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!

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