Options, options, options.
The debate over whether it's better to be a working mom vs. a stay-at-home mom is becoming more animated, more personal and more vicious by the day.
Since Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead hit bookshelves and Kindles around the world, a fresh firestorm of discussions on women in the workplace has erupted. What does it mean to be a feminist? What does it mean to be a good mother? What does it even mean to "have it all"? And, in the end, can women even make a choice that won't be heavily scrutinized by their fellow sisterhood?
A recent opinion piece by Keli Goff in The Guardian added fuel to the fire by calling for all Ivy League women to stay within the traditional workforce as a personal duty to their gender and alma mater. Goff went as far as to say that educational institutions should change their admissions process in order to ensure only female applicants who plan on working full-time forever and ever are admitted.
Perhaps instead of bickering over whether or not colleges and universities should ask us to check boxes declaring our racial identity, the next frontier of the admissions should revolve around asking people to declare what they actually plan to do with their degrees. There's nothing wrong with someone saying that her dream is to become a full-time mother by 30. That is an admirable goal. What is not admirable is for her to take a slot at Yale Law School that could have gone to a young woman whose dream is to be in the Senate by age 40 and in the White House by age 50.
Not surprisingly, this struck a chord with many educated women.
Who is to say that the only way a woman can contribute is through working nine-hour days at a traditional office? Since when have women lost all creativity and freedom to decide what opting in or out means? And since when is earning an education a path to less opportunity and less options?
Opting within. It is choosing your destiny. It is encouraging women to gain education and to dream bigger. Does this mean a Harvard Law degree goes to waste if a woman chooses to be on the board of her daughter's elementary school or to create diverse programs as part of a women's ministry, or chooses to divide her time between consulting part-time and changing diapers part-time? Or has her education enabled her to dream bigger, serve others more and steward her gifts and talents in a way that impacts society not just as an employee, but also as a more educated -- and therefore more full -- and impactful person?
Personal edification comes in all shapes and sizes. Not just in a corporate vice presidential role. Personhood, developed through education, is crucial to a comprehensive, healthy society. Focusing on utility will only lead to futility.
We will gain freedom when we move past titles and degrees and can rest in who we are created to be as people and as women, and not limited by what a piece of paper may say about us.
There are duties, and sacrifices, in all vocations, and trying to inflame another mommy war is distracting, not to mention dehumanizing.
Let us move past the arguing and encourage one another to opt within, whatever that choice may be.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.