I previously wrote a post titled On Domestication, in which I discussed the issue of choice in feminism in regards to traditional gender/familial roles. In this post, I will discuss the other side of that coin: the Professional Woman.
The nature of the professional world being what it is, there are certain realities to keep in mind when it comes to being a woman. April 12th was Equal Pay Day, marking how far into the year women have to work in order to earn the gross pay of men from the previous year. Women on average earn 77 cents to the dollar of what men make. They also tend to work at least twice as hard to be acknowledged on the same level as men when it comes to promotions and other professional recognition. And that's not even including the glass ceiling. These pay gaps exist even in the art world. No industry is exempt from them.
I long ago resigned myself to the near-certain reality that will be my professional life: I want to be an art professor, which means teaching/grading/going to meetings full time. But I also realize that getting to that point will take a lot of time in which I won't be paid all that much. Full professorship can expect to make just under 95k. There also a bit of an expectation to be a working artist (not only to support your salary, but also show that you are still in touch with the art world). Which would essentially mean I would be working two full-time jobs; one teaching, one making and exhibiting art. This doesn't leave much leeway for a personal life on the sidelines.
This has led to my evaluating on what my family life would be like. What my marriage would be like. If I chose to have kids, what that would mean. My relationship to my family (with whom I am very close, despite our disagreements on numerous things). How would my chosen career path affect the people in my life, and my relationship to them?
I have to say it looks slightly bleak. Art professorships are few and far between. There aren't many jobs in the field. Considering the current economic downturn, one also has to keep in mind that the first thing to go when the economy turns south, is the arts. It is very likely my spouse (as I do wish to get married eventually) will earn more than I. Which means their career would take priority, just for logistical reasons (have to go where the money is). So I would have to be lucky enough to find a job in the area. Which will most likely lead to me living far from my family, which I am relatively unaccustomed to doing. Even though i have become slightly used to living apart from any family, just the knowledge that close family is a two hour highway drive away is comforting. For my parents, it is three hours. And they are all still in the same state as I. Living far away from them is not something I have had to experience in my life. So there is that to consider.
Also, there is the problem of if I chose to have kids, which is a complex issue in and of itself. Personally, I'm not big on kids. I can take them in small doses, and my OCD tends to make my ability to deal with messes limited (I get kinda strung out). But there is also the issue that if I were to have kids, I would want to be the best parent I could, and be involved in their lives. I would want to be present and supportive of them in their activities and achievements. I don't want to be that parent that only shows up at the obligatory events, or only show up to drop off and pick the kid up. I would want to watch them and see them experience the hard work it takes to achieve something, so that I too could have an appreciation for how much they truly earned something and how hard they worked to get where they are.
A career path such as mine would prohibit that, and I am aware of that. I realize that there are kids with two working parents, and that often it is the fathers that stereotypically fall into the 'absentee working parent' category. But there is a certain stigma that is attached when it is the mother that falls into that category. With fathers, it is almost expected. But for mothers, there is still an expectation for them to be the ever-present, doting parents; even though more and more women are in the workplace every year, and more and more of them are choosing to stay with a career path after having children. That means there are fewer and fewer mothers with children attached to their sides. There is a stigma that these working moms are somehow bad mothers, even though they provide for their kids and spend as much (if not more) time with their children as the stereotypical bread-winning dads.
How is it that we have come to this? How is it that we have come to expect women to be involved in their own careers, and yet still be the 50s housewife and mother at the same time? After all, women still do the majority of household chores, and the number of hours per week women work in the household goes up when children are involved. I once heard it described in a very apt manner: women, on average, have three full time jobs: Employee, Wife, Mother. Which is surprisingly true.
So what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I will have to settle, just like most women. It is simply not be feasible for me to have two careers, be married, and have a family all to the 110% with which I tend to throw myself into things. I will have to learn to be okay with settling. I will have to learn to be okay with not necessarily being a department chair. I will have to be okay with not necessarily seeing my spouse as much as I'd like. I will have to be okay with not necessarily spending as much time with my family (and kids, should they ever come into being) as I'd like. Something, or everything, will have to give in order for me to sustain all areas of my life. I will have to learn to be okay with giving less than 110% involvement in everything I do.
This isn't to say that I won't be ambitious, or that I won't try to put 110% into everything I do, or that I won't reach for that department chair, tenured professorship position. It just means that I am going to have to learn with being okay with sometimes not even giving 100%, simply because there is only so much of me to go around, and I am going to have to learn to ration my self and my time carefully, so as to not turn into a basket case.
I know that it is possible to be a working woman, and have a successful family life as well as a successful career. But I also am willing to recognize that sacrifices will need to be made in order to achieve both of those things. It will be a learning process for me as I work my way through life, as it has been for my mothers and sisters before me.