An interesting article from the New York Post was brought to my attention the other day. The article, written by Anna Davies, declared that single and childless women should be entitled to lengthy, excused absences from work, a concept akin to maternity leave without the children. Davies calls this leave a “meternity.”
The reasoning behind the “meternity” is that women get burned out easier than men and need some time away from the office. Davies also advocated for this break because of the renewed vision she saw in women coming back from maternity leave:
“And as I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves. One friend made the decision to leave her corporate career to create her own business; another decided to switch industries. From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.”
As a working woman myself, let me just say that I tend to agree with Davies’ first point. Women do tend to get stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out easier than men, a fact which may be partially due to the difference between the hardwiring of the male and female brain.
But I tend to question the reasoning behind Davies’ second point. It may be true that women come back from maternity leave with fresh vision and confidence. But instead of stemming from an extended amount of self-focused “me-time,” might not that vision and confidence stem from the increased selflessness which new mothers have learned to pour into their children?
Which leads me to another thought. In the last several decades, culture has increasingly encouraged men and women to go to college, build their careers, and work their way up the corporate ladder, all the while delaying the time they devote to marriage and raising a family.
At the same time, America has increasingly been disturbed by the trend toward the “me-culture,” which puts self first and seems to be behind the stereotype of the lazy, incapable millennial.
Is it possible that these two are connected? Has our rush to encourage college and career for all only resulted in delaying or all-out ignoring the pathways of marriage and children which have traditionally led to adult maturity and selflessness?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.