9.26.2011

WORKING FOR A LIVING VS. WIFING AND MOMING FOR A LIVING

One of the things about book publicity I most enjoy is the chance to chat with radio hosts from all over the country. I recently did a show with Broadminded--The Broads being Christine and Molly, two smart, glorious-maned blondes (I just knew they would look fabulous by the way they sounded.)

One of them said something like, let's talk about having to work. Being a woman and having to work.

I replied something like: Yes, I've always had to work. I've always supported myself, from the time I got out of college. It was a point of pride--I'm not depending on a man, not even my dad (though of course I can always count on him.) But it was a point of pleasure, too. I've always loved working.

The Broads: But don't you just hate it that there are women who don't have to work?

DB: What do you mean? [Cautious here, because I know a swamp when I feel that ooze between my toes.]

The Broads: Well, there are tons of women who are supported by their husbands. And I've got to say, it makes me jealous. I just get this envious feeling inside. I mean, come on. No one wants to talk about it. I'm just going to admit it though.

Let's face it: that's such a luxury. When I hear my friends talk about how tired they are because they had to pack for a trip with their husbands, or because they spent the day shopping....I mean, I just want to scream. I get so jealous. And mad. I mean, what are they complaining about? That's not work! That's fun!

I'm reconstructing here, as I can't find the recording, but bottom line, I guess a bit of class envy was on The Broads' minds. That, and perhaps a bruise, from when a non-working--or working to raise children, working to keep house, working to keep husband, stay at home mom--might have made a comment about how hard it is to be friends with someone who has to earn a living, and how unavailable they are to play during the day. That's happened to me.

But I hadn't been aware that this issue was still on people's minds. When my kids were young, we were talking about "mommy wars"--and in fact, I did a Newsweek cover on the subject. I think it has come around again at this end of our lives, as women are being forced out of work, or as children are leaving home, and we're reevaluating once again that work/family nexus.

It made me think about tensions between working and non-working women, tensions that probably arise among men, too, perhaps? (Though not that many men get to be supported by women.)

Sure, I get envious sometimes, just a wee teensy bit. But not of my friends, whom I love deeply, and who have been by my side, supportive of my journey, for decades; I respect their choices, whether careerist, artist, momist--and anyway, I know the intricacy of their challenges. Raising children full time is work that I would not have been well-suited to--and having been divorced, it would not have been too smart not to have my own income.

And I wonder, do the non-working ever get jealous of those of us who have careers, avocations? How come we rarely talk about this subject? Are working women judgmental--in defensiveness, perhaps? or envy?

I do, however, come to think of it, have a problem with women--and men--who have not worked their entire lives, and decide at the age of 45 or 50 that they are ready to get into the workplace. But they don't want to come in at the ground level, or do the kind of things necessary to learn a trade. And they haven't done any community work, anything that shows managerial skills. That's not too cool, and believe me, I've heard plenty along those lines.

What do you all think? What kinds of experiences have you had along these lines? Opening up a can of worms, here, I know....but that conversation really stuck in my mind. It was provocative. I pass it along. 

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