How Long Till Equality?

American women take stock and step up the pace

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father off on the job? They cannot, as Virginia Woolf observed, "run about the streets." The options are limited, and so far imperfect. These days, what Woolf called "that deepseated [male role] desire, not so much that she shall be inferior as that he shall be superior" may have moderated into an awareness that a different equation is wanted. Finding and holding the balance, however, requires some acrobatic skill. It also demands flexibility and a good deal of resilience.

ABC Newsman Ted Koppel took a year off from a steady job so his wife Grace Anne could finish school. He sustained no visible career damage—indeed his boss gave him a daily three-minute radio program to keep the bills paid—and after his wife graduated, he went on to his greatest success as host of ABC News Nightline. On the other hand, Don Demers, an industrial engineer in Dayton, took the kids while his wife finished med school, then found, after more than two years away, that he could not find another job. Commented Charles Arons, president of a Los Angeles employment firm: "There isn't a male I know of in an executive position who would accept raising kids as a legitimate excuse for not working for three years." Note the "not working": to Mr. Arons, a one-way ticket to the T.S. Garp Hit-the-Mat Seminar and Backyard Barbecue, held yearly on the grounds of the Hotel New Hampshire.

Aron's point, however, has a goodly amount of immediate, and unfortunate, practicality. There are not many executives who can appreciate or allow that the skill, say, of time management at home might be applied to office management, just as there are still very few corporations with personnel departments set up to accommodate the needs of the new work force and the flexible family. Other than enlisting the aid of family members, day care remains the most common way to manage the children during work hours.

Centers all over the country have been damaged by budget cuts and by some strong conceptual questions. Edward Zigler, director of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University, estimates that 40% of the children of working mothers may be in "home day care" (that is, they are cared for either in their own home or in the sitter's), while fully another 40% are in "family day care," where a sitter outside the home cares for four to six children. "It is an open issue for children of every age," he says. Says Psychologist Michael Meyerhoff, who spent 13 years in the Harvard Pre-School Project: "If there is any element of choice, we've been trying to get people to be aware that the job they would be doing with their child is more important than any job outside the home. And you don't have to be a woman to be a good mother."

These doubts about day care can put a crimp in the family future, and a dent in the budget, but they do not, as Schlafly might have us believe, atomize the American nuclear family. The quality of the day care and its basing near the job may come a little closer to a workable solution. In Massachusetts both Wang Laboratories, Inc., and Stride Rite Corp. have inaugurated model projects with long waiting lists of applicants. Stride Rite's program also includes the options of dental care and psychotherapy. Adjustments made to work schedules, so-called

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