Monday, September 17, 2007

Career Gal.

In one of my favourite movies, "The Hudsucker Proxy," Jennifer Jason Leigh is described as, "a fast-talking career gal who thinks she's one of the boys." It plays well in the film's nostalgic feel of "His Girl Friday" and Barbara Stanwyck types. Point being that women who choose a career tend to forgo the more feminine aspects of her character. Not to mention forgo their relationships with men in order to better pursue their career in climbing the ladder.

As someone who works really hard and channels a lot of energy and effort into my work, most people are shocked to learn that I have absolutely no career ambitions and no interest in ladders of any kind. Granted, I like what I do, and I'm good at what I do, so I am therefore successful at what I do. I've been blessed with the energy and the time and the work ethic to do well, and I've chosen a job that offers a wise career path for the future of myself and my family. But do I want or expect my career to define who I am? Absolutely not. Just as I don't need a relationship to define myself, nor do I need a career to define myself. But, while I've got the time and the energy, it seems in everyones best interest that I work as hard and as well as I can, while I can. In fact, I've based all my career choices on what will eventually work out best for supporting my family. This translates into a high-pressure environment with high expectations, from both myself and the company.

It was only last week that I called a friend in frustration of all this pressure, asking, "What is it all for? Why are we working so hard?" To which she slyly replied, "I'm actually looking for a new job. This one's not fun." Shocked, I sputtered, "but...You're so good at what you do! You're doing so well!" And she replied, "Yeah. But I don't need to work. My husband does that. If I'm working, it's because I want to. And if I'm not having fun, why not just change jobs?" Her reasoning shattered my mind like lightning. Not once in my life has it occurred to me that I would have a husband to rely upon. Never did it cross my mind that I would not be expected to work. Not once!

In a quick survey of my girlfriends, I was startled to learn I was the ONLY one who expected to work in the future. The only one who did not expect that I would have a husband who would be responsible for supporting my family. In my mind, I suppose I've always been aware that 1) men can leave- either divorce, abandonment, or death are all realities, 2) men can be irresponsible- do I trust that I can depend so completely upon another person that I would leave all responsibility for providing on his shoulders? And then there's always the expectation that I would marry a starving artist somewhere, and I had better be prepared.

If this is the norm, this expectation for men to provide- how do men feel about this responsibility? In their mind, is it just as logical and reasonable an expectation? Is this even fair? Or is fairness irrelevant as it's such a cultural expectation? Is your career something which defines you, or is it a socialized obligation? Am I completely off in thinking that I should expect (or, at least, prepare) to shoulder some part of financial responsibility for our family? I'm not talking traditional gender role expectations. I'm talking YOU. I'm talking, is this what YOU want, as a man? And if your fantasy is holding a good job so your wife can stay home with the kids, does that dream satisfy you and does it define who you are? Or is it simply that you want to work, and women just...don't?

I am SO interested to hear what you all have to say about this...

20 comments:

veeda said...

This thought just struck me:
Sometimes you remind me of Kimora Lee Simmons.

veeda said...

who by the way, I think is super star stunning.

linds said...

I'm not going to lie. I don't plan on being the provider once I get married. But that doesn't mean I want to sit around and watch tv all day. I am looking forward to putting my energy into my kids and to exploring my creative goals without the financial risk of being the provider. I think it will be a win-win for me and my husband.

bechtold clan said...

MM having a first marriage end in divorce all the while putting him through school, with the hopes of someday staying home with our children, to being single and thanking God everyday that I had a good job...to now being remarried and convinced that this marriage will last however still concerned over death, disability, lay-offs etc...I still work. To be honest about 50% of me would love to stay at home. Be mommy. I am struggling with how to do it all( wife, mother, worker) and have another child on the way as well. But as they say one day at a time.

The Dally Llama said...

