(This post was originally published 5/5/2011.)
The first time I visited my husband’s home state of Texas, I was baffled by the roads running parallel to every major highway. Imagine building two of the exact same road right next to each other, one with six lanes, one with two, one moving quickly, one not as quickly. He explained that they’re called Access Roads, which led to a discussion about Congress and pork barrel spending…
Fast forward to today when I participated in yet another discussion about stay-at-home moms vs. work-at-home moms vs. working away from home moms vs. women who call themselves DINKS (dual income no kids). It appears that the Mommy Wars have expanded to include women who do not have children. Great.
While much of the chat replayed the same old points with references to Betty Friedan, vajayjays and women clawing their way to the top by climbing over one another, an interesting point was made that with more educated, professional women than ever off-ramping to stay home with their children, the movement to advance women in the work place has been set back twenty or thirty years because of the number of women who have to “start over” to return to work. They’ve exited the main highway and went home to their suburban cul-de-sacs, making the journey back to the fast paced professional road a tough one.
Only I disagree. I think that women have actually exited the main highway on to the access road and are, in fact, moving at a slightly slower pace, always parallel to their professional peers, able to return to the main highway at any time.
Think about the moms that you know who do not work full time. How many of them work part time out of the house? Of those who stay home full time, how many work at least part time from home? I’d bet it is far more than you realize. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 60% of all women are in the work force in some way. Take for example my friend Laura who just happens to have a PhD in a science field. Between teaching her daughter to play the piano, picking her children up at school every day at 3:30, and singing in her church choir, she works from home as a geneticist for a nationally recognized agency in the DC area. She is cruising along on an access road that has provided for her family financially, for her employer as a resource, and for her professionally. Within the first few months of my first child’s birth, I was already utilizing my teaching certificate to grade online testing essays and continuing to build my skill set with online courses. My off-ramp looked much more like an access road as well.
So why all of the fighting? Perhaps there is tension between those working full time out of the home and those who have found a way, often due to their parenting status, to create a situation where they can leave the commute and pressures of office life behind while continuing to earn money. Maybe in the current economic climate, it is difficult for the unemployed to watch their full time, full salaried with benefits job being sent not to a far away country, but instead divided up among five contract workers who work willingly without insurance or retirement. Maybe people are unnerved because they can’t label and compartmentalize those of us using social media, telecommuting, or flex-time to work from home. It must be terribly frustrating that I cannot be boxed in. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that with so many women working from home, cruising along on a professional access road, the tensions will continue.