Every day, millions of people wake up early in the morning to get ready for work. In fact, work has become such an integral part of living, that the word ‘unemployment’ is associated with negative ones such as ‘depression’ or ‘stress’. When analyzing the deep reaching effects a job can have on the lives of individuals, it is obvious why their mental and emotional well being are so dependent on work. For many, a job offers the income needed to provide for a family. Others see a job as a means of anchoring themselves from debt. There might even be some to whom financial reasons are not a driving force for having a job, but other factors such as self-confidence and independence are.
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A popular trend throughout history is the mentality that men should work more than women. The fast pace of the professional world, combined with society’s expectations of a woman’s role and of ‘the perfect family’, results in many women having to choose between a career or a family. Imagine Susan and Julie, two best friends who had aspired to pursue careers as medical doctors. After graduating from high school, Susan and Julie attended the same college and worked towards getting accepted into medical school. While in her third year of college, Susan got married and as the application date for medical school approached, she felt uneasy about the future. She had decided years ago that she wanted to become a Pediatric Cardiologist, but she also knew that she wanted to become a mother and raise a family. At 22 years old, the prospect of four years of medical school, a three year residency, and a three year fellowship seemed daunting to Susan. It would put her at 32 years of age before she could even consider having children. After careful deliberation, Susan decided to abandon her pursuit of a medical career in favor of becoming a mother. Now, a mother of three, Susan is unhappy because her husband has just lost his job and money is scarce. She knows she should try to help her family improve their living situation by getting a job, but is afraid others will judge her for leaving her kids with babysitters every day.
Julie, on the other hand, graduated from college and continued working on her r©sum© for medical school. When application time came around, she was ready and it paid off because she was accepted at her top choice school. Julie didn’t get married until her third year of medical school and had not given the idea of having a family much thought until then. As Julie pondered about family life she realized that, like her friend Susan, she would also love to become a mother. But would she compromise all the years she had already put into her career by choosing a specialty with a short residency, or would she follow her dreams of becoming an Orthopaedic Surgeon, which would require an additional five years? Unlike Susan, Julie chose to forgo having children and stayed true to her original plans career wise. One year after completing her schooling, Julie finds herself in the same situation as her friend Susan. She is unhappy. Julie regrets not having any children and as she contemplates the possibility of having a child now that she is working, she realizes that as a surgeon, she will have little, to no time to spare. Fortunately for Julie, her husband wants a child as well and agrees to cut back his work hours in order to care for the child himself.
While these examples might not directly apply to every woman faced with making the choice between work and family, the general idea does; women are the ones expected to sacrifice their careers in order to achieve society’s utopian views on the family. Working offers women a sense of power and self-confidence along with many other benefits. Women in America first began to enter the workforce during the Industrial Revolution and Thomas Dublin explains that many of these women sought out jobs in in order to gain independence, while others searched for a way to earn money to help support their families (Dublin). Interestingly enough, the stigma of leaving home and moving into the cities did not stop these early American women from choosing to enter the working arena even though they were scorned by society and deemed unfit to become wives and mothers.
Financial factors were big contributors to the large masses of women entering the workforce. This trend still holds true today, with many women feeling the need to hold jobs in order to help contribute to their family’s income. In fact, studies have proven that families with two incomes have fared far better than those with a single income. Heather Boushey and Kavya Vaghul explain a study conducted by stating that women have made the key difference in earning income for their families, especially low-income and middle-income households. The study was conducted from the years 1979 to 2013 on two-income families and in middle-class families, the average annual income grew by $8,984. Researchers concluded that this growth was due entirely to women’s participation in the workforce (Boushey and Vaghul). Unfortunately, because of the pressure society puts on people to have perfect lives, many families are passing up a much needed second income in order to escape criticism. Charles S. Clark explains that a poll asking women what accounted for their daily stress resulted in 46% living up to people’s expectations and 50% child related stress (Clark). The stress of meeting people’s expectations makes women like Susan choose to stay at home full-time because they fear being judged and labeled as neglectful mothers who worry more about money than about their children.
It is of the utmost importance for men and women alike to push aside the gender stereotypes that have been ingrained in them from a young age. Unexpected expenses like injuries, illnesses, and car problems can arise at any point in life and nothing should stand in the way of people being able earn the income to provide for their families. Certainly not any narrow-minded rules set by society for determining how women should fulfill their roles as wives and mothers. Belinda Luscombe, a TIMES Magazine journalist writes about a study conducted by Robert Blum, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, where it was concluded that people internalize gender stereotypes when they are only ten or eleven years old. The six year study was conducted in 15 countries of varying wealth and development by interviewing 450 adolescents ages ten to fifteen and the common consensus was that boys learn from a young age to work and be adventurous while girls are taught to stay indoors and do chores (Luscombe). Once again, there should be widespread emphasis on breaking these stereotypes and teaching young boys that they too can help with household chores and young girls that they can grow up to have successful careers. Promoting these stereotypes in children’s minds only increases the likelihood of creating emotional problems later on in their lives.
Stereotypes are not just harmful to women, but to men as well. Society constantly tells men that they have to be the primary breadwinner in their household. Men feel pressured into being the sole income earners for their families and to have jobs that pay well enough to ensure their family is financially stable. Many men also struggle with the idea of their wives working and earning more money than them. Before people point fingers at husbands and accuse them of being sexist towards their wives, they should consider who is really at fault. Is it the hard working men who are doing their best to help their families succeed, or is it society, who tells these men that they are not valuable to their families if they are not bringing in the biggest paycheck? This pressure that is put on men is extremely harmful and can have negative consequences on family life, as is explained by Sandra Stencel.
“Although most husbands welcome the additional income, many have found it difficult to adjust to their wives’ new roles. Being married to a woman with a busy schedule, an income of her own, and outside friendships and commitments may cause a husband to feel insecure and resentful. Numerous studies have shown that there is more divorce among families in which the wife works” (Stencel). Men cannot and should not feel insecure or resentful if their wives have jobs and society must stop telling men that their worth is measured by the numbers written on their paychecks. Rather than having negative feelings towards their wives working, men should be willing to shoulder more household responsibilities in order to create opportunities for their wives to succeed in their careers like Julie’s husband did by cutting back on his work hours to spend time with their child.
Not only would this significantly help a husband and wife’s relationship and decrease the divorce rate, but it would also help boost men’s self-esteem because they would see how valuable they are in their children’s lives. For the most part, women are the ones who are viewed responsible for cleaning the home, taking care of children, making phone calls, cooking meals, and other time consuming household duties. Anne York explains that the U.S Bureau of Labor shared statistics from a survey of how men and women used their time in 2011. On average, women spent two more hours than men did every day on household chores, caring for household members, purchasing goods, telephone calls, and mail or email, while men spent forty minutes more than women on sports and leisure. (York) If men were to rearrange their work schedules in a way that would allow them to work less days or less hours, it would potentially clear up time in the week for their wives to get jobs as well.
Ending Women's Battle Between Work and Family. (2019, Feb 15).
Retrieved January 21, 2022 , from
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