Yesterday I read this article written by a prominent sports broadcaster in Ottawa - he used to travel everywhere with the Ottawa Senators and now he's decided that life's too short, his kids are growing up too fast, and he's sick of watching them do it from the road. He's taking a less high profile job doing afternoon radio. It's a bold move to take; coming out and saying the career just isn't worth it - your family is. But in fact saying it isn't that big of a deal - I think most people would say "sure family is more important then a career" but actually doing it? Up and leaving the job you always dreamed of? That's a whole different ball game altogether (sports metaphor and it STAYS!) And pardon me for the double standard, but I'd say it's a far less common proclamation or action when it's coming from a man.
Women make this choice every day. Every-time they decide "OK it's time to start a family." Sure maybe for the first little bit, you try to make it work, and then you decide to have a second kid and suddenly the job that requires you to be checking your blackberry every night, isn't working. And what's worse, you're doing both jobs only half-assed.
I don't have a family yet but it's something that's been driving me crazy about the field of journalism since I started school last fall. I find myself surrounded by young, ambitious writers, willing to move to any remote area of the country to get the internship and experience they need to move onwards and upwards.
I wish I'd had some foresight and thought about it a bit more.
It seems to me there's no room for women who have aspirations of staying in one place and starting a family in the field of journalism. It looks to me like even later on, there's a high burn out rate and a great likelihood that the news organization you work for, expects you to give more of yourself to "The Story" then to your obligations at home. I think after these sorts of inner monologues many women find themselves making the decision to opt for a job that doesn't demand so much of you.
I didn't want to leave Ottawa this summer to go and find work which would hypothetically "give me a chance to prove myself." I had no desire to do a long distance relationship with Mike - we're not married but at this point in our lives, we're in it together. While he would have taken no issue with it, and always tells me to follow my dreams, it just didn't seem worth it to me - even for a short period of time.
There was this really great part in Mendes' article that stood out to me, it was almost heart-breaking in fact. Mendes was speaking about a memory he had concerning game seven of the Stanley Cup Series:
"I was actually upset that I might have to fly to Chicago to cover Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Ten years ago, that would have been my dream. Now, Lucic’s goal was going to prevent me from seeing my family"
It spoke to me because every-time I have to work late, or miss something because of an assignment that just can't wait, a little part of me just sinks inside because I'd just rather be at home, having a dinner, reading a book, talking with Mike about our day.
It's a hard juxtaposition to be in when you've got instructors in jschool telling you the exact opposite: "You need to go out there, get that story, move far away, stay up all night listening to police scanners."
In the past year, I've never once been told of any alternative to a newsroom - to working for a prestigious cause. The idea of freelancing or writing for online blogs seems almost sacrilege in a world where everyone strives to have "An A1 article" (The first page of the paper). Trust me I've asked.
It makes me feel like I'm already excluded from a career that I thought I wanted; because I don't have the drive to put it before the people in my life who matter.
Is it unique to the field of journalism? I don't know I can only speak to the experiences I've had in my own life. I think news organizations expect an awful lot from their younger staff. I've been told time and time again "not to expect feature writing (i.e. not "hard news reporting") you have to rough it out in the trenches to earn your place." But I don't think it's that different from so many other professions that demand a lot of responsiveness and quick turn around time and emotional energy from their employees. And while I'm certain the feeling of missing out on your family life isn't unique to women, and men go through all the same emotions, I think more often then not, women have a hard choice to make.
Although it doesn't really seem like a choice to me. Career vs. Family - it's not something I'm mulling over. I know I'll never be the eager intern staying late in the newsroom to prove myself. If it's a choice, it's been an easy one to make because it's what I want.
But this doesn't mean it hasn't been a hard pill to swallow - there's a certain element inside of me that feels torn, or feels vulnerable speaking these sorts of thoughts out-loud. Like in the world of higher-education, it's almost taboo to say, "yea... It's OK if that's the kind of career you want. I'm working on my own thing."
Seriously. I've got time - I'm young still. But at the end of the day, when it's all said an done, isn't it just a job?
In an ideal world, you'd get the best of both elements: something that makes you feel proud of what you've accomplished, but doesn't make you an island.