Making money, looking for a career, building a home, raising children – and always smiling and looking relaxed – that is what is asked from women and men in their late twenties and early thirties. It is the rush hour of life.
Why is it taken for granted that you should combine work and family? Why all this at once?
Why should mothers or fathers not stay at home with their toddlers and children for several years? You will find a lot of advantages in that. Studies show that 30% of mothers in the United States would like to spend more time with their children – and I bet it is the same for European ones. (Data come from the PewResearch Center which studies Social&Demographic Trends in the US. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org) Even nearly half of the fathers complain to have too little time for their children. Mothers as well as fathers would have less stress if staying at home. They have more discretionary time. They do not suffer from double bind, being fully committed to payed work and family obligations. Family life is smoother. Not both, father and mother are stressed and overburdened with business and family duties. If they build a house the stay-at-home parent will have time to supervise the building site.
There are a lot of advantages for staying at home. Why does the majority don´t vote for it?
The fundamental issue is education. Higher educated people usually want to use what they have learned and be trained in. And society who spends money for higher education is interested in getting the costs back in using the education in employment. Higher education just for the sake of it, just for fun, is not the intention of our educational system.
Women are highly educated nowadays in Europe, more than men. From a societal point of view it would make no sense to put an enormous amount of money in the educational system and than tell people who graduated:
„Stay at home. Don´t use the knowledge you gained in having a job.“ A person who stayed years in secondary education and than years at the university will generally think the same: „Now I learned quite a lot, I would like to apply it.“
But education is not the only explanation.
Our society commonly defines persons according to their position in the economic system. When you first meet people you want to know their job, you would not ask: „are you a mother or a father of a child below age 15?” Despite the fact that doing the chores and educating children is a serious contribution to a societies well being and survival, this tasks are not seen as profession. They earn no income.
To be mother or father is considered a matter of private life not a public issue. If you want to have a position in society, if you want to be accepted as a full contributing member you have to be in the working force, even more, you have to work hard for a career.
Earning income, struggling for a higher position in the firm, building a comfortable house for the family, raising children – two would be favorable – no wonder you are stressed and in danger of burning out.
Does it have to be necessarily so?
Let us try to think differently: what, if the economic system with its goals would not be the predominant one? What if there is no discussion that if you enter education you do this for a job or just for your interest, for knowledge, for self-development? What if we turn the situation upside down: private life matters not job position? What if the first question when you meet people would be: „Are you a mother?” „Are you a father?“ instead of „What job do you have?”
We have such a long time today in our life course; life expectancy is up to the nineties in western societies, why do we have to do everything within a small period and can not spread it over the lifetime? We could – if we want to.