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Instead of ‘can women have it all?’ what if you asked, ‘can we ever be content with our choices?’ Maybe the answers will satisfy us, then!
Can women have it all?
Now that I’ve caught your attention with the cliché, let me admit I don’t believe in the concept. The question is inherently loaded and burdened with a societal expectation that pressures women to have some kind of all, at all times. And yet even before they can begin to answer, tells them that they have already failed. Tricky!
Let me tell you what I think. No one, absolutely no one, can have it ‘all.’ Men can’t, women can’t. My belief solidified further when reading about the immense ‘sacrifices’ on the family front made by James Anderson. He is an English cricketer who recently achieved the feat of 600 International test wickets.
Jacinda Ardern is now a well-known name across the world. She was in news as one of the few female leaders who successfully made New Zealand corona-free under her Prime ministerial-ship. Before this feat, she featured in the national daily a year ago.
She was the first political executive to bring her three month old baby to the UN counsel meeting. Holding the quote by Jim Rohn, ‘If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse’ true.
The timer for women to settle down starts ticking from very early on. I remember when I was growing up, perhaps around 12, I had an aunt who advised my mother to teach me how to cook. Of course my mother was in no hurry.
The point is, girls are trained to take on responsibilities from an early age. She is expected to settle down soon after she finishes her education, which for most of us means 23 or 25 (if you go for post-graduation).
While she does choose to get married, even before she is done settling and exploring the new relationship, a new pressure adds on. Girls are told that their biological clock is ticking and they better get to business. The idea of a fulfilling life is lost somewhere in these timeline validations.
During my pregnancy, I used the time to read as much as possible. I was excited and motivated to take on motherhood with rolled up sleeves. In fact, I even had a mental road-map for my future.
One day I was discussing with one of my colleagues, also a mother, about extending my maternity leave to spend more time with my baby. She was not very pleased to hear this.
With the best of intentions, she told me that the longer I stayed back with the child, the stronger would be my attachment. And that would hold me back from rejoining. Ever! That thought was terrifying.
The competitive and comparative scenario of today leaves us with little choice of our own. If a woman decides to be a ‘stay at home’ mom, she is constantly nudged by friends and family about this new ticking time bomb of the career ‘gap.’
Personally she is hounded with the thought of her education going waste. I heard about my friends going back to work within a year of delivering the baby. While I respect this choice, I am also in awe of them.
I am sure they had to have an extremely strong heart. But the society isn’t kind to these women. Women who choose to join work right after are denounced as over ambitious, self-centred and selfish.
Can we please catch a break! Except for the mother, nobody should be allowed judge what the perfect time to go back to work is.
When I sat down to ponder over these two aspects, I wondered if it was really that difficult for women to have the best of both worlds. Maybe I wanted too much.
I was stubborn enough to not want to give up my career. But I also wanted to soak in full measure the experience of my child becoming a person. I wanted to be there for every bit – the first walk, the first words.
While my own mother told me that letting go of the career for now is a compromise I ought to make for happiness, I wasn’t convinced. The definition of happiness is different for each one of us.
I draw my inspiration from some very uplifting stories of women who have done it all. Our home grown champion, Mary Kom had twins and yet returned to her game and won a gold at the world championship. Sania Mirza, my current role model, tags her son along with her to her practice sessions.
Women have immense potential to push ourselves. We can love our babies, spend quality time with them and focus on our careers and future goals. It goes without saying that this will be possible only with the support of our families.
The moments that we spend with our babies today need to savoured and cherished. As the famous spiritual guru, Sadhguru says, a child is a 15 year project, and if not loved and taken care of, it can continue for a lifetime.
According to a survey conducted by FitSmallBusiness.com, men might own more businesses, but female owned businesses create more revenues. Firms under women leadership generate more job opportunities.
The rising number of women entrepreneurs might appear as a product of women’s growing passion for business, but it is more need based. A self-owned firm gives women a sense of individuality and affirms their capacity to evolve naturally.
I did not have to look very far for success stories. A close friend started her own clothing venture soon after her kid turned one. Today, with two toddlers by her side, she is steadily steering and making name for herself.
Our residential society inmates also support the businesses (small and big) owned and run by females. The ventures are varied, some are baking fresh cakes. And others are home chefs proving their culinary mettle through continental to Mughlai cuisines that are being delivered to door steps. Some others have started home tutoring and have students vouching for their mentor-ship. These are only a few examples. All these moms are doing well for themselves.
Motherhood has made me explore myself. There is so much more that I am doing every day. I am discovering myself.
Going back to where we started, the right question to ask women and men, then perhaps is, ‘Can we ever be content with our choices?’ The answer to this question is very human and very personal. And to the question, ‘can women have it all?’ My answer is, why not! Just let me define my own ‘all.’
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels
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