I just finished reading this book, Opting Out: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home (Pamela Stone) and have to admit it touched off some sensitive feelings about balancing work and home.
My own experience: Stay at home mother who had a thriving writing career and then pulled back to deal with my children, one of whom is special needs. Like the women in this book, I'm a college graduate.
Here's my take on the book:
What I particularly liked about this book: Stone's interviews and discussions with actual women who decided to opt out of working (even though many of them could have made big bucks) as well as her solid research.
Readers should be aware that the author, by her own admission (p. 15 of the book), focused on white married women with children and that these women had previously worked as managers or professionals. If you don't fall into that group, this book may not appeal to you. These women, for the most part, also had husbands who could support their decision to stay home.In short, these women often had expensive college degrees and were high achievers.
Stone also points out that women who tend to "opt out" are the exception, not the rule, citing studies that indicate that 70 percent of the women who are married mothers of preschoolers still continue to work. Turn this figure around and the reality is that one out of every four women DOES decide to stay home. This book is an exploration of these particular women and it is written in what I found to be a very nonjudgmental and open style.
The author was also able to get some company heads to admit their mixed feelings about mothers in the workplace, their fears about them being less committed to their jobs or more likely to quit.
Other areas covered in this book include:
Most women quit only as a last resort (p. 18)
Each woman's story was unique, often complex and with many factors.
There was often ambivalence and a shifting of roles within the home
Their decision did NOT signal a return to traditionalism (p. 19).
Their former workplaces often made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to continue balancing family and work, rejecting their attempts to create innovations while maintaining productivity.
If you'd like to know what is featured in each Chapter, here's a quick rundown:
Chapter 1 - Looks at various women (the former Ivy League sports star, the CPA, the Consultant, an editor, a stock trader, etc) and their various experiences at work.
Chapter 2- 3- Looks at the families, children and husbands.
Chapter 4- Focuses on work, problems and challenges and factors that lead to a decision to opt out.
Chapters 6-8 - Life at home, coping techniques, finding new identities.
Chapter 9- Explores possible ways that women could continue to work (if they chose) and minimizing the obstacles that make staying home a necessity, not a choice.