Friday, June 6, 2014

Work for family-minded women

By Mary C. Tillotson

Image by Plaid for Women
A few years ago, a nearly-finished homeschool mom (her youngest was in high school) ran across this article, The Bride who was Groomed for a Career, and it sparked a conversation among her nearly-finished homeschooling friends. They had all given their daughters a solid education and grounding in faith and morals, but had they taught them the skills they’d need to be wives and mothers?

At the time, I didn’t know that mom (or my opinion) well enough to say anything much, but it’s been on my mind for a while. When I was in college, I hardly felt like I had any direction, career or otherwise – college was just what you did after high school.

I turned this question over at length with my women friends in college. One friend was thinking about law school, but didn’t see the purpose in getting a law degree if she was just going to get married, get pregnant, quit being a lawyer, and homeschool her kids. She’s been out of college for a few years now and has a great career in a different field, but (as far as I know) no marriage prospects. She seems happy. Other women set out to find and follow their career passion, knowing that if they got married and had kids, they’d give it all up, but at least for now they might as well pursue their passions. Other women studied in the classic liberal-arts way, majoring in some higher-things-oriented field without thinking about careers. Of those, the ones who aren’t moms are teachers. Other women didn’t finish college because they got married and pregnant before graduation.

I graduated, worked as a small-town reporter for a year, got married, spent the next year doing odd jobs to make ends meet, and now I’m back in journalism, and I’m not (at the moment) raising kids. I think I’m finally starting to find answers.

My advice to family-minded female college students?

Be aware that there are plenty of unknowns. You might dream of being a homeschool mom of many but never find a man you want to marry; you might dream of an awesome political career but unexpectedly meet the man you really want to raise kids with. You might marry and realize you and your husband aren’t able to conceive children, temporarily or permanently.

I have anecdotal evidence from talking to my friends and statistical evidence from seeing polls: a majority of mothers want to work part-time in some professional field. A few want to work full-time and a few don’t want to work professionally at all, but most want to keep being professional while reserving most of the day for their kids.

When you’re in college, I think it makes sense to do what you love and pursue a career in that field. Keep in mind the usual factors like how much the field pays, whether jobs are available in that field, whether you’ll have to go to grad school (and if it’s worth the time/money), etc., but also consider how flexible that field can be. If you’re a journalist or writer, it’s very easy to do that full-time or part-time. Teaching can go part time pretty easily too. Other fields don’t flex into part-time near as easily. I don’t mean you should avoid them; I do mean you should think about that.

Do you have the skills it takes to raise kids and keep house? I don’t think this should be a big concern. A mom of six with two in diapers told me no matter how prepared you are for motherhood, you make 90 percent of it up on the spot. I suppose it might help to have enough exposure to kids that you aren’t afraid of them, but from everything I’ve seen, taking care of babies is hard work but not complicated. As they get older you get wiser and read more books and talk to more people about it; I don’t see how a lot of pre-marriage preparation would be helpful. The rest of keeping house is mostly cooking, cleaning, and paying bills – none of that is hard to learn, and anyway I think men and women ought to have these basic skills before college.

I know a lot of you readers have different experiences than I have. Some of you are moms, some of you are single, some of you are in college, some have careers and some don’t. What do you think about all this?


  1. I agree with what you've said. The point about considering how flexible a field might be is important. It's one that I probably didn't give enough thought to, but then, it's worked out well enough for me anyway. . . . The part about the skills needed to raise kids and keep a home. . .. A lot of people get through college w/o ANY life skills like keeping a budget, cooking, doing your own laundry, etc. That's important, for men as well as women.

  2. I really love this post!

    It's so interesting to see how my life goals have changed since starting college to now (5 years since I graduated from college). When I started college (and much of college), I wanted to focus on my studies and get a great, awesome job before getting married and having a family. After I graduated, and had my reversion back to the church, all I wanted was to get married and start a family - something I still very much want! So now I have that career that I wanted oh-so-much, but not the family that I long for. Good news is - I love love love my job, and one of the things I love the most about it is how flexible it is. So that if someday (hopefully in my near future?) I do get married and have kids, I can tailor my schedule to put my family first, or work from home full-time, or even switch to part-time work, anywhere from 10-30 hours a week. So I'm hoping that landing this great job is a sign that good things are coming soon!


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