It Takes Two
April has begun, leaving freshmen three weeks to select a major. Some of us may be ahead of the game, having accepted sophomore standing or what have you, while others have yet to schedule appointments with our advisers.
A few weeks before Spring Break, I met with my advising group just to catch up with everyone and see how we were all doing. My adviser had it on his agenda to discuss choice of major with us, but he didn’t just come right out and ask us what we were all thinking of majoring in and did we have any questions. Rather, he started a discussion on choosing a career -- but even this wasn’t your typical “where do you want to be in a couple of years and which degree will best help you get there” talk. He started by asking us about the sort of family life we would each like to have; can you see yourself prioritizing a career over starting a family, and vice versa. Next, he segued into the career discussion, and only made a small mention of the fact that he had the choice-of-major discussion on his to-do list.
Needless to say, the topic lent itself to a lively discussion, one that I (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) was sorry to have to curtail. It was definitely one of the more interesting discussions I’ve had with anyone in a while. I won’t call it thought-provoking only because these are issues I’ve already found myself concerned with, so much that I found myself having a nearly identical conversation with some friends over Spring Break.
While my adviser was able to carry an interesting conversation overall, one point of his was rather narrow-minded in nature. The sad part is, it’s also most likely widely accepted. He said that women had to be more concerned than men did with striking a balance between their career and their family life.
At the risk of sounding idealistic, things shouldn’t be that way. It takes two people -- a man and a woman -- to start a family. If both are to be equal partners, they should be equally concerned with caring for a family. And they certainly should not be told beforehand that the man would not be expected to be as concerned for the family as would the woman.
Perhaps I should clarify that I’m not saying a complete role reversal of the sexes is in store. In fact, that would be a ludicrous statement. But in a time when gender equity is being attained in the workplace, such a comment is a slap in the face. If we can achieve that, then equity in the home should be a piece of cake. Of course, now that we as a society have allowed the stereotypes of the male-as-breadwinner-only and female-having-to-make-a-choice to perpetuate, what would have once been easy may now be a challenge.
It’s truly unfortunate that earlier generations were given this restriction (for females)/freedom (from responsibility, for males). This is so because individuals from these generations have the potential to pass along these criteria to future generations, and once a belief passes through and is assimilated into a few generations, quashing it can be difficult. This would be the only obstacle to achieving equality in the home (in terms of perceived necessary level of commitment), but its massiveness makes it a hard one to overcome. It’s nothing we can’t handle, though. We’ve shown that we are capable of righting many of the wrongs plaguing the world in this day and age. We can take this one on too.