I grew up in a less typical American household, where my mother was the primary breadwinner. Working days and nights on end as a midwife, my mother pushed through sleepless days just to make it to school events, drive our family around, or sort through endless loads of laundry.
Though, there were also many times when Mom didn’t make it to games, wasn’t home to iron my uniform, or couldn’t give me the ride. Still I always felt she was always the master puppeteer, making plans for us even when she couldn’t be around. But I remember always kind of dreading that beeper when it went off at night, often signaling one of her patients was in labor. At times, in the angsty teenage years, I even resented my hardworking mother for how much time she spent on her career.
Retrospectively, I both understand and accept the sacrifices my Mother made for us growing up. I see it now as Mom working to give us a life that she did not often sit back to enjoy.
I wonder now, did I get as upset with my Dad? I think there are many factors at play here.
First and foremost, we share an undeniable connection with our mothers, biologically created to care for us even after carrying us through pregnancy.
Second, consciously or unconsciously, women are raised to raise children and make homes. From a young age, most are gifted dolls or kitchen sets, and our play sets the standard for our future roles.
Despite recent controversy over Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s comments on trans women, she makes a very valid point in the speech that brought her considerable notoriety:
“Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage…to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”
Even if not imposed directly through the parents, much of modern education, media, and culture fits women into these frames.
When addressing to the question of women in the workforce, we can understand the complexity of their role and the often associated guilt many working women feel. As the expected homemakers, there are undeniable challenges for those who wish to both raise a family and create a comfortable life.
I found myself in conversation with professor, who is both teaching and administrative head of the department, and feeling the strain of motherhood in a career that requires continued academic scholarship. In her words, “It sucks trying to have it all. I feel like I’m mediocre at everything.”
A recent study from Pew entitled,”Women may never make up half the U.S. workforce”, follows the role of women in the workforce since a major influx in the 1950’s, and a recent decline.
Among the many reasons?
According to a New York Times study on the declining female work force, 61 percent of nonworking women cite family responsibilities as the reason.
I do not imply that women are forced into motherhood, as it is assumed most happily embrace the role. But how do we divide responsibility among both parents, and remind women that they need not sacrifice a career or other endeavors to be the perfect mother?
Featured image source: flashfree