1sunfight’s Weblog

July 13, 2008

Why Women Work

Filed under: Daily Observations,politics — Julie P @ 10:41 pm

Many years ago I heard a lot about women entering into the workplace, just that statement alone baffled me. I knew from my own family that women always held paying jobs outside of the home going across three generations. My grandmother worked in a garment factory, even after my grandfather was forced into an early retirement. My mother always held down some type of job as a teenager, then as an adult she worked a retail candy counter selling candy and would eventually be promoted into the credit department of the department store where she worked until she was forced into an early retirement. Even in my childhood my friends’ mothers worked outside of the home, or most of them did. My sister and I also worked and started working at an early age. My sister would babysit, jobs that I would later inherit, and we would both wait tables. I did take a job once selling shoes, and another job working odd jobs at an antique store. My sister found the job she has to this day through a co-op program at the high school she attended. She is currently in a management position that she hates, but the money she earns from that job is needed to send her children to college. Without the money, there would be no college education for them. As a young adult I went to cosmetology school and had a 14 year career in it, until I injured both of my wrists. It was at that point I took a delivery job that would allow me to reverse the damage done, support myself, and give me the flexibility to attend college. It took me seven years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I was the first woman in my family to obtain an education beyond high school and the second in my family to obtain a bachelor degree. My father and a male cousin had both acquired associate degrees. Those are the only other instances of post high school education in my family.

The jobs that women worked over these three generations were a necessary income for the family, without the income our lives would have been different. I can only speculate on what that would have been. However, the women’s incomes of my grandmother and mother’s generations were secondary income. In my grandmother’s case she would go from part time to full time after my grandfather suffered a heart attack and could not work at the railroad job he had. He took an early retirement and worked a job at a gas station. By that time my mother and uncle were either still in high school or were already out on their own, thus changing the dynamics for the latter part of their marriage. However, it remains the same that both of these women were responsible for the caretaking and nurturing of the children along with taking care of the home.

My sister and I went on to lead different lives. My sister married immediately after high school to her high school sweetheart. Both my brother and I tried to dissuade her from her decision to marry at that time, both of us for different reasons. I simply thought she was too young to get married and that she and her boyfriend should delay getting married until they were a little better established in their jobs. My ex-brother in law still needed to complete his studies in plumbing, which included an apprenticeship that he had a difficult time finding. His first major life and character challenge. He failed and he failed miserably at it. He gave up and would come to define himself going from one restaurant job to another, with no ambition to improve his standing. My brother being old enough to travel in the same circles as my ex-brother in law had the opportunity to see his behavior when my sister was not around. My brother thought him to be a philanderer. He was just that. He abandoned my sister and their newborn son claiming she had trapped him. He married his girlfriend, took everything they owned, and left them in debt. Her second marriage was to an accountant. She kept her job as her income was necessary for them and the two children they had together along with her son from her first marriage; a child he would go on to adopt. Although my second brother in law did earn more money than my sister, her income went up the longer she remained and took job promotions.

I moved to another state and worked as a hairdresser to support myself. I was the first woman in my family to not marry right out of high school and to live independently. After six years I damaged my wrists because of repetitive motions that came from doing hair. I was forced to switch careers.

As an independent woman I had been involved in a serious relationship with a man who when I first met him had his own business in a technical field, lost it, started out all over again with a technical firm, and migrated into a Fortune 100 business where he was a project manager for the security installation of the security system for the Pentagon. He is an extremely intelligent person who is very analytical; self motivated, a risk taker, and had a down to earth spirit. These qualities got to him where he was without a college education. These are qualities I like that in a person, any person, but when it comes to men this is extremely important. Lacking in goals, lacking in self direction, lacking motivation just does not get it for me, especially when that standard is the one I am held to as well. The sad thing was when he reached this level I saw his down to earth nature change as he became a part of the American success story. He acquired a high paying career with the accolades that went with it; the exposure to very rich, very powerful people. My former boyfriend acquired upper middle class social status. He was flying at 30,000 feet. I no longer recognized the person I had come to love, because he was not that person. It had become a matter of all status and image. Simultaneously we both agreed to part ways, but for different reasons. He was spending too much time working, neglecting our relationship, his friends, and his needs. He was turning into a workaholic jerk. For him, I did not fit the image of the proper girlfriend of someone of his stature. He never did fully explain that to me, but I understand trophy girlfriends and trophy wives. That is what he needed me to be and I did not fit the bill. I am too common.

That is how I learned I am middle class and that middle class women work outside of the home. We work, we work because we have to, and we need to because that is what women do. We work all kinds of jobs, part time and full time, we work as waitresses, we work as middle managers, we work professional sales, and we do what men do.

Women from upper middle class families were the ones with the option not to work outside of the home, and did not work. In exchange they had children, so the married couple would have someone to pass their wealth to, they took care of the family, including the man, they took care of the home and provided a stable environment for the man to live in, to succeed at their jobs and careers. Once they got bored with staying home and wasting their minds, degrees, and being financially dependent on the man, women of the upper middle left the home in droves to find self fulfillment, instead finding it through others.

I write this entry because there are some out there who do not know this about women and working.

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