It’s no surprise that while visiting in Massachusetts, I went to the shopping mall with my daughter and grandson. He had taken some money out of his piggy bank to buy himself a toy. And, of course, I had planned to subsidize some additional treat.
As we three strolled down the main mallway, we were accosted by a jovial gentleman with a microphone followed by a quiet guy with a news station videocamera. At first, I wasn’t going to stop and be interviewed, but when my daughter heard that the interviewer was looking for a family of three generations, she opted to talk to him. And so I agreed to join in.
“You’ve heard of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, haven’t you,” he asked and then proceeded to explain that he was interviewing people about how much they buy into that concept. And he was wondering how that changed over the generations.
I went first, explaining that, because my parents had been upwardly mobile and my mother very conscious of what she had in comparison to others, I rebelled against the stress of that lifestyle, opting to go into education — which really doesn’t pay that well. I think I said that I started out as a teacher because I wanted to contribute something to the world. While there was some truth to everything that cam e out of my mouth in that spur-of-the-moment monologue, the rest of the truths are even more relevent. But I never got a chance to get into all of that. So, instead, I sounded like a poster mom for “family values.” If you read this blog, you know that I’m a far cry from that.
My daughter’s brief statements also reflected only part of her truths. She said that she left the workforce to stay home and raise her son; that it was hard living on one income, but she felt it was worth it. All of that is true.
What neither of has had a chance to say, however, was that we were never interested in “keeping up with the Joneses” because we began our adult lives being more interested in following our dreams than making a lot of money — her dream being acting and mine being writing. Ultimately, as it turned out, we chose lives that center around the people we love. I guess we are just not competitive enough to have gotten sucked into that “keeping up” rat race.
Relative to all of that, I recently read an article in The Week stating:
A growing number of new mothers are quitting their jobs to devote their full-time attention to their children. Is the traditional family making a comeback?
The article also includes these statements:
A growing number of companies are offering to let moms telecommute or work flexible hours to avoid losing them altogether. If employers had done this earlier, they might have avoided their current jam, says Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings. Most mothers would prefer to keep working, she said, but are “pushed out by workplace inflexibility, the lack of supports, and a workplace bias against mothers.” In a recent survey, 86 percent of women said obstacles such as inflexible hours were key reasons behind their decisions to leave.
“At the height of the women’s movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectation that they could somehow combine full-time work with child rearing,” said Yale historian Cynthia Russett. “The women today are, in effect, turning realistic.”
As a single mother, I had no choice but to work. My daughter has a choice, and I have a feeling that her experiences growing up under my roof contributed a great deal to her making the one she has. And I think she made the right one.