Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Women have so much choice but is that just an illusion or a trap? I have been reflecting a great deal about the huge array of models of womanhood which women can choose for their lives. When my Mum was my age there were only three careers for women; teaching, nursing or secretary. It was assumed that you would get married young, have kids and stay at home. Today there is no such expectation. I am so grateful to the feminist movement that I do not have to deal with the prejudice so many women have experienced in the past but I don't think women have it very easy now either.

You may have heard of the "supermum" syndrome. This is the condition many women suffer under where they want to have a high powered and successful career, equal to their male colleagues while also being the perfect wife and mother. I believe for most women, this is actually impossible and certain compromises have to be made, usually in their personal lives in order to meet the demands of their careers. This may explain why so many women are starting their own businesses in order to work from home and be closer to their kids. Now don't get me wrong, I would consider myself to be strongly feminist, in the sense that I believe women are capable of doing anything they set their minds to. However I think the reality is often women try to fulfill and traditional roles of men as well as women and these women then end up being plagued by guilt and frustration.

I am not very career minded myself. I have been in the past and I do love teaching but I find the stress of work very difficult to deal with. I am useless with money and maths so I don't think I would be a very successful business owner. I am also quite young by today's standards to be considering having kids. Twenty years ago it would have been normal for me to already have three kids. These days that would be seen as highly irresponsible behaviour or at the very least, be seen as missing out on opportunities. Instead I am still paying off my student loan and have no assets of any real value. Oh the irony!

I guess what I am getting at is that women still cannot do everything. I know no man who could manage to be successful in their career and manage to fulfill the traditional mothering role without things going seriously amiss. So why do women expect that of themselves?

I have decided that I will have to sacrifice either career or kids at various times in my life in order to be happy with how I am doing one of those things. So I am so grateful that I can choose. But there is still a choice to be made and trying to do both brilliantly seems to me, a recipe for dissatisfaction. It is not that I am anti working Mums. I think I will want to work, at least part time, while having and raising kids, but if I can hardly manage my work load at the moment, having a bunch of anklebiters to care for won't exactly make that easier and I want to feel like I am doing something well rather than lots of things, but not well. So I guess it it a mental wellness choice. Women are doing it for themselves but they don't have to do everything!

Thursday, 15 September 2005

I have a sore brain from thinking too much and a sore neck due to navel gazing. But I can't seem to stop. As the end of the year approaches I feel more and more urgency to work out what I am supposed to be doing with my life. That may sound overly dramatic but it feels slightly life and death to me.

I have had a year of struggling to feel motivated in my work. This is my 4th year of teaching and though I still love the learning and the kids it really isn't doing it for me any more. I know that most people believe teaching is one of those jobs where you must have the whole "changing the world" thing covered but it really doesn't feel like that to me. I feel like a bureaucrat who injects knowledge into kids so that they can vomit it out during exams. What I really care about is helping them to deal with life and think about their place in the world and to realise the privilege they experience in New Zealand and the responsibility that comes with that. And also, teaching just exhausts me. Some people can do it but the job is structured in such a way that I just survive and I feel like I have forgotten how to live. The classes I love, the paper I don't.

I must remind you that I am still young and slightly wet behind the ears so it is all possibly me not being able to deal with the real world of work. But if this is all there is then it is not good enough!

So I am now left with the quesiton mark that is next year. For some people this would be a time of great excitement and expectation, for me it is very difficult. I love change but I am also a planner and a dreamer. I need to have concrete realities to plan my life around and to attach my dreams to. So far 2006 lacks any concrete anything. This is creating the navel gazing and obsessive questioning which I referred to earlier. But I am realising something rather profound. There is no one right or clear answer for me. No-one can tell me what to do.

I can either stick with a career orientated life where I make a clear career change and keep working like I have been doing, hopefully with less paper or I can change my whole approach to life as I know it. Both options are scary. With the first I risk depression and dissatisfaction again as well as general numbness, while with the second I will definitely lose my security and risk getting very hurt and disappointed. So I think I have worked out a key to making the decision.

I have to do what I believe in, not what makes me feel safe or sure. But I have to use what has already been given to me and not ignore the past. In a sense I think I have to follow the prompting Jesus has given me with the dissatisfaction and tension I feel but not forget what He has already done in my life.

But what on earth would that look like? So I am on the hunt for some models on how I could do life. I have found some pretty good ones and the time is coming where I will have to take some steps and stop just thinking...

The other thing which complicates everything is that it is not all about me. Since getting married I have not been in such an obvious situation where my decisions and my husbands decision's about out personal direction are so intertwined. I cannot act without knowing where he wants to go and in a sense neither can he.

So what now? Where to from here?

Back to the thinking I guess...

Friday, 9 September 2005

"We too often forget that faith is a matter of questioning and struggle before it becomes one of certitude and peace. You have to doubt and reject everything else in order to believe firmly in Christ, and after you have begun to believe, your faith itself must be tested and purified. Christianity is not merely a set of forgone conclusions. Faith tends to be defeated by the burning presence of God in mystery, and seeks refuge from him, flying to comfortable social forms and safe convictions in which purification is no longer an inner battle but a matter of outward gesture."
- Thomas Merton

This quote sums up how I have been feeling and the issues I am wrestling with at the moment. I used to yearn, and still do, for a sure and certain faith, where I knew where I stood and could put everything in little boxes. Over the last wee while I have been thinking more and more about how uncomfortable it is to question and critique but that the option of not terrifies me even more. And now I am beginning to realise that there is a very small amount of my faith which is certain. And there is a great deal that I struggle with every day.

This weekend there is a big push in the Make Poverty History campaign as the UN World Summit begins. In a world where more than two thirds of people live below the poverty line, and many in abject poverty, what does my faith in Jesus say about that and what will be my response? In the wake of the destruction of New Orleans what will be my response? As New Zealand prepares for the elections how will my faith guide my vote? Now I don't have any easy answers but I do know that I am called to be an incarnation of Jesus, who loves everyone and weeps for those who suffer and who acts in response to suffering. Therefore, though it may be tiring and uncomfortable, I must do my small part to show Jesus in my responses to these important events and issues.

I used to think I could choose how I wanted to live my life but I am realising that I have no choice. I have to do something to make a difference for the poor, the marginalised in the world or my faith in Jesus is nothing more than a hobby or a philospophy. It has to be more than that otherwise I don't know what there is to have faith in in the first place.