Saturday, January 30, 2010

Now and Then

Alas, my time at Fordham University is coming to a close. Fortunately, this semester seems to be off to a good start. I have to say that overall, I have had a very rewarding experience at Fordham and I am very thankful for that. Yet as I think about how thankful I am, I also ask myself, what other choice did I really have? Sure, I could have attended a different university. But not going to college was never an option for me. It was assumed (for practically my whole life) that after graduating high school I would head off to college and get my degree. I think it’s safe to say that this is the case for many youth of my generation. They are expected to go to college. Luckily, for me personally, I had always wanted to go to college and therefore was excited about my new academic beginning.
During a phone conversation with my close friend, we both reached the conclusion that we wish life could go back to the way it was in the 1950s- a time when young men and especially women didn’t have to go to college. Of course, we were making an overstatement. But nevertheless, important generalizations can be made about that era in US history. For instance, relationships between guys and girls seem to have been different in the ‘50s. “Dating” actually existed, while now this concept has almost become extinct. As Dr. Naison of the American Studies faculty repeatedly stated to my class last semester, “None of you kids fall in love anymore.” While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, I think he is on to something.
Fifty years ago it seems that people my age grew up faster. Men and women tended to marry and have kids younger than most do now. There was not an economic necessity for teens to spend thousands of dollars on college after graduating from high school. People, especially men, had the potential to earn substantial salaries right out of high school. Though the 1950s was a segregated time, positive changes for African Americans were taking place. The era saw the largest equality of incomes out of any period in American history. While men tended to receive higher paying positions than women, large numbers of women began to work. However, it was much more possible for married couples with kids to raise a family on one income alone.
Nowadays, the need for both parents to work is much greater. It seems to me that in the present (especially with the current economic situation) many families are under a lot of stress. Many people I know rarely get to enjoy family dinners because their family members always have such busy schedules. Call me old-fashioned, but in my personal opinion, I think time for the family to sit down together and converse is important. Situations where both parents need to work full-time can be extremely burdensome.
While I am happy that feminist pushes have led to greater opportunities for women in the workforce, sometimes I wonder whether the role of being a mother has lost its significance. Has the traditional calling of fulltime motherhood become obsolete or unacceptable? What if a woman’s passion is to be a stay-at-home mom who takes care of her house and children? Is that so bad? In our world, does that mean a woman is lazy?
In my “Approaches to Studies” class from last semester, we examined particular keywords which have significant, yet often very flexible and controversial meanings. The word “family” was one of these keywords. According to Carla L. Peterson, family is “a malleable process” (Peterson 113). Today two working parents seem to be the norm for families, or at least middle class ones.
I tend to feel that in many ways the stay-at-home mom (and/or dad) is an ideal. Families may be more stable and better functioning if both parents were not always struggling out of the house to be financial providers. Perhaps someday this ideal can become a reality once again. This may become possible due to advanced technology.
Technology has enabled more people to not only become educated in their homes, but also to work from their homes and therefore spend less time away from their loved ones. A January New York Times article entitled “Are Doctors Ready for Virtual Visits?” demonstrates technology’s current potential. The article discusses how telemedicine (“or the use of satellite technology, video conferencing and data transfer through phones and the Internet”) is enabling doctors to communicate with patients from all over.

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