Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

Synopsis

Noting a phenomenon that might seem to recall a previous era, The New York Times Magazine recently portrayed women who leave their careers in order to become full-time mothers as "opting out." But, are high-achieving professional women really choosing to abandon their careers in order to return home? This provocative study is the first to tackle this issue from the perspective of the women themselves. Based on a series of candid, in-depth interviews with women who returned home after working as doctors, lawyers, bankers, scientists, and other professions, Pamela Stone explores the role that their husbands, children, and coworkers play in their decision; how women's efforts to construct new lives and new identities unfold once they are home; and where their aspirations and plans for the future lie. What we learn--contrary to many media perceptions--is that these high-flying women are not opting out but are instead being pushed out of the workplace. Drawing on their experiences, Stone outlines concrete ideas for redesigning workplaces to make it easier for women--and men--to attain their goal of living rewarding lives that combine both families and careers.

Excerpt

It was a glorious fall day on the jewel-green playing fields of my suburban hometown and a fellow soccer mom had just given an especially touching and poised tribute to our sons’ coach—the familiar end-ofseason ritual accompanied by gift. Upon being complimented for her sure delivery, Ann turned to thank us, adding self-effacingly, “I guess a law degree from Yale is good for something.” Until that moment, I knew Ann as the quintessential stay-at-home mom: kids, dog, husband with high-powered career, active in the community. I had no idea, despite our many chats on the sidelines, before PTA meetings, around coordinating carpools, that Ann was (or ever had been) a lawyer, much less one with a degree from one of the top law schools in the country. Now that I knew, I was—and yet wasn’t—surprised. Surprised because she had never mentioned it or her subsequent legal career; not surprised because she was, in hindsight, so obviously an Ivy League–trained lawyer. Suddenly, it all made sense to me, but the slight trace of regret with which Ann made her remark (and the wistful sense of loss it conveyed) suggested that it might not make sense to her, that she was still trying to puzzle out the incongruity of her identity as Yale Law grad and at-home soccer mom. Women like Ann, the choices they make and how they understand . . .

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