Women of the 21st century are standing at a sensational place in history. More than ever, we have the opportunity to pursue an education, follow our dream careers, and chase our passions. We have complete control over our fertility, being able to turn it off and on like a light switch and to receive help when it isn’t functioning as we’d like.
Feminism has gone to bat and hit several home runs for women over the past 100 years, and can largely claim the credit for these choices being available to us. But despite how wonderful it is to have a choice, today’s evolved form of feminism can have a dampening effect, leaving women feeling overwhelmed and paralysed.
Not having it all, all the time
One of the most damaging sentiments that women have been exposed to is that we can have it all, all the time, and that it’s just a matter of “balance”. We’re told that we can have it all, but that forces us to constantly question whether we made the right choices in our work, in parenting, in our marriages.
As more of us realise the absurdity of this so-called “truth”, we’re being hit hard in our reproductive organs by the obvious fact that yes, children do take away valuable hours which could have otherwise been invested in climbing the ladder at work or jet-setting to fabulous hot spots around the globe.
This is, after all, what the media shows us when we hear the term “independent woman”. Never do we see a mum who is wiping puke stains from her shoulder or doggedly chasing after her strong-willed toddler at the playground.
A couple of years ago, Marie Claire ran an article featuring mothers who regretted choosing motherhood. All shared a common theme of believing they could be living better, more meaningful, and more exciting lives without one or more pint-sized human anchors underfoot.
Canadian author Sheila Heti’s recent book, “Motherhood”, depicts a female protagonist who also doesn’t care to have children. This protagonist believed being a mum would have an adverse effect on her writing career. As the reader is drawn further into the book, it becomes clear that the narrator’s mother also chose work over family, giving the narrator the impression that a woman needs to make a choice: to either be a satisfied professional, or to be a good mother.
Heti was applauded for challenging the social belief that all women should want to one day be a mother. But the adverse effect of this is also starting to rear its ugly head, with women who choose motherhood being blasted for their choice. Others still question mothers for even wanting to return to their careers after starting a family.
Feminism and the world of choice
What many lose sight of is the fact that feminism is about choice. The expectation that every woman out there should feel naturally inclined to have children is incredibly insensitive and damaging to women and society as a whole.
A woman who chooses to be a mother also shouldn’t be questioned. Whether she returns to work or not is her business – not yours.
Life is about balance, but it’s not always 50/50. Sometimes the scale leans more to one side than the other.
One thing working parents know all too well is that kids weigh heavy on that scale. Feeding, bathing, and shouting at them to put on their socks and shoes for the fifth time that morning eats away hours of each day.
But work doesn’t have to suffer because of children. In fact, as many parents agree, pairing work with parenthood can transform us into ultra-efficient individuals who know how to make every second out of every day count. You may need to do things differently, sure, but you can still accomplish the very same goals you always had before you brought your little one into the world.