A woman's place
by: Michelle Rosenberg - Last updated: 2003-10-31
Ah, yes. The million dollar question: what should women be doing? It depends who you ask. The more I speak to my girlfriends, the more it seems there's no hard and fast rule. But Women Beware Women* indeed: we are our own fiercest critics.
It's taken me several jobs to realise that having a £60k job isn't the b-all and end-all. (Not that my pay packet has ever reached anywhere near £60k, but you get the point). I've done the 'suited and booted' bit at the office and now know that it just 'aint me.
I've taken voluntary redundancy to escape a job that was making me miserable and will now be down-sizing the salary in order to do something more creative. So far that creativity has consisted of investigating how many times you can look at your credit card bill and still not see a difference, but I'll get there.
I've reached a point in my life, at the grand old age of 29, where I feel secure enough to sit back and really think about what's important to me and what I really want to do. (This is a big step for someone convinced that if she wasn't a Pulitzer-prize winning author by the age of 20, she might as well admit total and utter failure).
Several of my girlfriends feel the same. Once hankering after career success, they've found taking a step back and re-assessing their options to be just as brave a stride as continuing onwards and upwards with their chosen career path.
The newspapers are filled with stories of women versus women. Those who have chosen work over motherhood and are smugly superior about it. Others who combine motherhood with part-time work. And others still who have chosen to be full-time parents.
Here's what I think. There's no right or wrong in what women do with their lives. Choosing to stay at home and bring up a family is in no way a less impressive choice than working 18 hour days in order to become partner in a law firm.
I find women who judge others for what they are doing or not doing are actually doing women in general a disservice.
I admit that I used to do the judging myself; I couldn't help but haughtily look down on those women who'd 'given it all up' to have a family. The more I speak to other women, the more I feel we do more damage by being so eager to pigeon-hole ourselves into these neat (and often completely stereo-typed) little categories.
Sure, we have more options than previous generations. The opportunities open to us are endless. But it doesn't mean you're a failure if you choose not to pursue them if you honestly don't want to. What is a failure is not having the courage to pursue an opportunity for fear of falling at the first hurdle, or making excuses that we'd do it 'if only we could' or 'if it was an ideal world'. My thought is - if you want to do something, you bloody well go ahead and do it - there's always a way around things if you have the support of friends and family.
It's important to see each woman as an individual and realise that the breadth of experience we have as a generation is impressive - something to treasure rather than criticize. Whether working full or part-time, a mother or a singleton (à la Bridget Jones) surely the sheer diversity of our accomplishments makes our sex is more interesting?
Having a baby or getting married absolutely does not mean the end of the road for our aspirations. Just as having a fulfilling career does not equal an inability to have a relationship or a family.
Instead of dividing ourselves up into little groups of 'who does' and 'who doesn't', we should support each other.
In an age when women can and do achieve beyond our mothers and grandmothers wildest expectations, we should congratulate ourselves on what we are achieving as a whole.
* Jacobean play by Thomas Middleton