Thursday, May 3, 2012

I am the Modern Woman & I'm Afraid to Let Her Down

OK peeps - I know this is the millionth time I've said "I'm back on the blog!" or "This time, I mean it!" etcetera etcetera etcetera.

But I mean it this time. Especially because I've redone the look and, more importantly, the focus. Before - there really wasn't a focus besides my yoga practice, some of my cooking, and my life in general. That is a sort of focus, but it didn't really resonate with me, at least enough to write more often.

So I took to thinking - what do I spend my days thinking about? Although I do think about my yoga, my cooking, I'm usually thinking more about how I can balance it all. Hence, the new focus.

I think "career women"--especially those in their 20s and even 30s--are often not allowed to talk about balance. We're career women - there's no need for balance. We glorify successful women, even though we mentally take note that they're 36, married to someone equally successful, without any children. All of those things are fine in and of themselves and there's no need to judge--but without knowing them personally, we don't see the full story. Does their marriage work well, that they're both busy and successful, or do they have trouble connecting? Do they desire children? Do they have difficulty balancing their jobs with the rest of their lives?

I also understand that such thoughts are not usually for public consumption--but even privately, in my own circles, I see and hear the tension. We're supposed to outwardly be ok with, even enjoy, working long and hard hours--why can't we admit that though we're willing to do it and though we enjoy our work, that it's not easy? It doesn't make us any less committed or dedicated to our work. It just states the obvious.

I was recently inspired by a story I read on HuffingtonPost, called "Wanting to Have a Baby in My Twenties." I was immediately drawn to this when it popped in my inbox. I'm 29 and have spent almost 9 years with my now-husband. We both know we want children. So it's on our radar. It doesn't mean we're trying at this moment--but it means I have to start thinking about how I will balance it all.

I don't identify with all of the sentiments written by Kate Fridkis in the article above, such as being scared of motherhood or feeling like she never wanted to be a mom. It's not that I always pined to be a mother--but I think I always assumed I would be at some point in my life. And, after many a day taking care of a neighbor's child who is practically a nephew now, I know I will enjoy and be good at motherhood.

But I was struck when she wrote:

I don't know why I think that having a baby means giving up on my career. I'm not sure why they are these two totally separate paths in my mind. But I do know that here, in this city, at this age, having a baby is not the thing to do. It is probably the last thing to do. When I got married, so young, I was already being weird. 
It is a problem because my generation is bursting with young women who are taking over cities, out-earning their male counterparts, flinging themselves at their highest goals. 
It is a problem because somehow motherhood and success are these distinct things, in a society that is always trying to pretend it values everything equally and at the same time has to keep publishing op-eds about whether or not the sexual revolution was a good idea.
It is a problem because I am the modern woman, but I am afraid of letting her down.

Unfortunately, I worry that this is becoming the definition of the modern woman. So join me on my journey. Join me in redefining the modern woman as one who not excels in just one aspect of her life, but is able to balance, as best she can, the different aspects of her life. Join me on my personal journey of working my hardest at my career, nurturing my marriage, tending to my soul, and preparing all these things for starting a family.

5 comments:

  1. I feel like the focus is consistently on how a woman is going to be able to balance career and family. For a married or committed mother, I feel like a more appropriate question is how are WE going to balance our careers and family. What is the proper balance for our family? I feel incredibly lucky to live in an era where it is socially acceptable for my husband to equally share childcare duties with me, or even to take on the role of primary caregiver if that's what works for us.

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    1. Do you mean that too many people speak about the subject in general? I agree, though, I think when people do, it's because they want to raise awareness to the fact that many feel they don't have the permission--either explicit or implicit--to decide this balance for their own family.

      For me personally, I already try to balance work/self/marriage and that is one area I can speak about currently. When I add /baby to the mix, I can only talk about it in the future tense, for obvious reasons!

      My goal is to write about my own personal journey, though I'm sure I'll incorporate the thoughts of others as to what they do in their own families, as well as the hopes for women everywhere. Not to prescribe a particular balance for all, but the freedom to decide for their families what that balance should look like.

      Thank you for commenting!

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    2. Not that too many speak about it in general, but rather that it often comes across as a problem unique to women. I completely agree with you that it is a problem that every individual has to face in their own way. I just feel like one of the consequences of modernity is that men now have to think about balancing work and family in a way that they didn't have to in the past. As women move out into their careers, men are moving in toward the family more, in a way that makes me feel like having a family does not alter my ability to balance career and family any more or less than it alters Patrick's (not sure if that makes sense - tired baby brain!).

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    3. Ah, I see what you're saying. I think it's the flip side of the same coin. I think growing up, women were told we can "have it all" - which isn't true! We can't have it ALL and we need to decide what the appropriate balance should be among the moving parts of our lives.

      "Modern men" often have to battle against the stereotype that says of course they want to be CEO, no matter the price to their family or themselves. That they're somehow "less than" if they aren't the one bringing more of the bacon, be it in money or prestige.

      So, I agree with you! I don't think it's an issue of comparing men vs. women, but rather women vs. expectations of women (and men vs. expectations of men).

      And I can't wait to meet little RoJo :)

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  2. I am 28, have a one year old, and am mid-level executive at a large consulting company. Crazy? Hell yeah. Manageable? Absolutely. Some weeks you're going to focus more on your career than on your family and other weeks it will be the reverse. You can never have 100% balance ALL the time. You just have to see where you're needed the most that day/week and do your best.

    My husband is also a Consultant and the birth of our daughter has affected his work/life balance just as much. He doesn't want to travel as much or work super late like he used to.

    We both try to get home by 5-5:30, spend time with our daughter until 8 (when she falls asleep), and then get back online to finish our work. To us, that's work/life balance.

    If anything, I'm glad we started our family in our 20's because we both are more energetic, playful, and our work responsibilities are less now than they will be in the next 5 years. By the time we're ready to pursue the senior executive positions, Emaan will already be in school and our schedules may be easier to manage.

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