I started this blog admitting that my gender had never been an issue for me. I always identified as a feminist, but only because it’s kind of monstrous not to these days, not because I spent a great deal of time thinking about women’s rights.
And then, bam, this last year I was hit with a righteous feminist fury. Why now? I think it’s because I’m at a stage where everything is suddenly unfairly harder because of my gender. [I’m also angry about all the stupid crap I had to put up with when I was younger because I was a girl, but didn’t recognize at the time, but that’s a whole other post.]
Like, I got engaged and suddenly everybody had all these questions that I couldn’t answer and suddenly I was a crazy bridezilla every time I had an opinion and, by the way, why didn’t Husband have to deal with any of that?
Like, I got a great job and suddenly everybody cares about what Husband does. It was all fine and good for him to be underemployed when I was a student, but now that we’re married and I’m an attorney, I must be letting him take advantage of me.
Like, I have to plan my every career move years in advance if I want to have a family, while my male coworkers don’t have to waste a bit of effort worrying about whether they will qualify for paternity leave and be able take several months off at some undetermined point in the future.
That last part is what’s been on my mind lately. Because here’s the thing. I think it would be hard to work where I work now and have young kids. Like, really hard. I commute and work long, sometimes unpredictable hours, and travel. So it makes sense to move into a job, or start to process of making myself qualified to move into a job, that is more family friendly. BUT. My current job has amazing maternity benefits and pays well. So it makes sense to stay and save. ALSO. I want to clerk for a judge for a year at some point, and it seems like it would be in bad faith to take a position like that planning to have a kid and take several months off. The additional wrinkle is that a lot of places don’t let you take advantage of maternity benefits until you’ve worked there for a year. So if I clerk for a year, and then go back to my current employer or to any other position, I also won’t be able to take maternity leave for yet another year.
Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about this. It’s called family planning for a reason. And I know men have to make plans, too. It’s just really hard to predict what the next four years will look like job-wise when I’m not even sure what I want to be doing next year. And it sort of sucks that you can’t comprehend how difficult grappling with these decisions is until suddenly it’s your career and your life and your body.
Another thought: is it unethical to take maternity leave knowing you’re not going to return to your job? My position is no way. It’s like vacation benefits. If you earned them, they’re yours. And employers have to allow for the fact that women might plan on coming back to work and then change their minds once the baby is born. Somebody suggested to me that it seems a little shady, because the purpose of a generous maternity leave policy is to keep the employee happy.