Friday, February 17, 2012

Opting Out

I recently re-read the well-known 2003 article, "The Opt-Out Revolution," by New York Times columnist, Lisa Belkin, and was struck again by this quote: "Why don't women run the world? Maybe it's because they don't want to."

The must-read article discusses the trend of highly-educated, successful women opting-out of high-powered career tracks to be stay-at-home-moms, and the implications of this for the feminist movement.

I am one of those opt-outers. If you had told me in 2003, when I first read this article, that I would be blissfully content as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of three, I wouldn't have believed you. Back then, with two degrees and running a successful six-figure corporate training business, I was sure that I would continue on the career track, even if I became a mom someday.

And then I became a mom.

And somehow it was strikingly easy to shutter my business, say farewell to my clients and paychecks, and immerse myself in full-time motherhood.

I realize the privilege from which I speak: urban, educated, married, middle-class. I realize that it was the feminists of the last century, the trailblazers, who led the way for me to have the opportunity to go to college and graduate school and become an entrepreneur. And I realize it was also those feminists who gave me the choice to eventually opt-out.

It is those early feminists for whom I am thankful when I think of the opportunities that will be available to my own daughters as they grow into adulthood, as they pursue their dreams unfettered by the discrimination and limited choices offered to women not so long ago, and as they someday, I hope, realize the unparalleled rewards of motherhood.

8 comments:

  1. Yet again you have written a blog post that is like you have read my mind! Our journey to this lifestyle is so amazingly similar it's crazy (though I never ran a successful six figure business)! :)

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  2. Shel, it does seem like we live very similarly! I love reading your blog-- it's so nice to connect with and be inspired by other happy, fulfilled moms.

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  3. Yes! Thank you for posting this. Too often, people think that stay-at-home mothers don't have any other choices—that we stay at home because we can't find a "real job" or it's too expensive to put all our kids in daycare. I had a great job before I decided that what I really wanted to do, more than any job in the world, was to stay home and raise my children. Yes, we are lucky that we have that choice; but I also think that on many levels, we make that choice happen. We drive used cars, our children share rooms and we don't jet away to a tropical destination for spring break. But I wouldn't have it any other way!!

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    1. "We drive used cars, our children share rooms and we don't jet away to a tropical destination for spring break."

      Amanda, I love this. We also drive a used car (when we drive which isn't often), live in a small city condo which some people think is crazy with three kids, and try to limit our consumption. It seems that a lot of families are increasingly choosing to live more simply, more within their means, and returning to the time when "needs" and "wants" was more well-defined.

      Thanks so much for visiting the blog!

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    2. Amen to both of your comments and to this post. Thanks for sharing the article and your thoughts. I sometimes also feel that those around me view my decision to stay home negatively, but I try not to judge them for their ignorance. I too likely viewed motherhood that way before I became a mom; now I take pleasure in minimalist parenting and savor life's small moments of happiness. When I was working, I used to shop online constantly; there always seemed to be a need to fulfill, but I see now those "needs" were a big void that no amount of consumption could fill. Today I take pride in what I produce as a family instead of what I consume.

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    3. Justine, I love your response. I, too, find great reward in turning my home into a production unit instead of solely a consumption unit. Thanks for visiting here and commenting! -Kerry

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  4. In some ways our family is the most feminist, but in others it is quite traditional. When our kids were babies, Tom stayed home and I worked in a high level job in school business administration. We are traditional in that we always wanted one of us home to raise our kids. I feel strongly about one parent home (while conceding that single parents and heavy school loan people have it tough and most likely don't have this option) because while women should have the same choices as men, raising kids still needs to come first. Also, the stresses and over-scheduling is taking more of a toll on American families than most people want to face.

    The shift to my being home and Tom working again has more to do with my health. I can no longer work full-time, but the flexibility of homeschooling has given me a new mission in life and kept me optimistic. Unfortunately, it hasn't been smooth as Tom is often a victim of the economy and is again looking for work. Understand that, in Buffalo, there are loads of people with masters degrees working in retail environments and call centers, always with the possibility of being let go. Living the simpler life (no car, no cable, home haircuts) has been a great change for us other than living with that kind of uncertainty. I hope that people who have the luxury of many resources don't take them for granted and look down on people with less making derogatory comments. Going from six-figures to working class nowadays can happen to anyone, even those with college degrees and clean criminal records.

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    1. Liz, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with this. And it is so true that a family's circumstances can change very quickly. I grew up with my dad in and out of unemployment as the industry in which he was working (shoe and apparel manufacturing) virtually disappeared from New England, so I know it can be challenging. I think that's why I feel, as I know you do, that living more simply and sustainably is so important. And why we should be so very thankful for all that we have.

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