I grew up in the 1970s, and remember a TV commercial selling “Enjoli” perfume that said, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let you forget you’re a man…” This told me that I could have a career, come home and cook dinner for my family, then be a sexy wife to my husband – all in one day, if I just sprayed a little bit of that perfume on me! Yeah, right!
A recent TED video I watched had Anne-Marie Slaughter talking about “having it all.” She told her story of a high-powered position working for the US State Department and being given the opportunity to be promoted into a prestigious position that few, if any, women had ever held. She didn’t take the job! She realized by doing so she’d loose out on the last five years of her sons’ lives, and that was too much of a sacrifice. She didn’t want to see her boys disconnect from her during the time in their lives when they’d go from being boys to men; some of the most critical years in a young person’s life. She embraced what she recognized as irreplaceable – being a “mom,” a position that only she could fill.
“I am still committed to the problem of male/female equality, but let’s think about what that equality really means and how best to achieve it,” Slaughter said.
She said her perception of success was conditioned to be those at the top: CEOs, Presidents, high-ranking officials, etc. After her career choice dilemma, she began to rethink those “conditionings.” Why are those positions the only ones deemed a success? Should we redefine what success is? In the workplace, shouldn’t valuing family as much as work be an imperative?
“Real, full equality does not just mean valuing women on male terms,” Slaughter suggested, “but it means creating a much wider range of equally respected choices.”
Breadwinning and caregiving need to be equally valued!
We should invest in an infrastructure of care as the foundation of a healthy society, as it invests in physical infrastructure as the backbone of a successful economy. Breadwinning and caregiving reinforce each other!
We have to value family every bit as much as we value work. We should entertain the idea that doing right by those we love will make all of us better at everything we do.
For the first time in American history, this year, women became the majority of the US workforce. Global economy is a place where women are equally successful as men. There is a new set of “super heroes,” and we’re going to have to change what that definition means for women if we expect to be successful in whatever role we choose to play.
As a Christian, this makes sense to me. We are created in the image of God, and caregiving is part of that image. It’s just as important as “bringing home the bacon.”