My approach is that I'm trying to put myself in a financial position such that when I get married and have kids, my wife staying home with the kids will be a viable option, should she want to. I've learned that life is too unpredictable, particularly with respect to how things tend to play out between females and me to have expectations, as such. Sure, I have some general ideas of how I hope things will pan out, but for the most part, I'm trying to train myself to be flexible.

Salt H2O said...

1- I'm not a man- so my opinions are of little relevance.

2- I agree with Veeda, I was watching the VH-1 Reality TV show the other day and thought the exact same thing. (and it's NOT just because she's a sexy Asian)

3- You only live life once, and right now you don't have a family to provide for- do what you love. Some day you might, and you will have no problem finding employment. Live life as it comes atcha.

4- All of my friends that have gotten married in their later years make MORE money than their husbands. All of them. I don't know what the impact is, but it's interesting to think about.

Tannerama said...

I'm totally cool with the fact that I will have to be the provider for my family. Why? Because, it's what I am supposed to do.

I know there are some people who will think/say "but don't you want to define your own life and not have it be defined by gender roles?" To that I say, what is wrong with doing what is expected? I know in this baby boomer directed world we live in we are all expected to be iconoclasts and revolutionaries. But, there is something to be said for the man who does what needs to be done.Even if that means supporting your family by going to a job you may not necessarily like. That's what our grandparents did. And think about how much we admire our grandparents.

Sure I am probably going to be one of those starving artists or whatever. But, once I have a family I'll sell out at the drop of a hat, painting windows at the local car dealer if I have to, to provide for them.

Also, Farrah, I am surprised by your pessimistic reasons for working after marriage. It's one thing to continue to work because you need some kind of personal fulfillment. But, to continue to work because you are waiting for your husband to inevitably screw up? That seems to me like manning the life boats before the ship has launched.

This has actually inspired me to write a blog. Keep an eye out.

cropstar5 said...

Having been raised in a home where both mom and dad worked full time I thought I could be the superwoman who did it all just because I could. I held this mindset all through college... right up until I got my first real job and realized "this is it". Then I realized "I don't like to work". Period. That hasn't stopped me from working. Seven years later I'm still striving to succeed in my career, to progress. I like my job. I'm good at my job. But this isn't what I want my life to be. What I look forward to NOW is a marriage in which I will be able to stay home with my children and the great thing is I've found a career that will allow me to work from home or part time if absolutely necessary. Key work being "IF".
I have an amazing amount of respect for the men in the world who work as the sole financial supporters of their families and the unmarried men who are planning their careers in order to do the same.
Call me old fashion but I think this world is just too scary a place to raise children without the mother in the home.

k8 said...

my mom had to work for quite awhile when i was growing up and because she hadn't finished college, her options were limited. so i decided as a very small girl that my options were never going to be limited. i don't want to be defined by my career but working towards promotions and learning and growing in my field is something that opens door after door after door. if i don't end up getting married, I'd rather be one of those financially secure ladies than one still working some go nowhere job and wondering why life did't work out like she hoped.

Vanilla Vice said...

This is always the awkward question on the date. The guy asks me what I want to do with my career and I inevitably tell him that it's a backup in case he's a total failure. Of course, I am far less blunt. Usually I say it's in case he dies or something ;)

In all seriousness, we live in a world where it's better if mom can stay home and if you want 7 kids I don't see how you couldn't be stay at home mom with that many children running around. On the other hand, I don't know how you could afford 7 kids without mom working or dad being very successful. Catch-22?

Of course, at the rate I'm going, I don't think I'll be popping out 7 kids. My ovaries are not getting any younger...

caroline said...

i struggle with the "what if" philosophy about careers and life. i hear it in relief society all the time. "i have a career, just in case i don't get married" or "i pursued and education because i didn't get married"... what happened to pursuing a career or education because it's something to help you be a well rounded, smart, capable, self sufficient person. i hate thinking that these things are back up plans. or that women put off buying a house or going through the temple "just in case." i don't know what my future holds, but if i was just biding my time with my work, i know i would be a lot more miserable in my job/career. right now i'm in career mode, so i think it's appropriate to focus on those goals. and if things change, then i will cross that bridge when i come to it. but, i'm a girl, who cares what i think?

k8 said...

caroline i like the way you think. i have never wanted to consider my current path "plan B". this IS my life, not what i'm doing until the real one starts.

