I was seriously disturbed to read this April 25th op-ed piece in the New York Times by Linda Hirshman entitled, “Off to Work She Should Go.” Ms. Hirshman is the author of “Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World,” in which she asserts that “choice feminism” has put the freedom to choose whether or not to work above making strides in equality for women. She contends that when educated, wealthy (and most likely, white) women choose to stay home to raise their children, they are effectively creating their own glass ceiling, and greatly decreasing the power of women to effect societal changes.
Of course I think it’s important that women make up a percentage of powerful employers and the workforce in general. If there aren’t enough women at your place of work, there will most likely be less leverage when it comes to getting flexible work hours, salaries might be lower and sexual harassment higher. However, why is that Ms. Hirshman only seems to be concerned with wealthy white women returning to work? I hate to break it to her, but many librarians are highly educated and intelligent women. Guess what? Their earning potential is ridiculously low and their chances for advancement ain’t that great either. And what of the women who contribute to society in other ways who are forced to go back to work immediately after having a child, because they can’t afford not to? Perhaps these wealthy women can return to work for them and subsidize their incomes? But then, who would take out these power chicks’ trash and serve them lunch during their business meetings?
I understand it’s difficult to understand why the women who would have the easiest time returning to work after childbirth decide against it. But really, what women WANTS to hand over her infant to a stranger to care for 9 hours of the day? And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding. Even if you’re lucky enough to have the autonomy at work required to close your door and pump several times during the day, who wouldn’t love to have that time to bond with their child, instead of having someone else shove a bottle in her mouth?
The reality is, today’s woman has stopped buying into the myth of “having it all.” Corporate America, as well as libraries, is notoriously inflexible. It’s entirely too difficult to balance your work life and home life. Besides, studies have proven that the longer a woman waits to have a child, the higher her earning potential. Companies don’t value working mothers!
Instead of a call to mothers to change their views, how about demanding that employers stand up and lead the change? Working mothers need flexible hours, affordable, on-site daycare, the option to telecommute, etc. And these “luxuries” shouldn’t be just for the most wealthy and educated women in society. Until we as a society and a country start valuing our working mothers more, they will stay at home in droves.