by Barbara Hewitt
Unfortunately, my five-year old daughter made it to the mailbox before I did and quickly claimed the American Girl catalog which had arrived that day. (Don’t ask me how we got on their mailing list…I have no idea why the publication mysteriously appeared in our box.) Jordan and her seven-year old sister Sierra were absolutely thrilled with the many options presented to them in the catalog and spent over an hour deciding which would be the best choice for them. They then interrupted my bath to formally present their choices to me. (As any mother knows, this is the ONLY time a mom gets a few minutes to herself, so the interruption wasn’t entirely welcome to begin with!)
American Girl dolls seem wonderful. Each comes with a historical back story explained in an accompanying book about the doll. The downside is that they cost almost $100 each, and of course there are loads of additional items which you can purchase for each doll. While I already had some other things in mind for Christmas for the girls, I hadn’t planned on spending $200 for the dolls, and I explained this to them, much to their disappointment. (It prompted them to search the house for change to contribute, resulting in a grand total of $1.73…only $198.27 to go!)
On this “Black Friday”, a day when every retailer in America is pushing for us to go out and single-handedly save the US economy, I’ve thought a lot about the various values each of us gives preference to as we consider career options. Face it – with most careers we rarely “get it all.” While the massive amount of Black Friday advertising may seem innocuous, it can send the underlying message that to be successful and happy we need to own it all. Whether it be a big house in a swanky neighborhood, luxury clothes that will make a statement at work, or even an American Girl doll….as the amount of perceived “needs” goes up so does the requirement to find a job that will support the desired lifestyle. As our financial demands increase, our career options decrease, as the number of positions that will pay a high enough salary to cover all of our “needs” is reduced.
I love working at Penn. The atmosphere is vibrant, the students are smart and motivated, my colleagues are indeed “collegial” and the benefits are wonderful. However, an impressive signing bonus, hefty annual bonus, and huge paycheck are simply not part of the equation when working for a nonprofit organization. (Yes, Penn is a nonprofit!) That being said, my job provides the work life balance I need right now in my life, so that I can eat dinner most nights with my kids and take them to their swim lessons on the weekends. To me, that’s worth more any day of the week than being able to buy every new toy that comes on the market.