My jaw dropped to the floor. I was explaining to the scouts leader that my son couldn’t make to the excursion because I was travelling for work and she hit me with “it’s ok, you are one of those women.” I couldn’t find words to express my surprise but it didn’t matter anyway because whatever I say in these situations – I never win. It’s frustrating that mothers are constantly judged for their choices, even by other women. If I’m around career focused women I’m just a part-timer. In stay-at-home mum circles, I’m a type A. It feels like women must be penalised for their freedom to choose.
I often think of my mum and the options she had when she got married and had children. Not many. But thanks to the pioneering women that fought and continue to fight for gender equality we can now celebrate that many of us have choices. We are free to commit to marriage or singlehood, pursue a career, get a degree – with or without children. Our focus, however, shouldn’t be on the choices women make but on enabling all women to be in a position to choose. Once we reach a critical mass of females empowered by choice, we as a society will be less critical of the paths that each of us choose.
So yes Mrs scouts leader, I’m one of those women lucky enough to have been able to decide. A woman with a couple of degrees and two decades of work experience. A woman who believes that females are as capable as males in the workforce and outside and that curbing their enthusiasm to pursue a successful career is a disfavour to the sisterhood.
But I’m also one of those women that are big fans of childhood. A grown up that loves children’s birthday parties. A mum that loves to hate the homework dramas, the school run in the morning, the sibling quibbling, the lego pieces scattered everywhere, the healthy lunch boxes that return home untouched.
I’m one of those women that want both worlds but that derailed her career to focus on the family – for childhood is too short. A woman who believes that there is no right or wrong choice, that we each have our individual motivations and belief systems and should be encouraged to make decisions based on what meets our needs more closely.
Ultimately, I’m a woman who thinks that educated women and men should extend their attention to the women that have little or no choices. As a society we should put our energy on creating the conditions to allow every women to be able to choose. Choice should not be restricted to educated white females that are lucky enough to find supportive employers and partners.
Next time you meet someone that chose a path different to yours try not to judge. Instead, celebrate that given the opportunity, women can be any kind of woman they want to be.