I generally try to avoid blog posts on women lamenting about their overload of choices. Popular media loves to portray women as ungrateful and indecisive, eagerly waiting to complain no matter what option is made available to them. It just feeds into the stereotype of women being unstable and overly emotional creatures. And it sells papers.
But journalist Mika Brzezinski (try to say that three times fast!) brings to light real questions on real choices women need to make during key points in their lives- career or family?
Of course in this day and age, it is easy to respond with the answer that women can have both. After all, for the modern woman the message that is constantly reinforced to us is that we can have it all.
But it is not so easy. This question of choice has been haunting me more than usual recently. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that I plan on being married soon. I can’t wait to have children, but I also do not have any desire to put an abrupt halt to my professional life. And no one expects me to.
The issue is that I can count how many friends and family members I have who swing both career and family seamlessly. The numbers are not impressive.
One by one women I know had babies, and one by one they fell off their career paths. Either they willingly became hostage to their domestic duties, or they turned into accidental housewives.
I love Brzezinski’s series of posts on the difficult decisions women have to make, but I especially appreciated this one where she speaks so openly and honestly about the challenges women experience in choosing career over family, vice versa, or both. While more options are available to women than ever, there is still some unrealistic and unattainable expectation of being this perfect woman, doing it all, loving it, and of course looking amazing all the while!
It is just not realistic. And it is just not going to happen. Sometimes your choice, or your “poison”, chooses you.
The good news however is that while expectations on women to always do more has not changed, men’s attitudes towards what is expected of them, and what they desire from their wives, has. I love that Brzezinski brings up this point. It is too often overlooked.
Take a few minutes and read Mika’s post. What is your poison of choice?
Hi Anushay! It seems to me like women are capable of having it all–just not all at once. Being a mother, wife and [insert occupation here] are all such demanding jobs that it is nearly impossible to devote equal time to each position without subsequently feeling “woman’s guilt” for not being a stereotypical housewife.
Hi Anushay!! I loved reading your blog, I’ve asked myslef this question for a long time, and have been thinking about it more so now, after 2 years of marriage! (congrats on your engagement BTW!) In August, I even took on the challenge of teaching a course in college to see how it went (while working my full-time job), in order to experience a part time job – thinking of my future with kids and the need of financial stability in our home AND to maintain my sense of self!
I loved it, loved it and loved Mika’s post!
Congrats! I’m so proud of you!
Found both your blog and the article very interesting. I have a different point of view, probably because I live in another part of the world. In Denmark we, of course, also have to make hard choices in this regard, but society tries to make it easier for us, so it doesn’t become either/or. We have the choice to be on maternity leave for up to a year, while we are still being paid from either our employer or the government. We often have flexible working hours, which means we can pick up our children at daycare at a reasonable time. Daycare is available to everyone no matter your income – if you cannot afford it, then the government will help you. However, we do pay almost 50% of our salary in taxes, but on top of above also get free education and health care. Some of course do not have a choice if they want that ‘extra’ in their life or are simply trying to make ends meet, but here the choice is more about what is important to you and when are you, as a mother, wife, employee and self, happy? I am aware that this is a priviliged choice to have.
Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing your insight, ladies. I feel as though the secret to a lot of our challenges lies in women having honest conversations about life events that we tend to romanticize, such as marriage and childbearing.
Anne, you do have a huge advantage simply by living in Denmark. Most women are not so lucky. I often feel that a lot of the world’s problems, especially those involving women, would be solved if we followed the Scandinavian/Nordic models!
I was casually web surfing, reading articles and updating myself with global issues and I came across a news article that said, Afghan Husbands Win Right to Starve Wives. The headline was indeed, very shocking and I was immediately drawn into it. The content of the article was as shocking as the headline. It was about Shiite Personal Status Law, also known as Shiite Family law that was passed by the Afghan government. I soon learned that this family law was nothing like the ordinary laws that we come across in democratic countries. This law would take women’s rights to Taliban times as it would allow the husband to force sex on his wife (he can legally starve her if she does not meet the sexual demands), require the wife to get a permission to leave home and in the case of a divorce, the father gets custody of children over seven. Although I had some idea of how badly things are going in the regions of Middle East (such as the frequent acid attacks that go unreported in the Middle East areas), I did not expect a government to actually participate in stripping away individuals’ rights. It startles me to see a certain group of individuals claiming their ownership on other human beings. It made me wonder whether these men forgot that they are living in the 21st century where women are no longer expected to spend the entire day at home doing household chores. It seems that these men are too stubborn to look outside their view that is narrowed by their tradition and religion. I’m not saying that following one’s tradition and religion is wrong, but I simply think that when judging an act, we should use some common sense and separate right from wrong. Just because it is something that had been practiced for the past centuries, tradition is not necessarily justified. It is really sad to see how people are still suffering from unfair treatment just for being women. The supporters of this unfair family law should be aware of the fact that they are letting their beloved mother and daughters become venerable to physical violence and treated like harshly. If you love your mother or your sister, you surely would not allow people to throw acid at their face or beat them to death.
