Future employment prospects be damned; I have some confessions to make:
- I think the expectation that a mother leave a newborn still attached to her breast with supposedly qualified strangers so that she can return to work is barbaric.
- When I have children, I hope to have the job I have now–a freelance writer–so that I can both work and remain at home with my children.
- I hope to be married to a wealthy man so that, if I am so cursed as to always live in a relatively small market whose publications pay incredibly low wages and if no national publication ever replies to my query letters and my memoirs and scripts never sell or get produced, the above vision will still be possible.
- Had I known in college that art would be my ultimate career ambition, I might have shifted my goals in college to obtaining an MRS. Might have.
I thought about this recently when I saw a friend’s Facebook post. He had met a female college sophomore in the library and asked her about her future plans. “She said, ‘I want to find a good man with money, marry him and raise our kids.’ She said lots of women are like that and they don’t admit it,” he wrote in the post.
One woman who responded to the post said that this topic came up often when she was an undergraduate at Spelman, a historically black college for women. She met a number of men at Morehouse, the nearby men’s college and another HBC, who were hoping to find a wife equal to them in educational attainment and other accomplishments but willing to be a housewife.
Since I hate the idea of a trophy wife and it irks me to no end when I meet an accomplished, degreed, intellectual man who has chosen a wife of the young, perky cheerleader with a G.E.D. ilk, this subculture should make me happy. It tells me these men want more than a pretty accessory (who’s probably beautiful on the inside too) and hot sex. They want to come home to a good conversation, to a woman who can analyze their hard day at work and give them advice on business problems. They want a mate who will instill the importance of education into their children and who can impress high-end business associates and clients at networking events.
But it also raises questions: Is going to college to find a spouse a valid reason to go to college? Why do we go to college at all? There are too many people with degrees that don’t qualify them to do anything and too many unemployed people with degrees to continue pretending the university is synonymous with vocational school. Now that women earn more PhDs than men, wouldn’t it be a waste to not work after having achieved so much? What do you do with years of acquired knowledge if you’re not in the workforce?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. I do know that even with the best of intentions and the sincerest of efforts, it can be extremely difficult for women to switch from power career mode to stay-at-home-supermom mode. You can transfer the organizational, conflict resolution, time management, positive-outlook-no-matter-what and–if you’re the cookie mom or the room mom or the team mom–project management skills from home to the workforce. But as one mom who made the reverse transition explained to me, it takes a different mindset to realize that you don’t need a white board session to make the third grade class project happen.
I also know what it feels like to believe–whether it’s true or not–that you’ve wasted gifts, talents or opportunities, especially ones that women before you didn’t have. To have no law blatantly stating that your dreams are not meant for people like you and choose a life that many women were relegated to seems almost blasphemous.
But then there’s the awe of this privilege of kept womanhood being extended to black women–the original working moms, the strong and proud women strapping babies to their backs as they returned to forced labor just after giving birth, the single heads of most of today’s black households. To be both well educated and well taken care of would be a new and perhaps wonderful thing for black women to experience.
And what do you do with the wealth of academic knowledge you acquire in the process of obtaining your MRS? I guess you could always blog about it.