I've experienced this at that Target before and honestly, I just shook it off. I wasn't going to inconvenience myself by driving to someplace out of my way, and I figured the upper echelon could put up with my presence for a small slice of my income. What was interesting was what happened later. I went to lunch at a place closer to my job, and there was an even mix of working women and stay-at-homes there. The reaction? Nothing. The employees treated everybody the same, served everybody the same, and we all coexisted in the restaurant, enjoying burgers and fries and shaking our heads at CNN on the televisions, in harmony. One of the customers even asked for a manager to tell her good job on her staff handing all of us so well.
I think the disparity in reaction based on just going a few miles away shows that there's still a divide between working women and stay at home women, but it's not the same as it once was. The question is no longer "is it appropriate for women to work." It's now "under what conditions is it socially acceptable and even expected for women to work." It seems to me that educated, middle class women are expected to work, while there's still a question of whether it's appropriate for upper class women to be in the workforce. Certainly, I know upper class women that work, but they're usually in high power careers like law, medicine, or another field where they hold a post graduate or even a doctoral degree. The bottom line: when a great deal has been invested in getting an education, it's somewhat expected that one got it to pursue a career. I've read many articles on whether a women that got a degree is wasting her education if she chooses to be a stay-at-home, and I've been approached by many people that have outright said "well, at least you're USING your degree. So-and-so quit to raise the kids and look at all of that time and money they invested in what's now nothing more than an expensive piece of paper." While it's true that I heard a fair share of wisecracks while in college about people saying that some women were in college more for their Mrs. than their B.S., I've found this reaction somewhat more common since the economy took a nosedive. It's surprising and shocking. Even now, having heard it a few times, I'm not 100% sure how to react to it.
On the other side are people that say it's not healthy for children to be raised in day cares or even by extended family or friends while mom's work. They feel that being a mother is a primary career and if you can't dedicate yourself to it 100%, then why do it? I think this mindset is waning, but I will agree that there's a great deal of conflict in the mothers I know that work. Many of them would love to stay at home, but they simply can't afford it. That's a situation for most people. Let's face it - the cost of living has skyrocketed, and it's virtually impossible for a middle class family to have a decent standard of living off one income. Sometimes the mother HAS to work to contribute to the household income. The expectations on women have only increased. We're still expected to tend to home and hearth, but the rising cost of living also adds the expectation that we also contribute to the household income. I recently read that people have to pay a lot for services now that used to be free, with television and telephone service being the primary examples (of course, we've gone from 3 channels to how many hundreds and party lines to smart phones too). The world has certainly created the perfect no-win situation for mothers. Kids need their parents and it's not healthy for them to have both parents working outside the home full-time, but affording the perks of a decent lifestyle requires two incomes. Part time jobs used to be the answer, but those have drastically shrunk since the economy tanked. And a woman dropping out of the workforce for 5-6 years and going back to work when the kids start school is also becoming less of an option, as the high unemployment rate usually means that there aren't as many jobs to go back to, and the ones that are open will have more issues with "outdated skills."
Personally, I think the answer lies with the individual. I don't think that an education is ever wasted, and if a woman has the means to be a stay at home and that's what they want, then they certainly should take advantage of having that time with their children. But I don't think that women that want to work or have to work to provide for their children should be made to feel bad, either, because their work is to provide the best lifestyle they can for their kids. Certainly it's a juggling act, and it forces women in a situation of being dependent on others for child-care when their kids aren't in school, but I believe that in and of itself requires excellent scheduling, time management, and people skills. And they probably have a great support network to help them along, which is always a good thing. It's good to have people in your life that you can trust and that can help you along the way. Every choice we make has costs and benefits, and we have to decide what we can live with and what we can manage on a day to day basis.
As for me, I don't believe that the women in Target were looking down on me. Rather, I think it was discomfort because they didn't know how to relate to me. I'm going to be bluntly honest in my takeaway for this entry here: I think the bottom line is that each is privy to a world that the other doesn't understand. As a working woman, I don't know what they could possibly do all day at home. I'd go batty because there's only so much cooking, cleaning, housework, chores, errands, and shopping you can do before it's done, and eventually I'd have to get out and participate in the wide world or I'd go crazy. But that's just me. And frankly, people that don't work don't understand the limitations that having the responsibility of job puts on your life. A change in your job literally changes your whole life - it's that major. And people aren't away from the workforce long before they completely forget what it's like. Sorry, retirees and work force drop outs, but it's true, and it's not just "selective memory" either. Thanks to technology, the 21st century workforce is a shapeshifter. Things are always changing and are constantly in motion, and the workforce is a shapeshifter you don't really "get" unless you're in the middle of morphing with it. But that may be evolving in itself, as this "culture of change" is starting to seep out of work life and into other facets of living in the coming years. It's a large part of the reason why people job hop so much these days. But that's a topic for my next entry - so before you blow that steam and say I'm not being fair on this one, there's more to come on the topic of change next time. Stay tuned.
That's all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend.