“…they said we could have it all, they just didn’t tell us how.’
I got this quote from an episode of Cold Case, a TV programme where detectives try to solve old cases. In this episode they try to unravel the questionable circumstances surrounding the death of a woman almost five years after. She was a woman trying to “have it all” career and a family. In the flashbacks of her life, in a particular scene, her husband took their children to her place of work whilst she was in the middle of a pitch to a client. A work emergency meant he he couldn’t babysit them so she had to deal with it. It turned out to be fortuitous because she was able to show the client just who their customer is; the woman trying to have it all, the career, the family and little emergencies like, crying babies, boisterous young boys and busy husbands, in between.
I’d been wondering how best to tackle this piece preempted by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article about that age old argument; why women still can’t have it all, despite the progressions we have made and the strives for equality and life balance. Certain things will always fall on our door step. I understand where she is coming from, because no matter how high up the career ladder you climb, as a woman, you are still defined by your domestic role. It’s almost sacrilegious to give up family for career because society has made us feel we don’t have a right to. I applaud her candour and respect her courage. As a woman who has been there, done it and seen it all, she can only speak from her experience.
For the most part, women bare the brunt of it; when kids turn out bad its often always the mother’s fault because they ask; where was she when he was unravelling. Hardly is the father put into the equation. So Slaughter’s desire to, after such a high profile career, want to be with her family, especially there for her young sons at ages when they needed her the most, is choice she made. Her choice which shouldn’t be held against her. Her right.
My hope for every woman is to have it all, whatever her “all” may be, and if not all, MOST of all that she wants, without having to feel like she sacrificed some parts of her life for the others. Of course, in life, sacrifices have to be made, but no woman should have to sacrifice more than is necessary; herself. Whether she wants to be a wife and mother, a CEO or a single woman, a woman’s right to choose the life she wants to live should not be based of societal ideals.
As women we are so used to being defined by “our places” and knowing “our roles” and said places where such roles occur are in the home; the kitchen, the bedroom etc. Madams of domesticity. To smile and whisper our opinions, make sacrifices for the greater good because we are nurturers after all. For several eras we have been defined by our battles; in the 19th century it was the right to be seen as a woman and not the property of your husband, the right to divorce and the right to work and keep our money; not hand it to the husband. The 20th century, brought along the bra burning years, fights for the right to vote and to do so the same age as men, equality in the work place, the “90s girl movement” and the “independent woman” throwing her hands up and hollering at the top of her voice about not needing a man to define her. We are also defined and judged by the marital status; married, single, other; if a woman is single and of a certain age, she’s bitter, lonely, or there must be something wrong with her…a married woman; a property of her husband to an extent. There is always a stigma attached to the marital status. We can’t catch a break. In the 21st century we are still fighting for the right to have it all without having to make apologies for wanting it all. And we are getting there; tearing down myths and expectations and shaking things up incredibly. We turn kitchen table ideas into multi million dollar businesses; Carol’s Daughter anyone? Our talent and creativity are now being celebrated and in high demand; JK Rowling was a mother on welfare but is now a millionaire from the sales of her books. We have become forces to reckon with in certain fields whilst some other fields remain a challenge, but we’re not giving up. We balance the CEO gig on one hand, a baby on our waists in the other and cater to our families. Such is the power of a woman. It isn’t easy but women do the damn thing.
Still, there is a longer way to go because it a double edged sword we wield.
The evolution in today’s generation of women is somewhat at a regression; we are facing a shift, more to the left, with the emergence of the new age reality TV star, the WAGs, the “it” girls, the Teen moms and their antics. A case of one step forward, one-hundred steps backwards. New age entrepreneurship is based of the success of a sex tapes and the level of the shenanigans a young girl can rack up. Notoriety and infamy are prerequisites of fame; it is now considered “cool” to have a DWI and look cute in your mug shot. It’s okay to dumb yourself down just to make people laugh at you on a TV show all for ratings and a pay cheque.
Somewhere our fore feminists are rolling in their graves, considering what they had to give up and fight for, just so we could “Keep Up”?
As a woman who grew up in the era of the 90s girl anthem, I too have had to sacrifice dreams in hopes of the “Mrs” Tag until I realised I didn’t want to sacrifice my other dreams for a title, I want to have it all. It took walking away from a relationship to see the bigger picture of Life and the endless possibilities that came with it. And whilst I may not be married or have children, it is a choice I don’t regret because I know that when I do become Mrs Wife-Mother-CEO etc, I will be, in a much better place and a much better person, coming into the union as my own person and not because I want to attain some preconceived ideal of what I am expected to be. It will be my choice.
Options; we all have them. Choices; we all have to make them. But the choices we make from the options we are given don’t necessarily mean sacrificing ourselves to attain our goals, and if the options don’t cover all your basis, then by all means come up with a new set of options and get yours.
Being a woman is the most incredible gift there is, I firmly believe that; whether as a mother, wife, CEO, single girl…it is a gift to do great things, the power to choose what we want to do and oh! the things we do when we decide to do them…