I had no idea I was so oblivious to some of the stressors women face. I recently heard a female friend talk about the tension the “modern woman” feels to be focused on both career and family, and realized as a man it’s not something I’ve thought about before.
Thus enlightened, I posed a question on Facebook to ask if women feel pressured by that thought, and if the men in my sphere think it’s important to find a woman who is both career- and family-oriented.
I got a flood of interesting and helpful responses, including the advice that a man shouldn’t write this post. Since I was already 231 Facebook comments deep, I asked my fellow Boundless blogger Allison Barron to co-write this article with me. Thank you, Allison.
My friend Sunita captured what a lot of women were saying: “There’s a stigma if you don’t have kids/a husband, etc., but there’s also a huge stigma associated with being a stay-at-home mom.” Many women agree that the pressure from society to be both is unfair and unpleasant. Some of them have found peace with it by landing on one main conclusion.
Prayerfully Do What’s Right for You
Ellen said, “The word ‘pressure’ in your question was rubbing me wrong, and I figured out why. Most women I know desire to work and/or to care for their children way more than pressure to do so.”
Although there is a stigma in society, some women found peace when they stopped aiming toward what society expected of them and instead simply acted on what they desired their lives to look like.
My friend Casey summarized it this way: “I had to come to a point where I stopped listening to what worked for everyone else. Let each person/family figure out what works best.”
It’s easy to listen to what society tells you; it’s easy to conform. Sometimes it’s harder to figure out what you want instead, to think about what is best for your life. But that realization you don’t have to do what the world tells you to is a relief.
Some Tips If You Want to Do Both
So what if a woman decides she wants both — a career and a family?
One Facebook commenter said it was helpful to realize there can be seasons for each. You can take a season to work and another to start a family. Or perhaps there is a busy season where you do both, and knowing that the busyness will end can make it more bearable. Having a plan in place can give some relief from stressful decisions like this.
The internet is also making it easier to work and rear children at the same time. Working from home while caring for children may be an option. Ellen works from home and says that it’s possible with a caregiver in the next room and the opportunity to breastfeed at proper intervals.
My friend Lori hires a house cleaner. This takes one thing off her plate so she can focus on her kids and her job. Giving up a responsibility is an idea that sometimes society contradicts. The message is often, “You have to do it all or you’re not a responsible woman.” But that is not reality. Letting go of some burdens so you can handle others is a wise choice, and there is no shame in it.
Casey adds, “And as women, stop judging each other for the choices that are made…women are each other’s worst enemy.”
The last thing I’ll note on the women’s side is that many women said they were grateful for their supportive husbands. This seemed to be a big part of finding joy — having someone who agrees with and supports your desire for a family and/or career. It’s important to discuss with your spouse what plan you will take together, and which roles each of you will assume.
What Do Men Think About It?
Most men who responded to my question say they have no disrespect for a woman who chooses either career or family. They added, however, that they look for a wife whose life goals line up with their own and who is passionate about something.
Personally, I’m not sure if I’ll get married, partly because I feel like my purpose is foremost to draw people closer to God through my creativity. So for me, kids and family aren’t a motivator. But if I find someone whose passion complements my mission, and mine hers, it may be a match.
Several of my guy friends commented that they do see the unfair burden society has put on women, and these men are eager to play as much of a role as possible to be a breadwinner yet still stay engaged as a parent so that they and their wives can together accomplish their callings.
My friend Alex said, “I want a family and my own career. But why do we always expect women to wear both hats while men often focus more on career than family? We should be willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the women in our lives.” (Ladies, if you want to meet Alex, who’s single, just let me know.)
Where to go from here?
Choosing what is best for your unique circumstances, whatever society says, is the difficult but wiser path where this decision is concerned. And sometimes it’s not just general society, but a friend, parent, boyfriend or spouse who is pressuring you in one direction or another. This makes things even tougher, especially when it is a romantic partner you want to please with your decision. The reality is, if you don’t prayerfully make the choice that’s right for you, you might find yourself in a sticky situation later on where the relationship is concerned.
And when we have the inclination to look down on someone for whichever path they take, we should instead remember the sacrifice and commitment that either decision requires, and the courage it takes to choose.