The Juggling Act
by Natasha Josefowitz, PhD '48
In response to the call for papers from alumnae on career or children, I started thinking about my own choices. Somewhere between guilt for not being there for the children and frustration for not being able to devote myself to a career lies the decision-making process. I chose the juggling act.
I come from a traditional background of a Lithuanian father who went to Frankfurt University in Germany and a mother who did not finish high school in Berlin as a refugee from communist Russia.
Girls were supposed to marry and have children and not continue their education beyond high school and certainly not beyond college. So, after graduation from Scripps, I did marry and had two children: a daughter, a year-and-a-half after the wedding, and a son 21 months after that.
I lived in New York City and was a stay-at-home mom for the first four years of my second child’s life. Then, I started with part-time volunteer work, reviewing books for the Child Study Association. From there, I went on to a half-time job as a research assistant to the director of the Child Development Center. So, my choice was to work mornings and be available to my children when they came home from school. This worked for a while, but the inner pressure I felt was to continue my education, while the outer pressure from my parents and husband was to continue being mostly mother and housewife.
Against my family’s conventional wisdom, I enrolled at Columbia University for a master’s degree in social work. Their cutoff age to enroll at that time was 35 years old. I was 35 and eleven months, and thus became their oldest student ever.
Evenings, I quizzed my children on their tests, and then they quizzed me on mine. It was not easy writing papers, going to classes, and three days a week being an intern for the required practicum. Two years later, I had my master’s degree, and we moved to Switzerland, where my husband had gone to school and wanted our children to go, too.
By then, the kids were 13 and 15, and I was working half-time in a child guidance clinic as a caseworker and half-time teaching social work-I was the only French-speaking caseworker in Lausanne. I had no precedents, so I taught from my Columbia University notes.
Once the children went off to college, I went on to get my Ph.D., left my husband, moved back to the States, and joined the faculty at the University of New Hampshire teaching organizational behavior at the College of Business, where they were using the Harvard Case Method. The case method was familiar to me, being identical to the case method used in my casework classes. I have found that knowledge and skills are transferable from one field to another. Just change the language!
All along, the choices were clear to me: be a half-time at-home mom and a half-time worker. As the children grew, I became a quarter-time at-home mom and a threequarter- time student and eventually a fulltime worker.
I don’t believe one can “have it all.” My children might have benefited more from a full-time mom, and my career might have taken off earlier as a full-time worker. So, there is always compromise, but as I look back, I was, as Bruno Bettelheim so aptly coined, “a good enough parent,” and still enjoyed being engaged in the world of work. I would have felt too guilty doing only the latter and was too restless and too much of a lifelong learner to just stay home.
Today, I am retired from full-time teaching. I am still an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. I taught the first course for women in management in the country in the early 70s and have written 16 books. And so, no regrets- were I to do it over again, I would do it the same way.