Friday, April 6, 2007


So my friend Amy sent me this article after reading my last post:
Just when I think I can't get more depressed about the state of our society, I read something new!
But it's good to be aware. And active.
I started thinking (worrying, actually) that I hadn't opted out--I'd been pushed. Or, that worse, like the women Betty Friedan describes, I never opted in in the first place. That I'd put all my eggs in the basket of getting married and having kids and didn't work on making a career for myself, and only got an Mrs. degree, and that I secretly fantasized about washing machines while at Rice University. I'm an un-emancipated woman! Ahhhhhh!

I tend to go to extremes in my thinking fairly quickly.

The truth is somewhere in between all of these things. True: I had a hard time imagining a career for myself during college. But that had a lot to do with the fact that I wanted to write and people don't tend to hand out the big bucks or the neat career trajectories for writers, especially if they're too introverted to be journalists.
But I will admit that I always wanted my family to come first. My mom was able to stay home with us when we were young; I wanted to give my kids that gift. And I knew that would likely be very interruptive to any career path. One does not take 8-10 year absences easily from career paths. One starts over, after your kids are older. I saw my mom do it twice, and it was frustrating for her, to say the least.
And part of why I didn't want to be a journalist is because you have to put in your dues at small papers somewhere other than you want to finally work. I didn't want to travel the US in pursuit of a career. We did that enough growing up. I wanted to live where my family was.
And to be honest, once I found a career that was a pretty good fit, I still wasn't completely enamored of it. I was a technical writer, which was fun when I was working on a complicated piece of equipment that I could learn all the ins and outs of, and use equally cool software to make a nice-looking book to help people use the said piece of equipment without pulling their hair out. But not so fun when I invested months of hard work on a project and it got cancelled, or the funding got cancelled, or my manual never got used. Which happened, oh, about 40% of the time. (With one client we worked with frequently, it happened every time. Every time!!! It was a major corporation that will go unnamed*).
And I didn't like sitting in cold, windowless, gray corporate offices in somewhat uncomfortable clothing with not enough to do. Which also happened fairly frequently. (It seems like in corporate America, you either have entirely too much to do, or not nearly enough.)
So when I quit to go back to grad school, I wasn't really sorry.
And I went to grad school! Which was exciting. (And still is, since I have one more class to finish my degree! It will happen, people!) But my degree doesn't exactly translate into a neat career path, either. If I wanted to teach actual creative writing, I'd probably have to move to Podunk, Wyoming to find a teaching position at a university. Travelling the country again!
And if I tried to get any kind of teaching position here in San Diego, it would probably be at a community college, teaching remedial writing, part-time, for peanuts. Which I'm not so interested in.
So I'm thinking about starting my own business. At some point. (Actually, I'm researching it, and will talk about it more in a post that's not already ridiculously long).

All this meandering to say: I had choices, and I don't regret the ones I made, but I still feel under-challenged by being a full-time, no other job/responsibility mom. I think as I have more brain power, I will create new challenges. Like activism. Or a business. But it's hard to get those things off the ground.

One more thing. Corporate America is ridiculously inflexible. For both men and women. Dyami's job used to be super-flexible. He worked from home regularly several days a week. But as the company has grown, and new management came in, he has worked from home less and less. (What's ridiculous is that he probably works more from home than while in the office.) And his boss told him that working from home is a privilege, not a right.
With a different boss, Dyami asked if he could work a 4-day week for a pay cut. And they said no.
And another old boss used to get mad at other employees for leaving the office earlier than he did, even if they'd worked a full 8-hour day and would just be sitting idly at their desks.
And most software jobs are probably worse than the one he has: 80 hour weeks expected, along with work-through-the-night marathons. Usually to meet unreasonable or arbitrary deadlines that the engineers had no say in.
And he's lucky to have a job in an industry that keeps outsourcing to India and Argentina.
And he makes a great salary. What about those at Wal-mart who have to be available nights and weekends at the drop of a hat--for 8 bucks an hour?
Or moms who would like to work--but end up paying for the privilege because childcare costs are so high?

Why, why is this all normal? Why do we all put up with it?

The problem is that the options--for most of us--suck. So opting in seems kind of like a sucker's deal.

*Shhh: it was Sony.

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