Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What if I'm Not Wasting My JD?

At a homeschooler's park day yesterday, I discussed the Washington Post piece I blogged about yesterday, with a friend. She was talking about the underlying article in the American Prospect but I haven't read it. When I went to the link this morning, I quickly bailed on the article -- there is just not enough time to blog about the minutiae in my life and read an article by a feminist scholar. Yup, and I sold my volumes of Camille Paglia at a used book store last year to buy a homeschooling book. Thats right, go ahead and cry.

As I alluded to in my comment on my last post (if I don't talk to myself, who else will?), I wonder if this view of women wasting their education and careers by being at home misses an important point. It seems the argument is that women should buy into the current corporate paradigm of power. We must work at jobs while our children are young so that we can be the power brokers of the future. Only in achieving conventional success, will we be a success, the theory seems to say. There are some nice political words for this which escape me because I've filled my brain with such trivia as my DH's preferred orange juice (Tropicana Pure Premium Original, aka, no pulp). What is the term? Subscribing to the male dominated power structure, accepting the current paradigm, what? Something about accepting what others have decided without deciding it for yourself. Maybe Linda knows.

My point is, perhaps its possible that these rich, overprivileged, educated women are looking for something better than what the corporate world has to offer. Maybe they are wrong, but maybe they aren't. Maybe these at-home mommies are the real risk-takers, betting that their careers and their lives are better off for the path they are taking (not to mention how they feel about their children).

An example: I worked as an attorney for a government agency for three years before having my first child, after which I stayed home to be with her. Now, I'm a homeschooler, a completely unanticipated turn of events for me (I always thought they were religious fundamentalists and I am not). I've only been asked once if I felt I wasted my degree. Reflecting on that conversation, the only thing I felt I wasted was the time spent talking to that person.

Anyway, what if in 15 years or so, I move on to a completely different career? What if my "time at home" helps me craft a new path because of the volunteer work I'm doing now for causes I believe in far more strongly than whether a particular imported item should be duty-free under NAFTA. Oh, I may never get my GS-14 which I may rightly deserve, but is the women's movement really worse off for that? What if I become an executive director of an organization that helps abused women? What if I become a lobbyist on children's issues? Am I a failure because my salary isn't as big as it could be?

To me, working while my children are young isn't about career advancement or social movements. Its about material acquisition and consumerism. (In a earlier blog post, I wrote about an article that suggested that at-home moms should thank working women for making the world a better place. The article was written by a woman who used to market Splenda in South America. And she thinks she was a hero of the women's movement?) I'm happy with what I have -- I am spoiled enough, I don't need more. So what if I spend my time with my kids. Whats it to you? If career achievement is blooming, can't you tolerate a late-bloomer?

And trust me, I plan to do something with my JD, even if its only to spout off at the male attorneys at the top of the current domination system. Actually, I do that now, so maybe I am a working woman.

Note: I polished this up, tried to de-inflame it a bit and posted it to the Life Without School community blog.


April said...

I like your posts. I wanted to comment and say right on! I work as a paralegal, and god knows we don't need any more unhappy, stressed out female lawyers that are miserable at their jobs and taking it out on us! I want to say to Linda: STOP, PLEASE! We want to work for female lawyers that LIKE their jobs, not those miserably sticking it out for some feminist principle.

Disclosure: I am a 45 year old woman that is devoid of maternal my tubes tied before I was 30. Yet, even I CAN GRASP the importance of motherhood and raising children. Why this goes over Linda's head is, well, not really worth wondering about,eh?

Marjorie said...

Hi April, thanks for commenting. Its nice to know that there are readers who enjoy my ramblings.

I have plenty of classmates who have made partner at big firms by now, but I think they are doing it for the money (and maybe they even enjoy the work itself), not for the 'feminist cause.' Thats fine, money is nice, but lets not lionize them. I'm not saying we should demonize them either. I just don't see how being a 6 figure partner doing mergers and acquisitions is freeing women from tyranny, at least no more so than I am.

CQPmom said...

I like your posts too. I have a hard time responding to Linda's arguments because her underlying principals are so strange to me, it's like we're living on different planets. I can't understand how it's good for women to live their lives never factoring in happiness.

Privately, I think she suffered from a bad case of PPD when her children were young and now suffers from a spectacular lack of imagination.

Marjorie said...

Thanks! Good point about lacking imagination. I know its sometimes very hard for me to see issues in unconventional ways. Being 'at-home' was easy for me because its what I wanted, what made me happiest. Its still hard work, but its work I want to do.

An updated version of this post will be on Life Without School in a few days. I'll post a link when its up -- I get a little radical with it.

Betty K in Tennessee said...

I just finished reading The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. A corporate lawyer in London, about to make partner, throws over her job. She wants a real life with weekends off and time to look out the window, among other things. My children are 21, 17 and 6. I no longer get criticized for "not using my education" I like that my 6 year old did not understand the meaning of the "rat race" No learning is ever wasted and I have learned far more as a long time homeschooling mom then I ever did at a job or in structured educational settings.