At one point my friend Mary asked me if I ever look at my boyfriend (assuming that one day he'll be my husband) and feel bad that he has to work every day right up until he retires. "Why?" I asked. "I plan on doing the same thing." I told her that I even aspire to be the primary earner in my household. She asked if I was kidding and for the first time in the exchange I sensed that she was trying to engage me in a dead serious conversation.
I suppose I was spoiled, having been sent to an all-girls academy where I was taught three languages, engineering and every science offered instead of cooking and cleaning. I certainly would have appreciated the latter considering that I struggle with domesticity. But what I learned in high school was that those people who taught me math and science expected great things from me even as a woman.
Mary expects to get married and be a mom after finishing college. Funny thing - that's what I want too. But while I hear about the return of women to those 1950s-standard households, I never thought I'd seriously encounter a fellow female who truly aspired to live like that and surrender her education.
If that's what she wants, then I am in no position to tell her otherwise. Personally however, I hold myself to a higher standard. I didn't go to college just to kill a couple years between high school and marriage. I went to college because I expect to contribute my family alongside my husband knowing that in this day and age, average households cannot thrive on a single source of income alone.
Realistically, I cannot just sit and "watch my husband work up until retirement" even if my days are filled with the domestic tasks that are biologically and socially assigned to me. That's not to say I reject the idea of raising a family and going part-time. It's just another piece I will strategically place within the fabric of my life.
What's most frightening is the fact that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce these days. When I am standing next to Mary, I can't help but think who's it gonna be: the egalitarian marriage, or the traditional role-based marriage? I don't want a career because I am selfish. I want to be able to share financial responsibility, to share "head of household", and above all, to share the ever-important task of raising the next generation.
What women should call for is balance in their lives and they should expect to challenge themselves and the conventions that dictate their relationships, even though it's not an easy process. What saddens me is that women like Mary are not living up to their full potential. Women are blessed with this duality: We can raise the next generation while continuing to shape the current world we live in. It just takes a little bit of that drive that men seem to be born with.
Kelly Ernst is a senior English major, and she knows why the caged bird sings.