One Size Does Not Fit All

One of the things that the comments on my last post made clear–as should reading anything about parenting and work–is that no one work situation works for everyone.  Some people thrive working at home.  Others need the activity and external motivation of an office setting.  Some need a combination of both.  Some people would be happy working part-time.  Others want a strict full time schedule of exactly 40 hours.  Others are willing to work much more.  And all of those people have different preferences for the specific hours they’d like to work.  And yet, most work places and certainly the general culture still wants to squeeze everyone into the 9-5, M-F box.

In one of the many conversations I’ve read on this topic lately, I recall someone saying that the reason jobs like teaching and nursing are primarily female is that their schedules are more flexible and conducive to a family schedule where children are in school.  And of course, many people try to wrangle a flexible schedule no matter what field they’re in.  Some are successful, but many more are not and are often not just unable to get the schedule they want but see their careers suffer just for having asked.  We need to get past this.  We’re a country that supposedly prides itself on some concept of individualism and yet, we continue to punish people who seek to be individuals.

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4 Replies to “One Size Does Not Fit All”

  1. Not surprisingly, this reminds me of the increased awareness of the failure of our “one-size-fits-all” system of public education. In particular, it reminds of some recent studies that show most boys, in particular (sorry to generalize), simply don’t thrive well in the structured elementary classroom where little time is given for free physical activity.

    It’s interesting to consider how young we are drilling this individualism out of ourselves — and how early we are teaching our children about the power of the “institution” to dictate our norms. Not surprising, but still interesting, I think.

  2. I read a lot about the problems with boys in education, even as I’m a strong advocate for girls’ education. Watching Geeky Boy fall through the cracks and/or be deliberately punished for typical boy behavior has been disheartening. I think he’s finding his way now in high school and we’ve supported him, but I wish we’d found a good alternative for him. I hope he finds something that fits him in college.

    And I agree, it’s amazing how young all of this starts, and yet, I keep watching how success is connected not to fitting into the box, but in breaking out of it. Leaders and innovators don’t tend to sit in their seats. 🙂

  3. Hmmmm. . . “I recall someone saying that the reason jobs like teaching and nursing are primarily female is that their schedules are more flexible.” I’m thinking this is a chicken-and-egg thing, as maybe women being in a workplace can encourage/force it to become more flexible and family-friendly.

  4. That may be, Leslie. I hadn’t considered that. Not knowing a huge amount about the labor history of those fields, I just wrote it off to women “choosing” those careers for their flexibility. But, of course, that’s the same bad argument as women who “don’t choose” science careers.

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