Even though I do not necessarily agree with the feminism issue and how it is portrayed in only black and white and shaded in only one side, I do read many newspaper articles concerning the issue and I particulary like the articles written by Nicholas D. Kristof. Nicholas D. Kristof is an opinion editor who mainly writes about human rights in the third world or underdeveloped countries. Out of the many articles he wrote, there are some articles that particularly talk about women’s right and women’s status in the society.
As I did some research, I could find many examples of where women were deprived of rights and were abused both physically and sexually. But these events could be seen often on the history. I believe that these conflicts between women’s rights and cultural heritage are due to external factors and the environment.
It is not as though women of East Asia, Europe, or Americas had rights starting from pre-historic times. Most women all around the world were treated about the same. In pre-historic times, the functions of women in the society were to have and raise babies. By medieval times, many women were seen as figures of beauty and started to decorate one self. It is not until recent history in 1919 that women started the movements for right such as suffrage.
Every person has a role in society. It would make more sense in both evolutionary and religious and scientific way that male and female are created for a different purpose. Although it may sound cruel, it is true that male and female bodies are designed differently. A female body contains about 10~15% more fat which is needed for a women to have a baby; furthermore male body is designed to sustain more muscles and store carbohydrates for energy use.
There should not be complete male dominance over the society but one must realize that division of labor brought a revolution in economics. Similarly, it would be much more productive if male and females divided up the roles that one plays on the society.
Although it is true that in some parts of the country males are severely violating primitive rights that a human has, to some extend it is understandable. Furthermore, these actions are actually causing awakening for more and more women of these society. Thus it is an agitator for the people who do not have much interest in the modern politics.
Deciding to be a housewife or a high salary is not a poison that only women are enforced. Men have similar choices. According research done by the Oxford University, there are positive correlations between the time spent on job and annual salary. When a person spends more time on a job they earn more, but they will have less time to spend with their family or children. These choices are not unnatural. It is very natural that one has to choose between the job and the family.
Human society still had much division between the male roles and female roles in the past. Although, some may argue that these happened because the elders were uneducated and ignorant, but I believe the true ignorant are the people who say that after all the things they had accomplished.
[I’m really sorry, I posted my comment too early. Please post this one.]
I empathize with the struggles of working women. When my mother had my oldest sister, she gave up her banking career to take care of her baby. Thirty years later, she laments quitting her job, wishing that she could have gone further in the workplace. Not being able to be financially independent from my father left a void in her life which she tried to fill, using her skilled hands to style hair and eventually her business smarts to run her own hair salon. Then she noticed the poor diet and lifestyle I had started to adopt since I had no parents at home. Thus, my mother sold her salon in order to look after me. Though society makes it seem as though there is a choice, there really is not– unless a woman really wants to torture herself. One of the few things absolutely clear about this problem is that it is not made up for the sake of stirring up debate. It truly does affect all educated women, and if women give up working for their families all the time, will women disappear from the work place? How disappointed would the feminist leaders of the early 1900’s be? Certainly women must persevere. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away, and saying “That’s just the way it is” won’t make it any less of a problem. We must do something about it. I believe we women have needs in life: to lead our own careers and make an impact on the world as a whole, and to be with our family and look after our children. I think my sister is being extremely smart: until she is age forty, she will pursue her career, then adopt. This way, she will satisfy all her needs and provide guidance to a child who otherwise would have no guardian. I realize that this is not an ideal solution for many women, however, and certainly not realistic to think that it will be employed by everyone. Perhaps if the wage differences between men and woman are obliterated, and the government and businesses provide better health and child care, this dilemma for working women will disappear as well. Raising awareness of the problem will also raise the number of possible solutions.
Even though I might be in the same position not too many years from now this was the first time the problem of deciding between family and work has ever occurred to me. Despite occasional thoughts about my career, I was never too concerned about this issue as much as the authors of the articles were. After reading a blog post at Anushay’s point and researching a few more articles, I realized that this was a serious problem which was worthy of being publicly discussed. For many years, women have fought for their freedom and equal rights and finally gained enough respect to participate in the labor force. Many things have changed over the course of history. However, men have remained in their positions, simply working, and earning money to meet the demands of their families. I believe that it is time for another change, only this time, for men and not for women. Men’s role was always to work and bring home money, and women’s role was always to stay home and take care of the house and children. Now that women are taking part of men’s role, men should take part of women’s role as well. Surely it is unfair for women to continue their roles from the past and carry out additional roles along with men. This problem has occurred because the men were only responsible for themselves and personal work instead of being responsible for the house chores and family. If couples shared their roles with each other, both house chores and work would be done efficiently without having to only sacrifice women’s time. Despite different customs and cultures, this problem is universal in almost all countries in the world. Women have worked hard to gain equal rights. Both men and women have reached a point at which they are treated almost as equals. Rather than figuring out methods for women to efficiently complete both tasks, the next step for men and women to be completely equal is to divide the roles of women and men. I hope to see in the near future where men and women work together at the work place and at home.