The past year has given us time to think about what we want, what we need and what we want to achieve. Everyone is questioning how to take on life once this pandemic is over. Personally, I’ve been considering my age and the goals I want to achieve in a given amount of time. At 24, I find myself in a panic over the “lack” of time I have, as the pandemic upends every plan of action.
As the typical millennial, I want to have it all. I want a successful career, the tropical holidays, a beautiful home, and a family of my own one day. When I sat down and calculated the ideal timeline for my goals, I was floored. The answer is to start now. I must do everything and anything to build my career so that in precisely x amount of years I can transfer from a working woman, to a mom.
Clearly, this vision did not fit my current reality. I had to go back to the drawing board. The first thing I reevaluated was why I felt the need to fit into these socially acceptable norms of womanhood. Why did I have to work hard for a career, only to give it up for motherhood? While feminism has come a long way, with businesses filling quotas of women in managerial roles, the evidence still suggests rampant inequality. Simply placing women in these high positions, without scrutinising the structural impediments, does not mend the patriarchal system.
There are still many job applications out there that require you to state whether you have been, or are looking to be, pregnant in the next year or so. Businesses are still skeptical when hiring women in high ranking positions due to maternity leave and motherhood. Due to all of these pressures, I feel pushed to immediately form my identity as a woman. How do I decide between being ambitious and being a mom? I struggle to see the same percentage of men having to make this sacrifice. If anything, the statistics prove that male employability rates as fathers increase due to the perception of reliability, trust and values. If a woman decides to have children, this should be an asset to her identity, another branch of her complex character. Motherhood should not limit a woman's ability to thrive in other areas of life.
I am aware that there are clear biological differences between men and women when it comes to parenthood. With that being said, I also understand the logical differences that come into play due to these circumstances. However, this doesn’t help the fear and angst that I feel now, based on decisions I will have to make at some point in the near future. I have listened to podcasts about women being treated unfairly during maternity leave. In turn, these women used this fire to develop their own stream of income through a small business. There appears to be strict lines separating women who choose different paths. Who has drawn these lines, and what structures in our society continue to uphold these outdated values?
As a privileged, young, white female, I still feel the inequality. I cannot even begin to comprehend the injustices that others may be battling every day. This is simply my voice, and I am choosing to shed light upon an area of injustice. There are many other voices with a story to tell, and walls to break down.
Additionally, there is a vast community of men out there who challenge these injustices every day. We live in a time where fathers are choosing to flip stereotypes on their heads. My intention here is to highlight a lived experience in a patriarchal society. I am young, and I want to be able to fully throw myself into my 20’s without worrying where that leaves me in my 30’s or 40’s. While this may be a personal problem, I genuinely believe many other women are encountering similar dilemmas.
As I embark upon womanhood, I must learn to balance my personal ambitions with my life goals. I must recognize the systemic barriers to my success, and fight to advocate for myself, and the women around me. I know things will eventually fall into place, even though the path may be challenging. I’m prepared to think critically about my future, and make choices that work for me, without conforming to society’s expectations.
Written by: Hannah Mitchell