In the 1970’s, working mothers in professional and management jobs were frequently relegated to what was called “the mommy track”. Many women thought it was unfair. They had less decision-making power, fewer opportunities for advancement, and a smaller paycheck than most men. They could, however, leave at five and have weekends free.
Now, a generation later, many people would like to have the “mommy track” as an option. Erin is a good example. I've fictionalized her story to protect privacy, and I’m telling it with permission.
She was a senior associate in a law firm, with two kids under five and a husband who traveled constantly. She and her husband had jointly decided when he accepted the job that she'd be the primary caregiver. She’d been able to manage it all because of an understanding boss. But he was retiring. His successor had already told Erin he expected her to work more hours.
Erin decided to be proactive. She proposed that the law firm establish an alternative career path that looked a lot like the old "mommy track". After much lobbying the proposal finally passed. It gave Erin the option she needed.
The "mommy track" was problematic when it was imposed on working mothers without their choosing. But bringing it back today could provide a welcome alternative for women - and men - who want to set a limit on work and are willing to accept less money, less advancement and less influence as the trade-off.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)