“How has maternity leave been for you?” “Is your position still secure once you return back to work?” “Will they extend your contract at the office?” “Can you support your family if you quit?”
These types of questions are ones that have not yet been asked to me, but they have been asked to both my American and Korean friends who already are mothers, or more respectively career mothers. Some of them are married and some of them are not. Some of them have one child and some of them have more. Some of them have struggled to find work after their maternity leave and some of them have been lucky to be provided with a promised return to the former position once their maternity period has ended. However, all of them have shared worries about choosing to continue their careers while supporting their children at home.
As mentioned before I have American and Korean friends whom are all mothers. But, they each come from different cultural backgrounds, possess various degrees, and have different support systems for their children. The one common trait among all of them is their desire to be career mothers who can strive in their career fields and support their families(*on their own or in a contributing way). But, finding an even balance between being a career mother and a at home care-taker in both cultures(American and Korean) continues to be an enduring setback for many women.
2017. That’s the year we are living in. Since before the turn of the century women have become a significant part of the workforce in many OECD countries around the world. However, as the numbers of women working have increased the number of years for some women maintaining careers without a period of absence has not. Speaking based on studies read, personal accounts from family, friends, teachers, professors, and the starkly open sexist atmosphere visibly seen in some work spaces toward women – work life for a woman, but more specifically a career mother is tough.
Choices. Many women who begin their careers after college need to plan early and make choices on how they plan to proceed in their career with or without a family to support. For women without a large family and maybe only a husband their choices might be less, unless discussions on child-raising have arisen. In this case these women must work out a life plan with their partner on their future as a mother. Will they ultimately stop working? Will they be able to have 1 year of maternity leave? Or could they work while pregnant, have their child, and return after a brief resting period? These are real questions women ask themselves, and often times they ask these questions alone. The reason they ask these questions alone is because each woman’s life is different.
Decisions. For women who have already birthed or are new mother’s the answers to the questions raised became reality for them once they have a child to support. For these women whatever is best for their child comes first. For these women(*some of which are my close friends and older sister) taking time away from work was their priority. In their absence from work, however, they realized the risks, the stigmas, and even the difficulty in returning if and when able again. When meeting with a close Korean friend of mine with a 1-year old child I asked her about her career choices going forward. My friend who was on maternity leave at the time told me that she would need to work to support her husband and their child. She did not want to be a traditional at home wife and care-taker. But, in Korea married women with children are stigmatized when they return to the office after maternity leave. My friend told me her biggest worry was her contract period ending and not being renewed due to her now having a child. Like fellow Korean friends before her she felt that she would be given no choice.
No choices. That is the risk many women in certain developed and even undeveloped countries face once they decide to have children. Women who desire to become career mothers often times face the risk of losing their positions prior to returning or not too long after they return. They also are more likely to face new difficulties upon returning. For example, upon returning from maternity leave many career mothers may be unable to attend company dinners, stay long late-night hours, or even go on company overseas or sponsored trips because they no-longer possess one job but two(*a second job as a mother). This can lead to them being let go or fired from their job. This was a situation for one of my sister’s co-workers in the U.S.
Stereotypes. A woman’s place is in the home. This is a long and die-hard stereotype that still lingers on the female sex card. Even though times are changing and some men are becoming stay at home men, dads, and care-takers the perception that the home is a place for a women still exists. Many women, though, for centuries have been working on curbing this long-standing perception. A close American friend of mine for whom I have known for years is a single career mother. As a single breadwinner she spends a majority of her time working to support herself and her child. My friend is one of the closest inspiring females in my life because she not only defies stereotypes, but has proven to all those around her & at work that a woman’s place and a woman’s role can be anywhere and can be anything.
As a woman myself I admire all career mothers and also stay at home care-takers. I admire my sister for defying expectations as a career mother. I also admire my own mother who actually did take time off in her career years to support both me and my sister when we were young. I admire all women including all women in my family because of the important decisions they chose to make, which in turn became defining life choices. As a career woman, myself, I too will one day decide how to continue my career if and when I have children, I too will one day decide how to support a growing family, and I too will one day decide how to defy the stigmas and difficulties I may also face. But, as a woman living in this day and age I feel that biases toward a woman’s place in work or at home should not be substantial. However, time does not seem to be changing as fast as we(*especially all women) would hope. Still though societies have come a long way to allow a women themselves to ultimately make important life decisions on how she will choose to take care of their family by themselves, as an equal supporter, or in a contributing way.
In your society what risks, stigmas, or difficulties do you see, hear, or have learned affect career mothers?What risks, stigmas, or difficulties do you believe home care-taker mothers face?