It must be spring. Calls for nominations of women of influence for various awards seem to be blooming in all my ladies’ magazines. Calls for applications for various fellowships and other Gold Medals awarded to “outstanding graduating students” are raining down at McGill. I seem to stumble on “most influential woman under 30” and “young person of the year” awards everywhere. Maybe this is just a reflection of my own insecurities. Maybe this is one of the reasons women are delaying childbirth and having fewer children: Our society burns the fuel of external recognition and motherhood provides very little of that. At this point, I’m not quite sure which of the two needs fixing: my insecurities or the world. Likely both.
At the risk of being offered some cheese with my whine, seeing a beautiful, single, 30-year-old career woman receive an achievement award makes me in equal part depressed, envious and somewhat bitter. All the more if she fits in size four pants, but I digress. This is in no small part due to the fact that I am a married, 34-year-old mother of five who will never again fit into size four designer pants unless I get morbidly sick.
Newly minted with a Master’s degree, I am looking for a job with a resume that is, well, very similar to what it was when I graduated from high school in 1992. Odd jobs, volunteer work, you know what I mean? I resent the fact that I have to remind myself that the subtext of my threadbare resume is “five children.” I have to remind myself that getting a Master’s degree while caring for a household of seven is worth a Gold Medal even though I will never get one. I have to remind myself that my utter lack of professional experience and connections is the cost of committing the last 12 years of my life to carrying, delivering and raising five little persons. And finally, I have to remind myself that if I never get an achievement award but if my children grow into “competent, responsible, considerate, and generous men and women who are committed to live by principles of integrity” (to quote writer James Stenson ) , I will have been successful beyond measure.
But today, I resent having to remind myself. Because it should be obvious and it is not. I don’t think that putting professional aspirations on hold while children are very young is a bad thing. However, women should be able to reintegrate into the workplace post-bambino without feeling like 5, 10, 15 years of their lives have gone the way of the dodo. If we want women to go forth and reproduce, we have our work cut out convincing them that they will not just disappear under a pile of housework. That’s just one of the ways in which being pro-life starts by being pro-woman.
Andrea adds some spring flowers to accompany the spring rant, a very fine rant, Véronique, and I do agree–it ought to be obvious that what you are doing is worthy of a gold medal. In the interim, before attitudes change, some flowers.
Tanya adds: A woman has such a peculiar role to attempt to fill in today’s western society. Stay-at-home mothers are sacrificing their dreams and financial security for the sake of family. (Oh! what noble martyrs we are.) Career women sacrifice their families for their own personal goals. (Images of a briefcase wielding woman who missed her child’s soccer game come to mind?) For the most part we are either pitied or scorned by others (and sometimes ourselves). I suppose we should start by fixing our own insecurities if we want the world to view us any differently. (We can’t fix the world if we’re broken.) I’d say we need to reasonably adopt the mantra, “If mom is happy, then everyone’s happy.”