Choice for Women

We rented Mona Lisa Smiles the other night. Not a great movie but not a bad movie either. I did come away with some thoughts.

It is certainly a chick flick. The premise of the movie is that Julia Roberts, an art teacher, comes to Wellesley College to teach art. She believes that she will be teaching the best and the brightest women in the country who will make an impact on the world today. The world is 1953. She discovers that these women, who are obviously smart, are really just attending school for their MRS, in essence, finishing school for women. She is dumbfounded and attempts to make these women think differently.

The movie is probably a bit unrealistic about what it really was like in 1953 but nevertheless interesting. During the film there is one character who applies to Yale Law School through the prodding of Julia Roberts characters. She does get in but chooses to get married and follow her husband to University of Pennsylvania while he attends law school so she can keep a house, have a family etc. There is an argument that occurs through this character and her teacher, Julia Roberts over why she can’t do both? She claims that she is happy to be a housewife and there is nothing wrong with that choice. So, my son leans over to me and says “mom, are you a housewife”? Yikes. I answered “I guess so, at least for the moment but perhaps I should go back to work”. His reply, “No, Dad works really hard and you stay home with us so that is perfect.”. Perfect for who?

I blogged about the topic recently, “What do you do”? This is a never ending push and pull in the lives of women today. It is literally impossible to have it all. But on the other hand, what type of lessons am I teaching my children by staying home and managing their lives? I do think it is probably a short term career. Women can have the option of many careers vs. men who mostly start on a slow steady climb upward.

Then, how about the women who work because they have to. Society changed when women had the opportunity to become lawyers, doctors or anything they wanted for that matter vs. only nurses and teachers. The cost of living has gone up. People now have different expectations. 2 working parents trying to make ends meet to keep the lifestyle they have chosen – pay for the mortgage, make sure the kids are in the programs they want, etc. The weekends consist of running errands and going to their kids sporting events. Is that what these women bargained for?

Today in the New York Times there is an article on Tiny Film Buffs. Movie houses that are showing first-run films for parents with babies. Parents? Take a look at the audience picture. Women with their kids. Are these educated women from Harvard, Wellesley or Yale choosing to stay home? Who wins here – the kids, the mothers or the fathers?

I don’t think the answer is black and white but what will be most interesting is seeing how the next generation of women answer to their calling. Will they start having kids at 22 and not have careers first and children later? Will they graduate and then just stay home to raise the kids while will make it harder for them to enter the work place later. Will more women make a choice – career vs. family – end of story.

I am certainly happy where I am and my choice for now but when my son asks me if I am a housewife, I admit, it makes me freeze. Perhaps I should answer him with the explanation my friend gives her family….I am a domestic goddess.