Monday, February 28, 2005

24 meets Newsweek...

An article in last week's Newsweek basically consisted of a number of women (not all women, mind you) bemoaning the fact that they can't be both perfect mommies and perfect workers. And, unwilling to accept this reality, they lash out at everyone they blame for the situation: employers, who need to be more accomodating and less demanding; husbands, who not only need to take on more responsibility around the house but also be more supportive of their wives; society, for not doing more to provide day care, better education and shorter commutes; and even their own kids, for not being more accepting that mommy doesn't always want to be with them.

But more than they want to complain, they want to change the definitions. If getting ahead in the corporate world is 80 hour weeks and jumping on a plane on two hours notice and that's incompatible with being there for your kids whenever and wherever needed - well, let's just change the definitions. Make the law firm offer you a partnership despite your only billing 1,000 hours a year. Require your company to offer you that promotion despite the fact that you went home early every fifth day because of some child related reason. Tell yourself that you're really a good parent, despite the fact that you see your child awake less than 4 hours a day. Tell yourself that it's good for your kid to be in day care, just one of about 25 other kids, and that they'll do just fine in that environment.

But life doesn't work that way. And tonight's 24 illustrated that quite nicely. The person in charge is a woman, who's the single parent of a mentally unbalanced teenager/young adult (I can't tell ages real well). All hell is breaking loose in the world. THIS LADY CAN NOT BE IN TWO PLACES AT THE SAME TIME. She can take care of her daughter or she can do her job. She can not do both. She has a choice to make and 1,000 Newsweek cover stories that blame the world for this predicament won''t make it go away.

Nor should it go away. This country did not accomplish what it has accomplished with people putting in part time hours. Success - whether in business or in raising kids - requires a huge committment of time and of energy. You want to go for the corporate brass ring? Go ahead, just don't bitch about not getting time to go see Junior's second grade play. And, if you really want to do a bang up job raising your kids, it's going to require a whole lot more time than you're probably spending with them now. If you don't want to put in the time, that's your choice. Just don't bitch if they don't turn out quite the way you were hoping.

Men have (innately?) known this for generations, that every hour they spent working or drinking beer with their buddies was an hour they didn't have to spend with their kids. They accepted this tradeoff (some might have actually welcomed it). They didn't, for the most part, complain. It was just the way things were.

Why should it be any different today?