Care. Give. Thrive.
Labels on humans and human institutions always distort the reality they purport to represent. "Feminism" and "feminist" fall among labels that are too ambiguous, malleable, and fraught with the carnival-mirror reflections of history and personal bias. So I don't like the title of this article, but I like where it goes — to promote the idea of caregiving in our society. Read it. Care. Give.
My friend, Lisen Stromberg's forthcoming book, Work, Pause, Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood without Killing Your Career, speaks to these issues. She
responded to my comment that the Shulevitz article broke my heart because I thought the prospect of a society where caregivers are honored and supported was too late, certainly for me and probably for my daughters. Lisen's optimistic rejoinder makes me hopeful because of her clear voice and calls to action. Here is what she wrote:
As you can imagine, I loved this article. It is the WorkPauseThrive manifesto. In 1984, Betty Freidan wrote a follow up book to the Feminine Mystique, called The Second Stage. In it, she detailed how feminism would fail if we didn't focus on the needs of the family. She was resoundingly denounced and, as we know, feminism continued to ignore the needs of the family. By focusing exclusively on economic empowerment, feminism has done great things for women without children, but hasn't helped mothers (or fathers or anyone with caregiving responsibilities) in any meaningful way.
The good news is that we are finally beginning to see a shift. The fact that the US is one of two countries in the industrialized world that still does not offer paid parental leave or paid sick leave is appalling. Meanwhile, we are seeing more and more Millennials who become parents leave the workforce (and not because they want to!). An EY study in 2015 revealed that 59% of white color Millennial parents reported their spouse was forced to leave to care for the kids because the reality of life for the two high powered career couple was not viable. And, it's hardest on female MBAs (by the way, Grace). 42% of HBS Alumnae leave the paid workforce after they have their second child. And if you went to an elite undergraduate and then went on to get your MBA you are highly likely to quit. Only 35% of women in this category are still working full-time after they have kids.
We have all heard that 70% of mothers work - tuns out only 48% of mothers work full-time, the rest work part-time. Did you know stay-at-home motherhood has been on the rise for the past decade? Between 22 and 25% of college educated mothers leave the workforce completely for a period of time - and that doesn't account for the many who work part-time. We need to get beyond the myth of the linear career and create an culture in which non-linear careers are not only acceptable, but deeply valued.
Meanwhile, we can do more than move the dial a bit.
We can vote in candidates who are committed to securing paid parental leave.
We can lobby our congress to ensure we have it. We can tell companies who don't offer a meaningful leave we wont work for them.
We can encourage men to get pissed off about this issue - they deserve paid leave as well.
We can encourage the men we know (and we know them) to ensure paid leave is offered to women AND men at their companies.
We can hire women who have paused their careers and help them to get back into the paid workforce (we need their talents and they need the job - it's a win for everyone).
We can push back on the concept of leaning into work and start advocating that we need to lean into our lives which includes work and family and our communities.
In summary, we can be a country that cares for the caregivers (and that by the way is all of us).
By the way, (shameless self promotion here :) you can pre-order a copy of my book, Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood without Killing Your Career. I interviewed 186 women and a few men and surveyed an additional 1476. Their stories debunk the narrative that you can't pause, but they also have many cautionary tales about the challenges if you do. I cover all of this and much more. I am so excited to share it because it tackles this subject straight on and gives targeted and informed strategies that allow the next generation to integrate kids and careers with confidence (which, sadly, they'll need because the corporate and public policies won't change fast enough to support them).