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Readers respond to The Do-It-All Dilemma

Working from home was the best of both worlds

My daughter is a law student at BU. She will have approximately $120,000 in loans to pay back at the completion of her studies. Staying at home may not be an option for her if and when she decides to have children.
 
I was very fortunate as a single parent to have a job in commercial art that allowed me to work in a home studio while raising my two daughters alone and without support in the years they were in school. I did arrange that situation, however. Working at home is an increasingly realistic goal for young women and I would suggest planning for that option if at all possible, for at least the first critical bonding year of your child’s life. I would suggest working at home is “the best of all possible worlds” for moms.
 
My girls always came in after school asking, “Mom?” at the front door. It was reassuring to all of us for me to be home and able to break from work to welcome them.
 

Judith E. Decker

 

Different roles for different people

My mom worked from home to raise me and my brother and sister. My sister is only ten years old, so she’s still at home. But now that my brother and I are old enough that she doesn’t have to take care of us, my mother has been able to find a job she really likes, and by which she is fulfilled in many ways. When my mother graduated high school, she didn’t have a plan to follow. She knew that she wanted a family, though. And now she looks back on her life and can really enjoy and be proud of the things she has been able to do.

On the other hand, there is my aunt. She was a career woman from the beginning, very high maintenance, but also suffering from a disease which made her unable to have children. She never planned on it anyway, so it didn’t really make a difference. However, she has certainly taken advantage of every opportunity to dote on and spoil her nieces and nephews and her stepchildren.

There are people who do not want to have children. Fine, that is their choice. Their role to play in this life may not include raising a family. It’s important to remember that not everything works out exactly the way one plans for it. In fact, most things do not go according to plan, even the backup plan. But even when they do, oftentimes people find out that’s not what they truly wanted anyway. In the end, whether or not you’ve raised a family, I think it’s all about doing what you’ve chosen to do well.

Jennifer Brown
Senior Staff Assistant
College of Arts and Sciences Astronomy Department

 

Know your priorities

I read this article with great interest as I have often asked myself the same question. However, as a practicing physician, clinical researcher, teacher, and mother, I have so far successfully juggled all of these roles. The key for anyone to lead a successful, productive, and rewarding life is to spend time reflecting on what your priorities are, where you currently are, and where you aspire to be. For each of us, the answers to these questions are different. Knowing your priorities at each point in your life allows you to seek, and hopefully find, the right position that will permit you the flexibility to do what you want to do. At times, you may have to compromise. However, if the compromise gives you the balance you need, then it is well worth the small sacrifice.  
 

Priscilla J. Slanetz, M.D., M.P.H.
Department of Radiology
Boston Medical Center

 

Parents need choices

I read with interest your article on the Do-It-All Dilemma. I don’t think that it has to be an all or nothing scenario. I believe that the best people to raise children are the parents — particularly when the children are babies — the first three years are crucial to child development and nobody loves a baby more than its parents.

I think part-time work is the best of all worlds when raising young children — it gives parents perspective — a continued involvement in the outside world, while providing the children with nurturing and care that is very special to parents. Later, when the children are ready to go to school and be a little more self-sufficient, the parents can increase their working hours. In some cases, a parent may choose to stay at home and volunteer their time. I think that college students would be surprised at the value and necessity volunteerism has in our society. Think how great our school systems and local governments could be if we had educated people who were willing to take a slower track for a few years. Think how much good could be done in municipalities — the potential is huge.

But people have to pay bills (particularly very expensive student loans and mortgages) so only the very affluent have the luxury of staying home to nurture their children. I think it should be stressed, however, that if someone stays home with their children or goes to work, it should be a decision made out of free will and not something they feel forced to do because of societal or economic pressure. Childhood is such a short and precious time, everyone should have a great one and parents should have the opportunity to provide it.

Medical Campus Staff Member

 

 

Doing it all is the dilemma

I wish to respond to Deborah Belle’s comment in the article entitled The Do-It-All Dilemma, where she states, “the onus is always on the woman, and that’s not where it should be.”

To speak of the responsibility of raising children as an “onus,” or disagreeable necessity as a result of stigma or blame, is entirely disrespectful and demeaning to the inestimable value of the role of motherhood in the development of individuals and the sustaining of our nation. The family is the fundamental unit of society and the building block of nations. A country is only as strong, prosperous, stable, and happy as are the families that make up its population. What could be of more value to a people than to raise children who will be the leaders of the next generation, to bestow upon them all of the wisdom, learning, intelligence, and insight that has been gained through formal and informal education, whether general or focused on a specific trade.

Any person who speaks of the raising of children as on onus has either never had the joy of raising their own children, or has been so distracted by trying to do it all in the process of raising their children that the pleasure and joy of the opportunity has become an onus of their own accord.

Women’s and men’s roles in the process of raising children are equal but different. The very problem in today’s society is the trend to “Do-It-All.” As the title of your article so aptly states, this causes a very difficult and irresolvable dilemma that will inevitably result in the sacrifice of the quality of parenting, a loss in the efficiency of the workforce, and in the end a slow degrading and demoralizing of the fiber of our prosperous and free society, the fiber of the family.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World [a Mormon doctrine] states, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners,” equal partners, equal value, different roles, different responsibilities. If men and women alike would cease striving to do-it-all, there would be no dilemma.

