People often talk about professions that are "good for women", and indeed, some fields have become primarily female-dominated. These fields, such as teaching, nursing, and administrative jobs, cater to the women's natural abilities of care-giving and paying attention to details.
Usually, when it is said that a certain profession is "good for a woman/mother", what is meant is the following:
1. It isn't a male-oriented profession
2. It allows part-time work and/or flexible hours
3. It isn't very competitive
4. It usually isn't what could be called a career – it doesn't involve many years of extensive training, and there is a definite limit to how tall a ladder the woman can climb. It's a profession that will allow a "quiet life."
The last point, by the way, is sometimes a cause of disdain: people who hear that their former, very "promising" classmate, is working as a teacher, shrug and say, "oh well, that's a good job for a mother", meaning that "of course, now that she has a family, she can probably aim for no better."
And if we are talking about teaching, I'm not at all sure that having mostly women as teachers is that good for children in the long run. In the Orthodox Jewish sector, for example, families have multiple children. In the school where I work, someone is always expecting and someone is always on maternity leave. This means that children are often stuck mid-year, for a period of several months, with a substitute teacher who doesn't know them and has no idea how to relate to them. This is a huge setback, in my opinion, in addition to the fact that class dynamics don't allow much personal student-teacher interaction in the first place.
Then, just as the students begin to get used to their substitute teacher, their permanent teacher returns and has no idea what has really been going on in class in her absence. I have had that happen to me in the year of highschool when we were supposed to take our history exam, and it wrecked havoc in our learning process.
Or take for example being a nurse, which is considered a good profession for a woman because the work is in shifts, which supposedly allows you to spend more time with your family. Practically, what does it mean? That a woman might take care of her children during the morning and afternoon, and then she goes to work a night shift when her husband comes home. If I'm the only one who thinks this is an undue burden, I'll be surprised.
There's also the saying that "we NEED women in that profession." Ob/gyns are probably the most common example. I won't deny I wouldn't feel at all comfortable with a male ob/gyn, and in fact, the rabbinical guideline on this matter is that a woman should see a female ob/gyn when at all possible. But I also think that medical school is one of the worst options for women (at least here in
). After 10 years of grueling studies and professional training, most of the graduates are in their thirties by the time they are done, and many postpone having families until then. Doctors are also the ones to most often experience professional burn-out, which cannot be good for their family life. Israel
And you know what else I have noticed? My (female) ob/gyn, although she is a wonderful person, does not use so much of her feminine traits – her intuition, her sympathy, her personal birth experience – in her work. She is working "by the book", which gives her no advantage over a male ob/gyn, who has no idea what being pregnant and giving birth is really all about.
I don't really need as many visits to my ob/gyn as it is common to take. Traditionally, pregnancies and births were attended by midwives – midwifery is far more flexible than medical school, and far more fitting to women, especially older ones. I daresay that professional midwife care, coupled with modern medical equipment to carefully monitor the woman's condition, is enough for a normal pregnancy and birth, and ob/gyns may only be "reserved" for emergencies. It's a pity that midwife care is not developed in
. When I was in labor with Shira, just the stress of having doctors hovering all over me stalled labor altogether, after which I fled that hospital and went to another one, where my child was successfully delivered by non-interfering midwives. Israel
Overall, I believe that the only profession that is truly "good for a woman" is the work of being a wife and mother, which is enough to keep most of us busy as it is. Even a part-time job is stressful for a woman who has children at home. I think it's very sad how people sit for hours discussing which profession will do less damage to a woman's family life.
A neighbor of mine recently quit her job to stay home with her child, who is about the same age as Shira. When she hesitantly told me about her decision, I wholeheartedly congratulated her and told her she will never regret it. She has important work to do, and however she may be "needed in her field", she is more needed at home.