Women: work and family

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

In the chilly late-afternoon drizzle, the light inside the Deli delite is one of the few signs of warmth on the main street of this Oregon lumber town. Inside , Shirley Lindberg sells a pastry to a customer as her daughter Brooke dries dishes.

Shirley has owned the delicatessen for four years now.

''I stayed home 18 years before going to work,'' she says. She married straight out of high school and started a family right away. ''The kids were all in school, and I had already run the art-class-and-volunteer gamut. I started the deli because I needed more to do.''

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With 13-year-old Brook helping out at the deli after school, mother and daughter see more of each other now than they did when Shirley was a housewife.

Shirley has found an answer to the dilemma faced by millions of women today: how to plunge into a demanding career without sacrificing family.

Emmerentia and Bryan Guthrie are both professional foresters in Jackson, Ohio , a small town in the foothills of Appalachia. They celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary this year, and have a 21-month-old daughter named Emmy Jo.

Emmerentia took off a couple of months to have her baby, then returned to her job selecting hardwoods for a paper mill. At first, she and Bryan had a woman come in to care for Emmy Jo, and Emmerentia came home at lunch to breastfeed Emmy. Now the child spends her days in a nearby day-care center.

Emmerentia's hasty return to work was only because they couldn't afford to stay home. They would have had to sell their house, and even then their budget would have been tight.

Before a recent job change that gave her more responsibility, Emmerentia really wanted a part-time job. Now she's even planning to start a master's of business administration program in the fall - which means she will drive an hour each way to Columbus to spend all day every Saturday for two academic years. She says she has to sit down with Bryan to plan things so that one of them will always be able to pick up Emmy Jo from the day-care center. They will have to share more of the child care responsibilities now, she says.

There's less time now to spend getting ahead at work.

''The long hours and the socializing don't necessarily mean success,'' Emmerentia says, but she adds that being at the right functions with the right people helps. Still, she turns down most company social commitments, which she would probably attend if she were single.

But something has to give, she says. ''The faster track requires longer hours and more outside commitments. Are demanding careers worth it?'' she sometimes wonders. She says men as well as women are asking that question.

A recent study of women in management shows that many of the barriers blocking women's careere - extensive travel, unusual hours, frequent transfers - are beginning to affect more men's careers as well, especially men whose wives also have careers. The report says that corporations are not geared to meet needs of either working women or men married to working women: workers who are less mobile, who have other demands on their time than work - who are not willing to make work their entire lives. Since companies remain geared for the ladder-climber with a wife at home to take care of the rest of his life, says this report, the result is that many workers are underutilized.

It's been 20 years since the publication of ''The Feminine Mystique,'' by Betty Friedan, the book that set women questing for more than husband and family , But it's only been three years since the publication of Ms. Friedan's second major work, ''The Second Stage,'' a book that questiond the course being steered by the women's movement. Her focus in intergrating career with relationships and family in the more recent work angered many hard-core feminists, who accused her of ''selling out.'' But other women who had been alienated by what they saw as feminist bitterness wlcomed the new direction: working with men instead of batteling against them.

Today, American society has been revolutionized in ways hardly thinkable even 10 years ago. In 1980, there were 2 1/2 times as many women lawyers as there were in 1970, for example. They now make up about 8 percent of the total. And economic prssures have helped the process along by making two incomes almost mandatory.

Meanwhile, some of these pioneers are starting to turn to the new frontier mapped out by arthor Friedan in ''The Second Sage'': how to harmonize the hard-won new freedom with the desires for home and family, love and children.

* According to the Seven College Study of some 8,000 women at seven of the most prestigious universities in America, freshman women want a successful career and thriving family life, but question whether it's possible to have both. But only two women out of those thousands surveyed plan to be full-time homemakers.

