Social Work Careers With Children

But, there was more to it than that.

The number one reason these very ambitious, well-educated, high-potential women paused their careers was because they wanted to be the primary caregiver of their children. Over 85 percent reported this as the biggest motivator for their decision to step off the well-trodden path and embark on a non-linear career.

As Friedan showed us, when women were stuck at home with limited options for professional rewards, many were deeply dissatisfied. They wanted to find their rightful place in the paid workforce. But now, after decades of being in the workplace doing our best to compete with and against men, we’ve come to understand that this is not enough, either.

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The work-at-all-cost life doesn’t bring us joy or meaning. It denies us the time we want and need to care for our loved ones. It denies us the chance to be our fully integrated, authentic selves. As a result, like so many men who have struggled for generations against the constraints of work, our hard-won professional opportunities often leave us exhausted, demoralized, and even ill.

The work-at-all-cost life doesn’t bring us joy or meaning. It denies us the time we want and need to care for our loved ones. It denies us the chance to be our fully integrated, authentic selves.

There is something missing from all of the talk about women’s careers and the lack of female leaders and the challenges of work-life balance. What is missing is the acknowledgment of the deep meaning we humans derive from our roles as caregivers. What is missing is the power and importance of family. What is missing is our humanity. The women who “choose” to pause are the proverbial “canaries in the coal mines” giving notice that something is deeply wrong with the way we Americans have structured our lives.

The goal of the original women’s empowerment movement was focused on getting women in the workplace. To do this, we were forced to play by men’s rules. And we did. But now, more than fifty years since Friedan’s book gave voice to our frustrations, we have a new problem with no name. While our grandmothers and mothers were kept from choosing to pursue their professional dreams, professional women today who want to place their families as a priority are discouraged from honoring their personal desires.

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