Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opting Out - Review Part 1

Pamela Stone's book "Opting Out - Why women really quit careers and head home" makes fascinating reading. Stone interviewed 54 women in their 30's and 40's who quit successful careers as lawyers, accountants, doctors, researchers, etc to become stay-at-home Moms to uncover the reasons why. About one in ten white, college educated women aged 30-54 stays home, and the proportion of these stay-at home Moms has remained fairly constant over the last 20 years.

One key insight was that expectations have risen both for what it means to be an ideal parent, with today's intensive parenting style, and also what it means to be an ideal employee, working long hours, extensive business travel and being available 24/7. These twin societal pressures can make it very difficult to feel successful both at work and home.

While these expectations impact both working men and working women, it is women who end up working the "second shift" when they get home, picking up the lion's share of responsibility for housekeeping and childcare, because "someone has to do it". Interestingly a vast majority of the women in the study viewed their husband's career as more important than their own, even though these women themselves had been very successful. The husbands also got a free pass on their share of housekeeping and childcare.

Watch this space for part 2 of the review.

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