Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.The old-time feminists are aghast that the girls are already thinking about their baby-making function and are making plans to solve the age-old bringing-up-baby problem by taking a break from the rat race themselves.
The article also threatens future mommies with the idea that these expensive educations may be wasted on them:
The article ignores this sudden reinvocation of the neanderthals of previous generations who refused to waste time and effort on educating their daughters.
"It really does raise this question for all of us and for the country: when we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?" said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of undergraduate admissions at Harvard, who served as dean for coeducation in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
It is a complicated issue and one that most schools have not addressed. The women they are counting on to lead society are likely to marry men who will make enough money to give them a real choice about whether to be full-time mothers, unlike those women who must work out of economic necessity.
It's nearly impossible to predict how one will choose to solve dilemmas that are five to twenty years in the future, but at least these kids know the dilemma is out there. Pretending a gal can have it all, both satisfying full-stop career and yummy family, is just setting up the vast majority for bitter disappointment.
For the record, my solution has been part-time work and a supportive extended family. I hope that this flexible work arrangement becomes available to more women. Perhaps employers will get over their allergy to part-time schedules as their labor needs confront the waves of aging baby boomers. Something is going to have to give and it won't be the boomers. It never is.
Good discussions of the article at: Ann Althouse, Number 2 Pencil and The Anchoress.
UPDATES: (1) The New York Times has certainly accomplished its goal of getting people to talk about its articles (this what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up write-up became a "Most E-Mailed" article on the newspaper's Web site). So what if much of the talk is criticism? Jack Shafer of Slate claws at the lack of data supporting the piece. (2) Michael of 2Blowhards enjoys watching the defiance of '70s-feminist dogma but bristles at the Times' focus on "elite" schools.