When Kid #2 turned one I quit my job. It was a decision I made for a number of reasons that I won’t get in to because they’re boring. And despite the fact that the last job I had was not, in any way, propelling me forward in terms of my career, it was still a difficult decision to make. It took a while for me to pull the trigger.
Part of that is because I never ever saw myself exiting the workforce at this age. But at that point in my life, with a husband who had a demanding and unpredictable schedule, the results were almost immediate. Life became so much more manageable without the stress trying to do essentially everything at home on my own while simultaneously performing at an acceptable level at work. Even with the additional financial strain, I mellowed out. And there is something to be said for being sane, especially when you are the primary caretaker of small children.
For a while, on Wednesday afternoons due to scheduling issues, I used to pick my daughter up early. Her brother would nap after we got home. We would paint or cook or read books, just the two of us, every Wednesday. And I often found myself so grateful to be there, to have that time.
…and then I come across charts like this. Despite how it may seem based on my eloquence and the very important people and events discussed on this blog, my professional trajectory was not about to land me as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company if only I had stuck with it a little longer.
But obviously this chart says way more than that. And when I see things like this I can’t help but question the decisions I have made regarding my own career, including the most recent one. Decisions I have made that adhere to certain gender norms and do not move the needle when it comes to issues I care about, like this.
Since having my first child I have worked full time at the office, full time at home, part time both at home and at an office, and been a stay at home mom. And as so many articles these days are quick to point out, none are easy.
I look at my friends who are mothers and performing at the top of their field and feel a huge amount of respect, admiration, and at times envy for all that they are able to accomplish. These are the women who will change the world on a large scale, who will make the above chart obsolete someday.
And then I look at my friends that have stayed at home for years. I think of how much it has turned their lives upside-down, the advanced degrees they have put on hold to provide support for their family, and the lack of glory that comes with that decision.
I am not here to re-hash that whole argument, but this tension has become a central and long-lasting issue in my personal life for the past 4+ years, and one that honestly caught me off guard, despite having known for years that it wouldn’t be easy.
I know my choice was the right choice for us as a family and for me personally, despite my frequent misgivings.
But I also have a daughter. Of course I am going to tell her to aspire to great things, that she can do anything her male counterparts can. But can I truly instill that sense of parity and possibility that when she sees the society reflected in the chart above in the outside world as well as at home?
And yet if I had chosen differently, Wednesday would just be another afternoon in a cubicle.
And yet, and yet, and yet…