What our mothers never told us
Most of us women who've marched into the marketplace in the last ten years have had to wrestle with ourselves as well as with our jobs and families. Now we owe it to the next generation of working mothers, our own daughters, to tell them some things that our own mothers never told us. Unless every current trend is halted, the demands on tomorrow's women will be more intense than the demands on us. Families of the future will need wise and loving mothers just as they always have. But they're not likely to have full-time homemakers for more than a few years.
These facts are important:
* The percentage of women on jobs outside the home is projected by the Department of Labor to reach 70 percent by 1990.
* Working mothers are now spending about 35 hours per week on houseworks while working fathers spend only about 15.
* Women still earn about 40 percent less money than men.
* While women are making headway in the professions, the crafts, and technology, more than two-thirds of us are still in fields thought of as "women's work," all of which pay less than most of the rest of the jobs out there.
* Even women in better paying positions are handicapped by tradition. A woman who feels responsible and is in fact responsible for running a household can't compete equally in the business world with a man who has a wife handling domestic details for him. Mothers who drop out of the work force to take care of small children for a few years find that, when they reenter, they lack experience and contacts, facts which affect their pay, their authority, and their confidence in themselves.
* A recent survey found that 90 percent of a group of senior college males expect to become breadwinners but expect to accept a wife's career only if it doesn't interfere with theirs or interfere with the efficient operation of their homes.m
The upshot seems to be that 70 percent of women will be working in 1990, with 90 percent of the men feeling that these women's jobs are secondary to their jobs in the home. Our daughters may still be working for less money than men, taking the most responsibility for child care, and doing most of the housework in 1990.
Despite all these discouraging words, the women of the future are planning even now to juggle the peanut butter jars and the brief- cases simultaneously, just as many of us are doing. Surveys show that 90 percent of teenage girls hope to have children, although only about 3 percents expect to become housewives.
Some changes may occur in time to help today's girls who will be tomorrow's working mothers. A lot of possibilities are brewing -- flex-time new attitudes, better and more child care options, more job opportunities, and more promotions for women. But if there's one thing that we in our 30s and 40s have learned, it is that society doesn't change quickly.
Since some nagging old traditional situations many still haunt our daughters when they grow up, we should give them at least a bit of motherly advice:
1. They ought to prepare for occupations in which equal pay for equal work is a reality, jobs still dominated in numbers by men. For example, they can sell real estate instead of cosmetics and service computers instead of punching them.
2. They should be encouraged to compete, to make decisions, to "go for it." If men- women relationships are going to be balanced in the home and on the job, today's girls have got to know that they can make it on their own.
3. Today's daughters should be warned gently but seriously about some of today's sons. Some will grow up to be loving, reasonable men who understand what equality between the sexes means. Others will expect that the women who share their lives will always fry the bacon as well as help earn the money to buy it. This second group of characters should be shunned if they can't be educated.
There's good chance our daughters will be better at this business of parenting and working in the marketplace at the same time than we are. It won't hurt, though, for us to take them aside now and t hen and pass along a few tips.