February 19, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan's groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique -- a book that has undisputedly changed the lives of countless women and society as a whole. Coupled with the 1972 passage of Title IX, the law which prohibited "discrimination against girls and women in federally funded education, including in athletic programs" (Feminist Majority Foundation, 2012), there was a growing sense that women were well on their way to equality with men.
What happened? Fifty years later, a debate rages on that pits women against men and women against women. Much angst and animosity gets played out in the form of the mommy wars, i.e., moms who work for pay vs. moms who don't work for pay, the latter often referred to as full-time moms. A very misleading term, since all moms are full-time moms -- and what exactly is the term "full-time" mom implying? That working moms are not full-time moms? Pay inequality prevails and the evergreen issue of work-life balance has been labeled a women's issue instead of what it really is: an issue for anyone who cares about families and the future of our children. Furthermore, the majority of working women continue to do the lion's share of household chores and hands-on childrearing activities regardless of the educational and/or socio-economic level of a couple. Whose phone number is the first one listed on the day care and/or school's emergency card? Who more often than not takes time off from work to take the kids to the pediatrician? Who schedules the pediatrician appointment? Who interviews and makes the final decision for the babysitter/nanny/cleaning lady? Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but we all know the answer to these questions without stating them.
Perhaps one of the greatest insults hurled at working moms in polite conversation is the question: "Gee, don't you wish you could afford to stay home with your children?"
Having said all of the above, women have come a long way. We have never been more educated and it is silly to even suggest that an educated woman who opts-out of the paid work force has wasted her education. I truly doubt our society really dismisses the intrinsic value of being an educated mom when raising children. As for the working mom, business is beginning to recognize the value of recruiting and retaining women for our unique set of skills that are different yet just as valuable to the company's bottom line. Yes, we still have a long way to go for increasing our presence in leadership roles throughout an organization, but the trajectory is promising with the ever growing goal of promoting women via women's network within many organizations.
Therefore, things have changed for women in the work force -- just not as fast as we would like. The Feminine Mystique permanently altered the prism that women use to view and live their lives. Personally, having the ability to choose how to live my life has been the most liberating aspect of the woman's movement, heralded by Betty Friedan. Their were many times when, as a working mother of four children, I leaned on the shoulders of my friends who were non-working moms -- unscheduled school delays, early dismissals and countless other conflicts were successfully navigated only with the help of my non-working friend. I never disparaged their choices, as they did not disparage me mine.
For all the work that remains for obtaining equality of the sexes both within and outside the work place, the ability to choose how I live my life is the legacy of what Betty Friedan began with the publication of The Feminine Mystique! For me, choice is freedom.
Dr. Patty Ann Tublin
CEO & Founder of Relationship Toolbox LLC
Amazon best selling author of:Not Tonight Dear, I've Got a Business to Run!"