Career vs. Family

It was recently in the news that Google’s Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo. I don’t use Yahoo, and have never had the desire to use it — to me, the interface has always looked too “busy.” Yahoo has been known as the dinosaur of email services (right up there with AOL, which I do use), and everyone in tech land is hoping that under Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo can once again be a shining star.

That’s not what I wanted to write about, though. On the same day Mayer announced that she had been hired as CEO of Yahoo, she also announced that she was expecting a child. That announcement really made me start thinking, and it sparked a debate among women. As a mother, would Mayer be able to devote enough attention to her career? As a businesswoman, would Mayer be able to devote enough attention to raising her child?

Back in the 1950s, it was common for a woman to stay at home and raise the children while the man went to work and provided for the family. Times have changed. With the cost-of-living increase over the years, it has become a luxury to be a stay-at-home mom. For many families, it’s just not financially feasible. It’s become necessary for both the husband and the wife to have full-time jobs in order to support a family. Children are left with relatives or at daycare while their parents make ends meet.

It’s a hard balancing act for women (more so than men, since women have always been known as the caretakers). There’s a lot of pressure on women to be both the perfect mom and have the successful career. There are many women who can balance both. There are many women who cannot balance both as well, and who ultimately choose career over their children, or who ultimately choose children over their career. It’s something I think about quite a bit.

When I was a little kid, my mom stayed at home to raise me and my brother. I always thought that I would follow in her footsteps when I got older and started a family. But I went to college and studied to eventually have a successful career. The debate has begun in my head (even though I’m not planning on having kids anytime soon!): stay home and take care of my kids, or would I continue with my career? Or would I try to have both? Feminists would argue that women have the strength and power to do both, and to do both well. More “old-fashioned” thinkers would say that it is “selfish” to have children, then commit them to daycare or the care of relatives, while focusing on a career and being unable to devote as much time to raising children.

But in any kind of life, there are sacrifices to be made. Being a stay-at-home mom is not easy. Neither is having a successful career.  Nobody’s perfect. There is no perfect path to take. As humans, the most we can do is take things one day at a time, try our best, and hope for the best. A very small percentage of us have the financial resources that Marissa Mayer has. But even though she has those resources, balancing career and family will likely be difficult for her as well… and there’s no denying that women all over the world will be watching her to see how she does.

4 thoughts on “Career vs. Family”

  1. I remember years ago, when Jane Pauley was co-host of the Today Show, and somebody interviewed her and said that she was an example of “having it all,” since she was married, had a career, and had kids.

    Pauley was very firm that she was not a role model in that way. She basically said: I’m wealthy, my husband (Garry Trudeau) is wealthy, I have access to a lot of resources and help that most women don’t have. It’s not fair to tell the average woman, “See, Jane Pauley is doing it, why are you having trouble?”

    She said it better than I just did, but I thought it was a very good point. Not that a lot of women don’t manage it, and more (including my mother), but they’re doing it under very different conditions than Jane Pauley (or Marissa Mayer).


  2. It’s a hard balancing act for sure. I think as long as you’re happy and so is your family then it’s up to you whether you work or give up work for family – it’s about working out what is best for you. And not letting anyone judge you for it! Hopefully we’ll work it one day 🙂


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