Are Educated Mothers Obliged to Work?

working woman

I overheard the following bit of conversation on my flight home from my recent trip to Vegas:

“My sociology teacher asked who would stay at home when they had kids if they had the chance, and I was like, no way.

 My mom always worked, and that was good. You need to set an example, do something for yourself. Maybe if you never went to college and had a crap job, but you don’t go to college to sit around on your behind [she didn’t say behind] all day.”

I’m interested in how the young woman speaking framed her answer – she was asked what she would do, but she answered by saying what “you” should do, suggesting that she was answering on behalf of not just herself, but all women. She suggested that women who work outside the home set a good example; therefore women who don’t work outside the home do not. Of course, she allows that women who go to college are obliged to work, but perhaps it’s okay for less educated women to “sit around on their behind all day.” Leaving aside the implication that parents that stay at home with their kids “sit around on their behind all day,” (apparently she has never spent any time with an actual child) I wonder why this young woman was not able to phrase her answer differently, maybe “I thought it was great that my mom worked, and I would like to do the same. I would like to set that example for my kids and do something that’s just for me.” This way, she would be claiming a choice for herself, rather than implicitly judging all women who make a different choice. Certainly we don’t need to all be stay-at-home mothers, just as we don’t all need to be lawyers or deep sea divers or peep show entertainers (remember I was just in Vegas). However, I was left wondering why she felt so vehemently that (educated) women must work outside the home, and that mothers who stay home (except mothers who don’t have a job with some prestige, a “crap job”) are so clearly making the wrong decision.

(Did I mention I was in Vegas? I did? Well, here I am snuggling up to a couple of Elvises, two gorgeous Norwegians, and my lovely friend T.)