I am 25 years old, happily married, and have two young children. I am currently working on my master of science in advertising at Boston University’s College of Communication, and raising my children is not an onus but a blessing. My wife and I experience no dilemma in this process because we both understand and value our equally important but different roles and work together to accomplish common goals. We only experience joy and envision greater opportunity to affect the world for good through raising our children than through any other endeavor, however worthy it may be.

 Jonathan Dick (COM’06)

 

Asking the wrong question exacerbates the problem

Your reporting of this article (and, indeed, the very first question in your survey) underscores an unconscionable bias that parenting — whether earning supportive income or providing hands-on child care — is the woman’s assumed responsibility. The fact that 85 percent of your respondents were women should have made you suspect right off the bat and led you to ditch the data right then and there. . .or at least continue sampling until you got a representative gender-balanced respondent population. I’d have been prouder of BU for exposing and correcting the flaws in the Times study than replicating a flawed piece of research. Studies which posit parenting issues in terms of “women’s choices” exacerbate the very problem they purport to redress.
 

Bernadette D. Colley
Associate Professor of Music Education
College of Fine Arts 

 

Balancing work and family is not a choice, for some

Thank you for publishing this study in BU Today. I am very interested in this topic.
 
I thought about the issue years ago when contemplating a career in psychology as an undergraduate at Boston College. I distinctly recall asking my psychology professor at the time, pregnant with her third child, how she did it. How did she balance being a professor, having a clinical practice, AND having three kids? She said she and her husband just took it one day at a time and handled things as they came their way. Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but then, what was I looking for? A how-to guide? Some Cliff Notes perhaps? I know many women who do it all — have full-time jobs, kids, mortgages. Many do it all because they have to and not necessarily because they want to. Some women I know can’t put their careers on hold for more than their paid maternity leave or they risk falling behind when they rejoin the workforce. Others need to work to contribute to the family income or bills simply won’t be paid. 
 
Times are very different from when I grew up — it costs much more to live in New England today than it did 20 years ago. Many of us can expect not to live as well financially as we did growing up, college educations and all. Look around, towns are no longer just up and coming in Massachusetts; they came and went. A home purchased four years ago may have appreciated by 30 percent but where will you move? Chances are you’ll need to spend most or all of what you made on your first place to afford your next place or move out of state. 
 
Our nation could stand to do a better job of supporting the work/family balance. We’re in a period of transition; as young girls we were encouraged to nurture more than we were to work the local paper route for money. When we mature and become ready to have our own families, we risk some confusion about our role in the family. Who is going to be the primary breadwinner? Who makes the bigger decisions of the house, and are these things related? I heard a statistic today that 20+ percent of women bring in the higher income in their households. I can’t help but think this is a deflated figure since women still lag behind men when it comes to equal pay for the same job. 
 
Work/life balance for families is not the only socioeconomic area needing attention as a nation. Our aging population is yet another group needing support in the form of a culture change. Our workforce will lose the talent, intelligence, and overall economic contribution of countless baby boomers over the next 10 years. Is our economy prepared to deal with this? Are employers changing their workplace policies to support employment longevity for their aging employees? I hope so. 
 
Thank you for publishing the results of the Do-It-All Dilemma study. This is a real issue facing men and women who have families or are planning to have families in today’s economy.
 

School of Management Staff Member

 

BU could be more supportive of those balancing work and family

I found this article particularly interesting in light of the fact of a recent survey that I conducted on my own. I am a graduate of BU with an MFA in costume design. I am now a full-time staff member with BU working in my chosen field as the costume shop supervisor for the Boston University Theatre. I am writing to you about all of this because I have found that Boston University, as a whole, seems less than supportive of its families that teach, work, and study here, making it the university that it is.

I have one child that will turn three at the end of this month. He has been in day care since he was seven months old. BU does not provide any sort of day-care options for children under the age of two. Last March, I looked into the preschool program that is offered for the children of employees and students. I was told that I should have done this during the previous October, since that was when the preschool filled up.

BU has places for 31 children between the ages of 2 and 5 in its program. Last year, within the design and production department of the School of Theatre, we could have been 13 percent of the children in the program. We are a very small department within a small school. I cannot imagine that what is offered by BU meets the needs of its working families. Of the six universities surveyed, BU offered placement for the fewest children. I started my survey with a quest of bringing this issue to the University’s attention, but found that as a working individual I do not have the time, energy, or resources to address an issue of this magnitude.

With today’s economy, it is becoming harder and harder for families to have one parent that stays at home as the primary caregiver. My husband I both work for Boston University. We have our son enrolled in the Bright Horizons program at Tufts New England Medical Center. It is an excellent program, and one that we have been very happy with since he started there two and a half years ago. However, it is extremely expensive. The cost of putting two children into that program, since we don’t receive the employee discount, is more than my salary. This forces the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom. I am happy to make that choice, but there are many parents who don’t want to be forced into that decision purely because of economics. While I haven’t looked at the full survey that you did of our students, it seems that economics must be taken into account. Economics is often the driving factor in the choice of child care. 

Carin Dennis Pratt (CFA’98)
Costume Shop Supervisor
Boston University Theatre