Dr. Yang and the Working Woman

Since the show has so many seasons, I decided to start watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. I’m not a big fan of romance and sappy types of drama, so Grey’s Anatomy has never been a favorite of mine. However, I figured that with all the seasons it has – it must be decent enough to keep on the air and since I like being able to keep up with a series for a long time (the last major series I watched on Netflix was “The Office”), Grey’s Anatomy would fit my criteria of something I could watch while doing laundry, or at night after the baby’s asleep, or whenever.

My favorite character is definitely Cristina. I love her backstory – how witnessing her father’s death in the most traumatic way (feeling his heart stop beating) led her to want to become the best cardiothoracic surgeon in history. I love the fact that she is unapologetically intelligent. I love that she isn’t overly emotional, but that when she does care about a person, she lets them know in her own way. I love the growth of her character throughout the series, and I think Sandra Oh does an impeccable job playing her role.

I don’t always like the decisions that Cristina makes, though. I hate this underlying arc that is basically the tension between her desire to reach her professional goals, and her desire to give the man she loves what he wants (namely, a family). I’m going to be very frank, I hated her abortion. I wanted so badly for Owen and Cristina to be able to have a child, and both pursue and achieve their professional goals.

I hate this idea that women have to “choose” between their intellect and their families. If Cristina and Owen had kept their child, the truth is that Cristina’s career would have suffered more than Owen’s would have. It isn’t fair. Yet, at the same time, I believe that family should always come before any career ambitions – for men and women.

It is so hard for me to reconcile these two worlds. Our society tells us that career and money is the most important thing, and family must and should be sacrificed in order to achieve career and financial success. Especially if you are a woman. I emphatically reject this notion. Still, I believe women are just as intelligent as men and can accomplish wonderful feats in their professional lives – and should go as far as their intellect and hard work will take them.

At what point does one draw the line, so that the desire to achieve professional success does not overrun the health and well-being of the family unit? Or, at what point does one draw the line, so that the desire to raise a healthy and emotionally stable family does not prohibit one from accomplishing all that they are capable of? And how to do both without burning the candle at both ends?

Society sends a subtle message to women that tells us we are worthless in the professional world if we decide to marry and have children. Our society tells us this when we are denied decent maternity and/or adoptive leave, our society tells us this when we are forced to pump in small, dirty closets and resented when we need to take time off to care for our sick children, our society tells us this by treating children as an inconvenience to the upwardly mobile young professional woman.

I guess each woman has to work the details out for herself when it comes to how far she is willing to go, and what she is willing to sacrifice, in order to have a fulfilling professional life. But I wish that women like Cristina did not have to choose between their intellect and their families. I wish our society would recognize us for the amazing, strong, nurturing, and intelligent beings we are – and accommodate that.

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