I'm going to step ever-so cautiously into no-man's land to explore a variation on the theme about women. (Watch your step, buddy!) I want to talk about women and careers. On this precipitous journey, I may need to occasion a glance at the bottom of my shoe. Bravely or insanely, here I go.
I think back to my dear department mother. She had three of us children and took on the then expected homemaker role. When my younger sister was mature enough to be home alone after school, Mom took on a job which lasted 20 years. So we became a two-income family. Mom, by the way, carved out a schedule allowing her to be home soon after my sister arrived from school. She kept the milk and cookie trend alive. Though she thrived in her job at a college library, years later she revealed her secretly held career choice never realized. She performed her duties she believed, in the best interest of the family even to the sacrifice of her own career ambitions.
I don't want to get caught up in a web of statistics. However, historians point out that in Mom's era, only 15 to 25 percent of women in two-parent homes worked outside the home. I don't want to disregard or dismiss single-parent homes led by women. In that generation, unfortunately, little information is available to recognize that worthy group of women. Forgive me, please!
Retrospectively, Mom was a pioneer. While she worked for two women, both were single. I don't want to disregard or dismiss single women too, so again, forgive me. I don't remember Mom complaining about her outside the home work. In fact, she held the two bosses in high esteem. They, too, were pioneers. So, where are we? Mom entered a male-dominated workforce and by then luck of the draw is purely no accident, she found a job deprived of stress.
As a pioneer, mom got to model a multi-role station. That is, she worked outside the home supplementing Dad's income, and she continued to function dutifully as homemaker. The next generation, including my younger sister, learned from example. While marriage and children were definitely in the equation, higher education and career outside the home was never in doubt. So, while pioneers pave the way, visualize the path a bit rough and sodden. The next generation found themselves more inclined to work with male bosses and male colleagues. Women were a ''minority'' and in the minority in numbers save the expected careers such as nurses and teachers. Even these limited choices found men as bosses. Whew!
Women faced new elements and an antagonist called stress. Women in two-parent homes, even women as single parents and single women, faced new obstacles. The part aforementioned wasn't yet paved smoothly. Women in general faced enormous obstacles with career and job demands that took on a new meaning of fatigue. The fatigue often was unsettling in their employment. Augmented by their continued role at home as primary caregiver to children, women experienced a major balancing acts. Either way they looked, demands were high and morphed in the ''norm.''
Paving the way for the next generation meant being a sort of excavator. Women realized soon enough that they needed help. Before I proceed, here's where I better take notice of the bottom of my shoe!
A balancing act didn't define two or three tennis balls; it more clearly translated to two or three sharp knives or chainsaws, if you catch my drift. In doing so, mistakes were made, and internal and external conflicts arose. Women suffered for their enormous sacrifices and ambition and became the sole source of blame for mishaps. Not righteously fair, is it?
Now you may be asking, rightfully so, where were the men, the spouses, the partners? Ah, good question! My dad (God bless his soul) was following a lead onset long ago created. He was the major income provider. His role, with some exception, domestically ended there. He did well in his role. His sons, the next generation, met those helpless (just kidding!) women paving the way for the next generation. Men were now facing a relatively new obstacle ... helping.
So, in the spirit of pioneers in our own right, men became to learn a new language called balancing. What do you mean I've got to change her diaper? I've got to cook? I don't know how to cook!
A new challenge was next. And we are the pioneers ready to pave the way, driving on our excavators, juggling careers and home responsibilities liken to, you guessed it, knives and chainsaws. We got comfortable even in stress-related work environments knowing all is well at home. Then, the challenge was set before us. Leave your career at the door and enter your home with our new balancing act. Oh, my, the mistakes that are made. And think of the growth and a new found intimacy. Yes, my brethren, we are pioneers and have much to learn. ''Hi, I'm home, honey'' has taken a new meaning.
Marshall Greenstein holds a master's degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org.