Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

A Precarious Balance: Views of a Working Mother Walking the Tightrope

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

A Precarious Balance: Views of a Working Mother Walking the Tightrope

Article excerpt

"There is no slave out of heaven like a lovingwoman; and, of all loving women, there is no such slave as a mother."

--Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)


A paramount issue that has recently emerged in my life is the balance between family and career. I refer to career instead of the more common label for work outside the home, as anyone who is a wife and mother knows parenting and marriage are also work. Also, a career implies some sort of significant investment on the employee's part beyond work at home. The issue of a mother working outside the home is not new to me, as I was the child of an employed mother; however, as I have become a mother myself the challenges of career pursuits while maintaining focus on family have taken on new meaning. Often throughout my college career I have had occasion to address this and related topics in research papers. I see this particular paper as the culmination of my past work combined with the exciting opportunity to reflect upon my own life in a very personal way.

As I begin to see that sociology really does pertain to real-life, I am increasingly interested in taking this analysis to the next level--to examine how larger societal and global forces affect, and in turn are affected by, my microsocial world. What might society do to make mothers' balancing act easier? What effects might improved day-care options and flexibility in the workplace have on women's capacity to work outside the home, whether for self-fulfillment or to help provide for their families? Why are women not adequately compensated, either extrinsically or intrinsically, for the most important social task there is, i.e., raising children? At what cost will these and other answers come?

Growing up in a small, rural town, I was an "A" student, athlete, officer in every school club, and prom queen. My community had seen my successes, and expected nothing less as I prepared for college. However, feeling that I was in love with a local boy, my choice to pass on the four-year private university and instead attend a local two-year college undoubtedly brought disappointment to everyone. Needless to say, the romance fizzled during my freshman year, and again my focus was on academics. Obtaining high grades in pursuit of an Associate's degree, I was offered a full scholarship by a prestigious four-year private college in the event I transfer and complete a Bachelor's degree. Seemingly not a quick study in affairs of the heart I would again choose to stay close to home, and to a special man, and turn down the scholarship to get a job and think about what I really wanted to do with my life. I must at this point interject the fact that while I felt I had again disappointed my family and community, I know this was the right decision; seven years of marriage and one child later, the man is still special to me and to my life.

Upon receiving my Associate's degree, I worked as a teller at a local bank, and then took my present job as an administrative assistant on the SUNY Oneonta campus. The people I would come to work with, the educational environment of the campus, a supportive husband, and a very personal drive to in effect "redeem" myself educationally, would combine to carry me into an exciting and challenging new phase of my life. As Georg Simmel has observed "... small town life ... rests upon more deeply felt and emotional relationships" (Simmel 149). Being myself from a small rural community, I also believe such emotional ties makes me, consciously or not, particularly sensitive to what my community thinks of my achievements--especially since I now live in the same community as an adult. These have contributed to the development of a strong sense of generalized other (Mead 167) in my identity, shaping my life goals and plans.

After working hard to establish some success at work I decided to return to the classroom as a part-time college student. …

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