* A just-published book called ''Lifeprints: New Patterns of Love and Work for Today's Women'' found that of the 300 women aged 35 to 55 studied, those with both career and family were the most well-adjusted. Instead of feeling pressured by juggling the demands of both, the authors say, multiple roles have strengthened the women's sense of well-being.

In ''The Second Stage,'' Ms. Friedan writes that she sensed something ''going wrong'' in how women were living with the equality they had won. The women's movement brought undreamed-of possibilities - but it was also seen by both men and women as a root cause of the exploding divorce rate and soaring numbers of single-parent families.

The women's movement was necessary to bring the freedom, Ms. Friedan says, but now it's time to restructure and transform the system: ''I believe it's over , that first stage: the women's movement. . . . And yet the larger revolution, evolution, liberation that the women's movement set off, has barely begun. How do we move on?''

The search for answers of how to ''move on'' is under way in a homey old mansion that houses the Wellesley (College) Center for Research on Women.

Since 1974, center director Laura Lein has studied two-career couples. Despite widespread concern that such arrangements erode home and family, she says that two-career couples bend over backward to nurture those values.

''Men and women, as they face new family forms, fear that it means an abandonment of family,'' Ms. Lein says. ''But we've found that people are extremely committed to family life. We don't need them to renew their devotion - they already have it.''

So instead of trying to revive ''old fashioned'' values, the center's research aims to help business and government formulate policies to allow people to combine career and family without overextending themselves.

Ms. Lein says a reason for women's concern about overwork is that men still aren't shouldering their share of the housework.

''Men are now contributing more to home life, but nowhere near equity yet,'' she says. They are starting with the most visible and obvious of housework: Walking the children to the park, or cooking dinner for company.

Still, men are becoming more family-oriented, says Diana Zuckerman, director of the Radcliffe-based Seven College study. ''How men are going to change is the most interesting question of the 1980s,'' she says. A third of the 1,000 men at Harvard University and Vassar College included in her survey said they would prefer to stay home or work part-time when their children are preschoolers.

''I don't expect they will actually do it,'' Dr. Zuckerman says. ''But it's surprising that they even want to. Ten years ago, you never would have found so many men saying such a thing.''

Some couples take turns: She stays home with the first baby, he takes paternity leave to stay home with the second. Some parents ''split shift,'' working different hours so that someone is home with the children almost all the time.

''Many of the so-called novel strategies for coping with two incomes were actually developed by black families a generation ago,'' says Ms. Lein. The center is studying informal networks of cooperative child-care.

Working part-time seems to be the answer for some parents who need some time to spend with their young children, but don't want to leave their profession.

''But you don't rise through the ranks as a part-timer,'' says Connie Hilton, a lawyer in a Boston law firm. She and lawyer husband John Moos live in nearby Cambridge and are parents of three-year-old Jesse. John is building up his own private practice. Connie works four days a week.

''I feel ambivalent about being a working parent,'' she says. Jesse spends his days in a family day-care home. ''It's hard emotionally. It's hard to leave them when they're infants. I always wonder if he's getting enough support from us. But it can all be done if you take the time to work it out.''

Two careers are often hard on marriages. A study shows that divorce among women in nontraditional jobs - management, construction, law - is twice as prevalent as among women who are secretaries, teachers, nurses.

But in today's economy, many families need two incomes, and that is unlikely to change soon. Right now, most married women work outside the home, and half the children under 18 have two working parents. More than one working woman in 10 is the sole breadwinner in her family. The ''typical'' American family of a working father, housewife mother, and two children under 18 describes only 12 percent of today's population.

Yet the system is geared for that family, points out Barbara Lazarus, director of the Center for Women's Careers at Wellesley.

''But the system can be changed,'' she says. ''There are lots of ways society could change to accommodate the needs of working families. For example, if your furnace breaks down, or you need the telephone fixed, you have to stay home all day - which assumes that there will be someone at home during the day.''

