close we became, yet I know I want to have a career and I do want the other rewards that will bring. I just think that times have changed and there is a stronger emphasis on dual incomes. That and I love to work and find it personally more appealing and rewarding than being a stay-at-home mom.

I just don't think that this is something you can generalize. I don't see there being one 'right' way to raise your children. Just because it worked for you, doesn't mean it is the best or only way to do it. It is all up to personal choice and creating an environment that works best for your situation.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Katie Krengel said...

I would have to agree. I felt awkward as well because I don't plan on emulating my parents way of raising me. I grew up in a household with 2 working parents. Often they would not get home until 6-8p. At first I stayed with a babysitter, but once I reached the age of 12 I stayed by myself. As an only child, this meant that I was home alone for 3-5 hours of each day. This lead to loneliness, overeating, and a blind attachment to television. Although this did allow me to become independent, it is not how I wish to bring up my children.

My issue is that I have high career goals and wish to spend a lot of time with my children. At my job two summers ago, the partner at the law firm came in late, left early, and didn't work on Fridays. I am sure that this is completely out of the norm, but at least it shows that such a lifestyle is possible. Hopefully I will be able to do the same in my own life.

Does anyone else know of a similar case, or has everyone's experiences been very black and white...aka successful at one's career or time with children?

5:20 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I think having the ability to manage both being a parent and have a successful career can be achieved. You for one have to find an employer that would be willing to work around your schedule in order for you to make time to spend with your children and spouse. I’m sure with a high stress level job though it will only be harder to create a balance between work and family. I think we see more and more college graduates working those long hours when they first get out in order to have a lifestyle that once they have children can be more accommodating to their needs. But is it really that easy to turn it off? I feel like employers will still push you no matter what. What do you guys think about that?

Katie said something about her boss at her internship came in late, left early, and didn't work on Fridays. I saw this too with my boss at my internship last semester. There would be some night though that he would stay later, but more often than not he was out the door by four so he could see his little girl and spend time with his older children. I think that’s one of the perks of being a boss, because you are able to make your rules, and no one can really regulate you. This is what I feel many of us are going to try to achieve so we can have the luxury to both be at home with our kids and have the high paying/status job as well.

11:35 AM  

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