Women's Freedom: Finding It In Work, Home or School
Having been inspired by Deborah’s idea to split up Claudia Bushman’s talk, “The Lives of Mormon Women” to discuss different parts, I have decided to highlight a section which particularly struck me.
After discussing her choice to attend school while raising a family, she states, “As a lazy daughter of another age, I still marvel that women think they find freedom in working rather than staying at home with their children where they have free time and some control over how to spend it.”
Claudia’s idea that one does not find freedom in work, but rather in staying at home (and simultaneously going to school perhaps) made me reexamine some of my current choices. I currently teach high school part time. Not because I need the money, but because I personally need an identity outside my family relationships. And because I think it’s healthy for me to get out of the house everyday to connect and contribute directly to my community.
Three weeks after my son was born I returned to the classroom, leaving for school every day at noon and returning at 4:30. Even though it’s part time, I still don’t feel like I have much free time, since nearly every minute I don’t have the baby I’m trying to prep for classes the next day. I admit that I struggle to find time to pursue other interests like reading books, practicing piano, or writing.
So I understand why Claudia would assert that for her, not working gave her more freedom. But part of me hesitates to believe that working invariably equates to less freedom for mothers. First, if a woman has had the luxury of picking a career that she loves, I can imagine a woman feeling grateful and happy to be engaged every day in work that is particularly meaningful for her. And this work that she loves would give her the freedom to connect and interact with others of like mind, the freedom to use her skills to influence and contribute to society. Secondly, as cynical as this may sound, I believe that both spouses contributing financially may in some relationships, sometimes, even out power dynamics a bit, thereby perhaps giving some women more decision making power in a marriage- and thereby increasing their personal autonomy and freedom.
While I can find spaces to argue that working can bring freedom to mothers that staying at home could not, I still find Claudia’s argument compelling and interesting. And it makes me ask myself if I should consider quitting my teaching job and instead look into pursuing grad school while I mother my young, just as Claudia did years ago.
How do you women find freedom in your lives? Do you find it in the flexibility of staying at home with kids, or in the power, money, influence, and just plain joy that may accompany working?
Men, do you feel that working constrains your freedom? Would you rather have the flexibility of stay at home parenting?
Is going to school while raising children the perfect balance of flexibily and mental/social engagement?