And there is also nothing that says people need to work 60 or 50 or even 40 hours a week to do as good a job as a professional. ''That, too, can be changed, '' she says. ''There's nothing wrong with wanting to work a 30-hour week at a terrific job.''

Right now, job flexibility remains hard to find.

Job sharing or part-time work depends on the individal employer, says lawyer Hilton, and it's tough when there is competition for the same job opening. Last year, she went job hunting with a lawyer friend, asking for job-sharing positions: only one place - where the interviewer was a woman with a child of her own - was sympathetic, but she had no positions open.

''I think things will change very slowly, on an individual, job-by-job, person-by-person basis,'' she says.

In a New England high-technology firm, a group of single women rings a table in the cafeteria, talking of men, marriage, and moving up in the company. This group is skeptical, verging on cynical:

''How can you expect to move up if you're spending your time raising children?'' asks Martha, a national accounts representative.

They banter about the computer firm they were all hired away from, about some men there with marriages that failed partly because they were putting their all on the ''company altar.'' That feeds on itself, one of them said: If some employees work late to escape a bad home life, the rest of the workers have to keep up with them, since so much political manuevering takes place after 5 o'clock.

''It takes someone at an upper level to stand up to that,'' says Bianca, a marketing manager. ''Managers are in a position to set a tone of what is expected from their employees. That's why it is important to pick your company and see who's setting the tone.''

''We sometimes lunch together and discuss the barriers at work, Bianca says. ''We can support each other, then go back to work more confident. It enables us to keep a balance. . . . We go back to work after lunch not feeling as if work is the top priority in our lives, which the business world tends to make you feel.''

It ends up changing the tone of the whole company, she says. ''Because it can't be as openly macho, it becomes gentler . . . and every time a prejudice is broken down, you've freed up more skills.''

Spin a radio dial. Ten years ago, Helen Reddy was singing, ''I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big too ignore . . . '' Today, you're likely to tune into Sheena Easton singing, ''My baby takes the morning train, he works from 9 to 5, and then he takes another home again, to find me waiting for him . . . '' Or hum along to another soft-rock hit: A single woman croons about her bittersweet travels and love affairs while she pleads with married mothers to realize that ''truth'' is in their children and husbands, not in the thrilling lives they think they're missing.

More women are having babies now: Some 3.65 million babies were born in 1981, nearly half a million more than five years earlier.

''The women's movement should be about choice,'' says Connie Hilton. ''There shouldn't be one right way, and it shouldn't be rigid. I wanted a family. I didn't want to be 50 and not have children or grandchildren. But I'd go bananas if I stayed home all day.''

Karen Short had baby Christopher James less then three weeks ago. Last year, she and husband Mike moved to Oconomowoc, Wis., where she was an occupational therapist in a local school system.

''There's so much social pressure to go back to work right away,'' Karen says. She decided to stay home with her new baby as long as they can afford it. They are adjusting to living just on Mike's income as a diesel design engineer. ''A friend of mine who is also staying at home said it took her a year to stop apologizing for it.''

''I don't know if I could work, then have enough energy for Mike and me and the child,'' Karen says. ''I don't know if it would be worth it to be pulled in so many directions.''

Before the birth, she was concerned about staying home, afraid of becoming stagnant or boring. ''But since the baby's been born, the days just rush by.''

The young women in the Seven College Study are perhaps the best and brightest of the young, ''postfeminist'' generation: women who have grown up with a more complete sense of themselves as capable people, and don't carry the bitterness of the battle for equality. They do not see themselves as a minority group, nor as feminists.

''Feminism has a bad image,'' says study director Diana Zuckerman. The young women stress the importance of individual action, but don't think they need to work together to change laws.

In ''The Second Stage,'' Betty Friedan says: ''I write this book to help the daughters break through the (feminist) mystique . . .'' as they ask hard new questions and face uncomfortable changes.

''These questions come into consciousness as personal ones, each daughter thinking maybe she alone feels this way. The questions have to be asked personally before they can become political.''

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