You are told growing up that it is a man’s world, but that you can overcome the cultural obstacles and glass ceilings if you just put your nose to the grindstone and excel. You are told to study hard, work hard, achieve great things, and shatter the gender myths. You enter the workforce and climb up the ladder. You believe that you are making roughly the same as your male counterparts. Work life “is good” in terms of the traditional measures of success. You achieved, in part, your childhood dreams.
Imagine, amidst this occupational success, that you are at a crossroads. You have a kid. However, you have managed to balance motherhood with “workhood”. Overall, you have succeeded in not feeling guilty about being a working parent. More specifically, you didn’t pay mind to the media obsession with “working-mom guilt”. There are still more opportunities in the horizon. Your gut firmly believes there are much more grand things to be accomplished and mountains to climb.
One day you do something you never do. You go to the local “bodega” and you buy a lottery ticket. Say you win a substantial amount. Now what? Go back to work? Change jobs? Stop working?
This past week, I overheard a discussion about the immorality of educated women not working. A woman remarked that it is unethical for women that have high levels of education to drop out of the workplace, even if it is to take care of their child. Unethical? In my burnout courses, I often “preach” about how “self-care” is an ethical course of action. Maintaining a foothold in the workplace world for the sake of saying one must do so because “I am a woman” does not seem to mesh necessarily with self-care.
I do not exist solely for the purpose of being a propaganda piece. Or to be a token. I can be a role-model to my son and family and mentees. I need not be a role-model for the world as dictated by other’s definitions of role-modelhood.
With that said. I can’t imagine dropping out of the workplace. My mind and body ache to be visionary and create theories, products and further the betterment of the world. A million dollars would not move me out of the working world. Although, the question at that point would be what workplace structure is a good fit for my temperament, work-life balance and continued learning needs. If I could have it all, I have come to realize I would probably be a journalist covering the needs of the marginalized and the underbelly of our lived lives and scripts. Freedom to roam about would indeed be liberating for the mind and soul.
Back to the original question. It is ok? Just because you have a bachelors, masters or PhD degree does not mean you are a slave to the work-world, or should feel guilty about refusing to conform to some talking head’s political agenda.