This week’s New York Times Magazine revisits the so-called opt-out revolution that Lisa Belkin wrote about in 2003. Judith Warner looks at the lives of several highly educated women who left their careers a decade ago and shares their struggles in trying to return to work.
In reopening the conversation, Warner reignites the discussion about whether women choose to leave work or are pushed out. Do the women women who quit or scale back move toward parenting and home life or do they move away from unfulfilling corporate culture, inherent biases and impossible work life schedules?
I was pleased to see some discussion about housework in Warner’s article. One woman who “opted-out” of a job at a large technology company recalls her husband saying to her, “All this would be easier if you didn’t work.’ According to the Times article, “She quit her job, trading in a life of business meetings, client dinners and commissions for homework help, a ‘dream house’ renovation and a third pregnancy.” she said, “I really thought it was what I had to do to save my marriage.”
Responsibilities at home are definitely part of the opt-out equation. Women do an average of 30 percent more housework and childcare than men, regardless of work status. And this housework gap affects the gender gap at work. Especially in today’s economy, women, their spouses, and their employers need to work together to strike a manageable work life balance for families so that both or either partner can contribute at work and at home.
My favorite part of Warner’s article is this sentence, ”At a time when fewer families than ever can afford to live on less than two full-time salaries, achieving work-life balance may well be less a gender issue than an economic one.”
I will have more to say about the opt-out discussion on The Huffington Post this weekend. I also recommend this article by Bryce Covert that looks at the impact of opting-out on men and the clip below of Lisa Belkin and Lesley Stahl discussing Warner’s article.
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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beckyfairbanks/4613787208/