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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Coupled careers

R. Sundaram

IN the recent surge of voluntary retirements, particularly in banks, it was the women who quit jobs in droves so that their husbands may continue with their careers even when some of them were smarter than their spouses. Even where the husbands were empl oyed in the banking industry itself, the wife gave up her ambitions of a bright career for the sake of family and children.

In a dual-career marriage it is no surprise that the woman's career suffers the most. Whenever there is an issue of promotion or transfer or VRS, dual-career couples have to confront this dilemma of ``his or hers'' and more often than not, it is settled in favour of the husband.

Michelle Thaller, a research astronomer, in a recent issue of Christian Science Monitor, observes that the classical two-body problem in celestial mechanics captures the essence of the plight of dual-career couples. Classically, according to astronomy, a s one body orbits the other, it tugs gravitationally on its partner, altering the original orbit. Then the second body does the same.

At the end of the tango, as each body influences the other, constantly changing paths, the bigger more massive body moves the least, spending most of the time at the centre and the small body has to careen all over the place trying to find the right plac e to fit into the co-orbit.

Jim and Jane Carter in their book, He Works, She works (1995), observed that while dual-career women are expected to play their parts as wives, mothers and their career women, often leading to role conflict and stress married men are treated more indulge ntly by society to identify with work and family roles without any trade off between them.

Of course, it is one thing to pay lip service to women's rights and the importance of families, and quite another to take an active stance and make it actually possible to start leveling the playing field for women. Hard working couples trying to balance each other's career as well as the well being of their children are not people one easily comes across.

Yet, why do modern educated women continue to pursue careers after marriage? Have not we heard daughters of working mothers complain about missing their mothers' attention during their childhood, saying all they want is to be housewives so that they can spend time with children?

However, when it comes to the crunch, they appear increasingly to opt for both career and marriage. Gone are the days when they were taking up jobs merely for passing time even as they were viewing matrimony. In fact, what is encouraging is that the mode rn young women are conscious achievers and have deep commitment and interest in career as well as to families.

Actually, in failing to notice this emerging trend, it is the corporates who are losing the benefits of employing dual career couples. They can be hired at less than what it would cost to get two men. For instance, in service sector (for instance, Educat ion, Finance, Software and Travel) offers for employment could be easily for couples with each spouse working half the time or according to a mutually agreed schedule, giving them the benefit of balancing the career and home.

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