like of each thing that in season grows

One of my sisters had a roommate in law school who was unabashed about her intention to marry one of her classmates and stay home with the dozen children she planned to have. She had no apparent intention to actually practice law, and devoted her energies to the social aspects of law school--to the near exclusion of the academic side. People joke about girls getting their "MRS degree," but it was a shock to encounter someone like that in real life. Or perhaps, I should admit, it was shocking to encounter it in my life. This girl had received her bachelor's from a highly-ranked university, and was attending a highly ranked law school that is, moreover, particularly known for the extreme seriousness of its students. I guess the academic snob in me thought MRS degrees were only granted by lesser institutions. At any rate, it is relevant that both schools are private, and very expensive. Surely there are cheaper ways to find a husband.

But now I'm in the interesting position of being married to a man I met in law school, and unemployed by choice. Hmmm. My sister's roommate aside, perhaps many of these supposed JD-gold-diggers are just misunderstood. Maybe they went to law school to practice law, happened to meet someone, and then discovered they wanted or needed to quit the law?

I've had this idea floating around my head lately. Maybe we 21st century ladies are going about this whole thing backwards. Our bodies are best suited to bearing and rearing children in our early twenties--exactly the time when women like me are entering professional schools. By the time we finish school and start building a career, we are approaching use-it-or-lose-it time for childbearing. If we are so inclined, we use it--and then we have small children with very large needs. We scale back the career or put it on hold, and devote ourselves to our children for a while. Several years down the line, the kids don't need us anymore and we're ready to go back to work. But wait! That expensive education we got? That experience we had started to accumulate? It quickly became stale and useless in today's fast-paced world. We have to start from scratch building up a career, and are stigmatized by the years of "doing nothing." That's a familiar story, right?

So wouldn't it make more sense if we had the kids first and launched the career later, skipping the wasted false start? What if that were the norm, and women in their thirties and forties were a familiar sight in the halls of higher learning? What if it were so common for young women to do this that when people met a SAH mom at a cocktail party, they asked about her career plans--like you would a college-aged kid--instead of awkwardly changing the subject from the embarrassing "and what do you do" conversation and excusing themselves to find someone more interesting to talk to?

I know, there are all kinds of problems with this. For one thing, I wasn't sure I wanted kids until I met my husband, and I didn't meet my husband until I was 27 ... and in law school. For another, raising kids generally requires that someone have a decent income, which means that ladies following this plan not only have to know at an early age that they want to have kids before launching their careers, and meet and marry the father of their children early on, but also must make sure he's making enough money to support a single-income, growing family right away. That's a tall order.

Still, for those who can meet those specifications, it would be nice if that path was perceived as more acceptable, and considered along with other options. Generally speaking, I think we rush young people into career decisions without adequate education and discussion about the various options and their consequences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it! Women shouldn't have to make a choice between career and family, they should be able to have both.