Asking us to choose between family and career is not only unfair, it's unrealistic for most American families. Few of us can afford to live on one parent's paycheck anymore. (And is it right to put that much pressure on one person anyway?)
In 2012, fathers were the sole breadwinner in just 20 percent of all married couples with kids, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In nearly 60 percent of married-parent households with kids, both parents work. And if you include single parents, mothers are now the sole or primary earner in 40 percent of all households with children, according to a Pew Research report. This isn’t a sudden development: 70 percent of married mothers were working or looking for work back in the mid-1990s.
Yet our employers, policies and schools have still not adjusted to this not-so-new reality. So why are we the ones apologizing?
In fact, why are we not asking for apologies — or, better yet, action — from the lawmakers who've failed to enact any federal legislation to support paid maternity and paternity leave, subsidized day care, universal pre-K or after-school programs? From self-declared "pro-family" politicians who are often anything but, unless you adhere to their idea of what a “traditional” family should look like?
Why are we not asking for apologies from employers who treat having children as an impediment for women (though, strangely, not men) to do our jobs well — and a reason to pay and promote us less? (Particularly since there’s plenty of evidence to indicate working moms perform as well as their childless colleagues, or better.) Or from those who act as if a request to work from home occasionally or to leave early for a school event — even if we come in early to compensate — means we’re “less committed” to our careers?
I know, it may seem unreasonable — and certainly unrealistic — to expect lawmakers or employers to apologize. But that's no more unreasonable than putting the blame on ourselves for failing to conform to an outdated idea of what a woman’s role and responsibilities should be.
As long as we continue to apologize, we perpetuate the myth that we're the ones to blame for a society, a government and a workplace culture that fall far short of supporting the real needs of today’s families. If we stop, it might finally allow us to put the attention where it belongs: on changing the standards. Not on our failure to meet them.
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