In my opinion, young women in college have much higher stakes to consider when it comes to choosing a major.
It is wonderful to choose to be at home with your children should you be able to afford to do so. But here is the glitch -- many of my "retired" lawyer friends wish they had chosen career paths that would have allowed them to balance work and family life. And law, like many other professions chosen by college- and master's-educated women, is typically not a "mom-friendly" destination. For instance, for women who want to make partner at a law firm, they learned -- once they became moms -- that they would have to choose between their family or their firm, if they wanted to make partner or maintain the respect of their clients/coworkers.
I feel fortunate that when I flipped the coin, it landed on heads -- I wound up in a career that allows me to choose my own hours in private practice, which semester I will teach at university, and so on. I have a full-time, customized-hours job, yet I spend every Monday and Friday afternoon with my son, and every Monday volunteering at his school. Flexibility for me has been essential to motherhood.
A friend said the following to me: "My father is a dentist. Dentistry is a great field for women -- hours are reasonable and can be flexible. When I was about 10 years old, I said I wanted to be a lawyer. When I made that announcement at 10 years old, it definitely was not well-reasoned; it was probably based on my limited knowledge of possible careers -- I thought the choices were doctor, lawyer, and teacher.
"My parents never tried to talk me out of it. They never even suggested that I should be a dentist and potentially go into practice with my dad. They actively tried to get both of my brothers into dentistry because they thought it was a solid career and they would have my father to help them get on their feet. Twenty years later, when I first became a mom and was really struggling with being a part-time lawyer, I became friends with another mother who is a dentist. She was working two days a week in her own dental practice. That seemed like a perfect career and balance to me. At that point, I wondered why my parents had never even suggested this to me and I confronted them (half-joking, but sort of annoyed). They said, 'you always said you wanted to go into law.'
"It is kind of ironic that my parents, who provide endless advice and opinions (both solicited and unsolicited), shied away from giving career advice. Maybe even the most opinionated people don't want to discourage their daughters from having a career goal and working hard to get there (maybe it seems chauvinistic or they think we'll get mad). My brother is going into practice with my dad, and I am now retiring."
In their twenties, most women are not visualizing what their life will look like in their thirties and forties. They are excited about their future careers, and work hard to achieve their goals. So very hard. Especially considering how short their career "life" might last if they don't choose mom-friendly or flexible professions.
The following sentence makes even me cringe -- but I think it has to be said. I believe there should be some sort of program aimed at educating college women on their career options covering life-work-motherhood balance. Yes, men should be given the same rights. But statistics show that most college-educated men work full-time and don't abandon their careers to be stay-at-home dads.
Yesterday, my last working mom friend from college gave notice at her firm. I am the last one standing. I think she will love being with her kids! I just wish she had more options within her field. Or that she had been educated earlier on about the limitations and benefits of the various paths as a future mother.
|Dr. Cara Gardenswartz is a licensed clinical psychologist who provides therapy to individuals and couples and runs psychotherapy groups. Her expertise include relationships, depression, anxiety, life transitions, trauma and addiction. She has over 16 years of education, training, and experience in her field. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to earn her Master's and Doctorate in Psychology at the UCLA. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|