Navigating the Shoals
I took a survey of my book club friends recently. They are all between the ages of 54 and 60, and they all have daughters between the ages of 25 and 30. My questions covered the attitudes of these daughters, and the advice they would give them about careers and family, separately and combined. Turns out, they don’t give advice. The daughters don’t want it and don’t ask for it. They are all embarked on careers – some in business, some in academia, some in psychology, some in law (none in medicine). And marrying doesn’t figure into their life equations – at least not now. Some live with significant others; some have boyfriends but don’t live with them. The one closest to a committed relationship is one of the youngest and a shining star in brand management at the Black & Decker Corp. And she intends (notice I did not say “has aspirations”) to rise to the top of the organization.
The mothers all say that, if asked, they would tell their daughters to find careers that will give them flexibility; to work for a number of years before marrying and becoming mothers; and to marry fellows who understand that their wives’ careers are as important as theirs are, and that together the husbands and wives must make decisions about careers and family that satisfy both of them. They also say that those understandings are hard fought and that finding a balance between work and home can be tricky.
My daughter, Laura, did not follow the first “Law of Life and Work”. From the time she was 18, she wanted to work at a talent agency. And after getting a B.S. in computer information, that is just what she did. She got a job at ICM, working first in the classical music division (she plays the harp; so she qualified) and then moved over to the main organization, working side-by-side with the chief legal counsel/agent-in-chief. A very glamorous life it was: taking clients out to dinner, working with well-known authors on books, hob-nobbing with the top officers in the company. Only one trouble with a career like that. It can only be done in New York or California. Laura lives in New Haven and commuting would mean that she would never see her family. So, then, a career with flexible possibilities isn’t just good advice. It’s an absolute necessity!
After completing my survey, my friends and I discussed a book by Doris Lessing titled “The Summer Before the Dark”, in which a seventies woman who had devoted her entire married life to children and philandering husband, realizes that she has lost herself in the process. I commented that the book had not aged well. Maybe I’m wrong.
Ellen Blaustein, USA.
To write to Ellen, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from you.