School is designed to help kids succeed in the workplace. The genesis of compulsory education was to create effective factory workers. Today, enlightened schools realize they are creating knowledge workers rather than factory workers. But here’s the problem: most women don’t want to work full-time. Which means it’s overkill that school focuses so heavily on the workplace. What about home life? Why don’t we educate girls for home life as well?
Maybe you are thinking, “What about the boys? Boys need to learn about home life, too.” But here’s the truth: men do not want to work part-time at nearly the rate women do when the kids arrive. Different genders make different choices. The choice is not about workplace discrimination, because today women earn more than men before there are kids in the picture. And it is not about social pressure, because there is definitely more social pressure to do well at work than to be a good homemaker. But still, most women scale back their career when they have kids and most men don’t.
We should prepare girls for these life choices. Here are three ways to do that.
1. Validate the career goal of being a stay-at-home mom.
Twenty percent of girls have a Myers Briggs score that ensures they will feel most fulfilled staying home with their kids. But we don’t raise girls to be stay-at-home moms. It’s not politically correct. The problem is that these girls get out into the adult world, where they are expected to join corporate America, and nothing feels right. (The Myers Briggs types that are most suited to stay home with kids are ESFJ and ISFJ.)
2. Help girls cut through the propaganda about what lies ahead.
There is a lot of BS coming out of the corporate world about how great life is there for women. This is because so many women drop out of the workforce when they have kids that it’s a competitive advantage for an organization to retain middle-aged women. So you see initiatives like Working Mother’s “Best Law Firms for Women.” But the truth is that all law firms are terrible for women to work for. Women opt for fewer hours and they end up working full-time and getting paid for part-time. And if you want to stay on partner track, it’s impossible to raise children. This is just one example of many professions where the propaganda about women is not conveying the reality for women.
You can tell your daughter she can be anything, but reality will give her a different message. For example, in medical school, the most popular specialty for women in ophthalmology. This is because women are realizing that most medical specialties wreck havoc on family life. So why not prepare her for the real choices she’ll face instead?
3. Recognize that women with high-powered careers are outliers.
Maybe your daughter is someone who will have a huge career. Maybe she will be one of those rare women who can put her career ahead of her kids. There are good examples of this—smart, capable, inspiring women who do not slow down their career when they have kids. (Sheryl Sandberg, or Marissa Mayer). However almost all these women are ENTJs, which comprise only about 2% of the female population.
That’s my niece in the photo. I’m not sure what her Myers Briggs type is, but she’s definitely not an ENTJ because their lives do not look like those of most women. They are more competitive, less emotional, and more driven by power than other women. These women also end up being best suited to marry men who will stay home with kids. It’s probably not what you envision for your daughter—supporting a husband who cooks Thanksgiving dinner while your daughter is on a business trip. But that’s what life is for an ENTJ.
My point here is that we make a lot of presumptions about life for girls that are not helping most girls. The biggest problem women face today is that they were raised to be high performers and they have no mindset for meeting that expectation other than succeeding in the workplace.
We need to redefine success in the workplace in a non-linear way. The lives of women are non-linear with fits and starts, moving in and out of caregiving roles—by choice. School in contrast, is a predictable, linear progression of learning and testing, which confuses most girls as they grow up to craft a non-linear life. Homeschooling life, though, can model a non-linear achievement path, and can prepare girls to be comfortable with the most likely scenario—which is choosing to scale back their path for a while so they can stay home with young kids.
When I prepare dinner with my niece, I want to model for her that cooking and caring is a worthy choice for a strong, smart woman, and that not everyone needs to earn money. But I’ve been brainwashed and I can’t help feeling like a throwback to the 1950’s when I do it.