"...the problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don't get young men standing up and saying, 'How can I combine career and family?' "
This subject has come up twice in the past two days, from two close friends, and I think it merits a blog post. This issue is no less important in other careers, but I feel that ESPECIALLY in international development, women have some tough choices to make.
See, it's the international part that causes trouble. It's in one part an exciting homecoming (in some ways I have felt more alive/relaxed/comfortable living overseas than I ever have state-side) and one part excruciating, especially as parent's age, family members get married, friends move on and biological clocks tick tick tick away.
Mostly, it's the last one I've had friends secretly admit fear about. As one friend put it, "I don't want to have an exciting career but end up being 38 years old and alone." As a result, I see her limiting her job options - and she's only 27. This makes me so irritated, I can't even wrap my mind around it - why should women be so afraid to be 38 and alone? You're only as alone as you feel, right? Better to be alone and happy than in a failing marriage, right, RIGHT?
Sigh. I wish it was as simple as that. Of course, we all know that society and (sigh) our only biological clocks, have other ideas.
My friend A. was recently awarded a prestigious fellowship to study in Senegal for up to a year. She told me yesterday that she was trying to get it paired down to 6 months, because as she put it "I spent my 22, 23, and 24th year in Africa. I don't want to turn 30 there."
Again, I must say, I completely understand where these women are coming from and I don't begrudge them their own decisions. We are all in charge of our own happiness, of course. But I don't seem to be hearing these same sentiments from my male friends. In fact, considering the huge amount of emotional capital women spend dissecting their career moves, the men that I know are strangely silent on this topic. Do they think twice about going overseas? Do they wonder who will stay and take care of their parents? When and at what age to have kids?
I don't look down upon my lady friends who have chosen to stop their careers and have kids - just the same as I love my divorced or 40-and-fabulously-single friends. All us women deal with this subject in the way that we think is going to optimally affect us.
I do think, however, that a few of us make these life choices out of fear (ie, if I don't marry this guy, what happens if another one doesn't come along?) and perhaps rushed things just to have "everything perfect." Or perhaps turn down career opportunities for the simple fact that being 38 and alone is just so unfathomable an outcome that everything must be done to prevent it.