Tra la la -- I know everyone's probably getting sick of Hirshman, but I am just so tickled to have gotten my copy of her book Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World from Amazon. Hirshman's book speaks to something deep in my core. The fact is, I am completely Hirshman-ish in my thinking about my own choices and I always have been. Yet I see nary any validation for that in our culture, especially for women.
I have always felt not only a strong desire for a career but a strong sense of DUTY towards my career. I have always been very duty-oriented, and in my mind, my obligation is to contribute to the labor force, and to push myself as far as I can in whatever endeavor I choose to adopt. I feel this way partly because I feel I ought to exercise the rights hard-won by past feminists, and partly because I feel that I ought to use all of my privileges, all of my talents and education, out in the world for the benefit of others besides my family. Maybe I am not talented enough to discover the cure for cancer, but I still ought to use my talents however far they extend.
This is why it cheeves me off to no end when career women are castigated as being "selfish." I always think to myself, "Working long hours and fretting constantly on behalf of my clients is the way a selfish person behaves?!?!?!? People think I do this just so I can drive a snazzy car?!?!?!?" (By the way, my car is so un-snazzy that I actually have to roll the windows up and down manually.)
Working is certainly no walk in the park. It's stressful and you're constantly answering to people. In my case, I've got demanding clients, perfectionist bosses, and grumpy judges all looking over my shoulder, as well as opposing counsel just waiting for me to trip up. There are days when I love it and days when I am miserable. But there is no question in my mind that my calling and my obligation in life is to WORK, and to work outside the home. I don't do this just to have a little extra cash in the bank and I don't do it just to look all glamorous in a business suit. I do it because I think what I do has value.
And you know what else? I do put my work above family. All the time. It is a frequent occurrence in our household that I will say to my darling husband, "You know what? You're not gonna see me this weekend, because I am going to be chained to my desk working." Do I feel even slightly guilty about this? Not a bit. His job as my husband is to support me in my endeavors just as I support him in his. He has my first loyalty over any other individual on the planet, and I love him deeply, and I would certainly drop everything for him in a crisis, but family time does not come before work time in our house. No way. The point of family, in my view, is to support and nurture the individual visions of each member. "Family" is not in itself a mythical good or an end goal.
I know Hirshman has pissed off a lot of people by trashing other women's choices and I have said repeatedly that deriding how other people spend their time isn't my thing. But, you know what, it is so wonderful and refreshing to have someone validate -- without apology or qualification -- the choices of working women who value their careers. And reading her validation made me realize how very rare it is to see that in our press and in our culture.
The few times I have expressed to others my real feelings about career and its centrality to my life and self-image, I have been absolutely derided. When I told a college professor/mentor that I was "ambitious," she acted as though I had confessed some terrible sin that she had to help me overcome. Others have told me that I am "arrogant" or that I am a "sucker" just slaving away to make some big company richer.
But I will say it here, loud and proud. I work full-time for a living and I will continue working full-time for a living. I will work full-time for a living if I have children. I will work full-time for a living if my husband gets a $500,000 a year job. I will work full-time for a living if I win the lottery. On my death bed, I will probably wish that I spent more time at the office. And I think that's an absolutely honorable choice that I, as a woman, have no need to apologize for. Thank you very much.