by Sharon Hill
It’s true that our ideal American lifestyle - with all its luxury perks like big houses, yearly vacations, vehicles and the latest stuff– requires a two income family. But, do women work outside the home just to achieve that standard?
Not me. I believe that explaining the sea change from conventional stay-at-home Moms to working Moms is far more complicated than that. It has little to do with what society expects of a middle class family but more to do with what society would expect of every able citizen and, what a person expects of herself.
I had no intention of marrying young (which I did anyway) or counting on motherhood to be my reason for being (which it is not). I went to college, obtained a degree, and became a scientist because I am person first; then I am a woman; then I am an American. It wasn’t until much later, after divorce, a period on my own and remarriage, that I became a mother as well. By that time, I had a good career, was succeeding on my own merits and was useful, independent and generally content. It makes little sense to give that up once you have it. I refused to entirely redefine who I was just because I had children.
Why do I work? Because, that’s what productive members of a society do, and it makes me content.
Between the time I was divorced in my twenties and remarried a few years later, I learned that I could manage a life on my own. Most of this was learned living at college but now it really counted. There was no other home to return to. I was my own person for real. I would encourage all young women to achieve this milestone for herself, without the crutch of a boyfriend, husband or Daddy.
I was exceptionally fortunate to find a spouse who shares my views on money, nature, religion and children (if not music and movies, but you can’t have EVERYTHING). I was able to plan having children and he is there to help.
There are many who still strongly support the traditional women’s roles in America. When I was a few months away from having my first daughter, my hair stylist told me I should quit my job as a geologist in order to be a stay-at-home Mom. She assured me it was the best thing she ever did. I declined comment. To her, returning to a job in any number of beauty establishments would have been fairly easy. For me, leaving my position would mean I would not get anything like that again. I would lose the progress that I had made. I would be unhappy about it.
My decision to work was not at all about money or material things. It was all about me as a person. A person needs meaningful work, whatever work that might be.
There is no harm in admitting that some of us are not keen on infant and toddler care. I’m sure many are not interested in science. We find our own niche. I was a good Mom to my kids when they were little but I think I would have been bitter and perhaps mentally unstable if I had to be with them all the time every day. I needed intellectual fulfillment and adult interaction. There is no way I would have been satisfied to stay home every day with only the TV and computer as a warped connection to the rest of the world. So, the kids were cared for by professionals during the day and I worked doubly hard for 3 years for each child – working at work and working at home. Sure, I lost out on time with them. But, when they came home from day care and sang me the songs they learned, counted things or recognized colors, I was ecstatic, nonetheless. How many of us remember or care who taught us how to count or read? It’s not important (kids don’t have specific event memories before age three), it’s only important that they learned it from people who cared.
I never considered nor would ever have accepted that I should give up meaningful work when I had good options available.
What I now can show my two girls is that women are strong, invaluable resources of American society. Whether we are working in science, government, business or child care, we are necessary. And, we are damn good at it. They will turn out to be independent, resourceful, well-rounded women because of that. I will support whatever life choices they make but at least I’ll know they are well-informed.
I work because it is who I am – a scientist, a writer, an expert of some thing or another. In no way do I feel guilty for that. I made the absolute right choice. And, my kids are proud of their Mom.
Sharon Hill is a professional geologist and Mom to two daughters, ages 9 and 4, and a dog. On the spur of the moment, she writes blog posts about weird natural phenomena  and weird natural family life . Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org