The Meesh said...

Very interesting discussion and one that I internally have struggled with.

I'm very independent, but I don't want to HAVE to be. I work and do well, but I don't want to HAVE to. In the past few years I've noticed time spent around my family (who's screaming children used to drive me batty) has my nurturing instincts kicking in all over the place. This has surprised me quite a bit as I was starting to wonder if I was the only female in my family that didn't get the "stay at home mom" gene. That being said, my sisters, who have all had successful careers until they had children and took on the traditional roles, have all struggled with it at times. But, along the way, have found it to be better than they ever thought possible (as well as worse).

But I guess my bottom line is this: I was surprised by my gut reaction to reach out into cyberspace and kiss tannerama just because of his desire to do whatever it takes to care for his family. I guess that says it all for me. Give me a man who will step up and be who he is "supposed" to be and I will step up and be who I (not neccessarily you) am "supposed" to be. No matter how hard.

f*bomb. said...

But really, when it comes down to it- who WANTS to work? Doesn't EVERYBODY (male AND female) feel like they don't want to "have to" do something?

What I want to know is, do men resent being expected to shoulder the role of "provider" as much as women seem to scoff at being expected to be married and having babies by age 22? Or have you simply accepted this as the norm?

f*bomb. said...

PS-
Veeds, I kept meaning to call you and my life has been insane, so I realized just now that I haven't, but...
I looked up Kimora Lee Simmons and that biotch is bat$#!% crazy! AND UBER-Faboolous. WOW.

The only other 6 foot tall glamazon Asian is YOU, sister. YOU.

Anonymous said...

I wandered over from Vanilla Vice's job, and just wanted to chime into this discussion. Perhaps my husband and I are unique, but even before we married, we looked at the respective strengths and weaknesses that we contributed to our co-existence. I have a much higher earning potential, and absolutely love my job (knock on wood). He is better around children, and he also doesn't really enjoy what he does at work. So, we've decided that it makes sense for him to stay home with our children when that time comes. His skill set would allow him to get a job if anything happened to me, but his present strengths would make him a wonderful nurturer. Aside from perhaps being left out of the Relief Society play groups, he is looking forward to this future role. Granted, all of this is looking ahead, and things may change. But that's at least one different perspective from what's been posted so far.

f*bomb. said...

My best friend was a ladder-climbing careerwoman extrodinaire...And she and her laid-back, hippie husband had the same agreement. Right up until she gave birth. The most enlightening moment in our young lives was to see her look at her son and say, "I could care less if I ever work again. He is the most important thing that has ever happened to me."

Several years (and a few more children) later, she still works from home part-time and loves the break it gives her day during naptime. And he's a CFO.

aaronymous said...

sorry for the lengthy reply. i have ZERO hesitation about working my fingers to the bone to give the wife and kids i will someday have any and every option in the world. sure "it's the norm", yup I love the idea, yes LOVE, without resentment. I worked as a pre-school teacher, and i was damn good at it, but i will swear all day long that women are naturally, inherently, God-blessedly better at kidlet nurturing than i ever will be. this kinda touches on your earlier post, men NEED to FEEL NEEDED. one of those things I truly look forward to is coming home from a day of work, even to a chaotic house and remember why I am doing what i do. it IS what men do, the heavy lifting.
an excerpt from 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World',
"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

Tannerama said...

Aaron? ...word.

f*bomb. said...

I love that you said this, Aaron.
It inspires my faith and gives me hope that there is a man out there who WANTS to bear burdens for the behalf of our family. That's incredible.