Sexism and motherhood and what really matters

Seething I push ‘off’ on the phone. Pushing the button ‘off’ didn’t 1950s-housewife satisfy the frustration I felt. Slamming the phone old school back onto its ‘hook’ would have been more fulfilling.

Why was I so furious?

Someone on the other end of the line had told me she ‘didn’t know why women would do that type of a job’!

What kind of job you wonder.

The career of a top executive or CEO. One who is on call 24/7.

Now let me set you straight. I’m not someone who has been remarkably driven. My career has flipped flopped and wandered down a rather slow and lazy river. I enjoy working but like many women who are mothers, many of my career decisions, up to recently, have been chosen on how it worked with my family, but now with teenage children my world is slowly opening up to the many possibilities on offer. I’m starting to dream again and make plans. It’s new and exciting.  I’ve enjoyed being home with my children in a mix of full and part-time positions. The jobs I’ve taken, particularly the part-time positions were my decisions, as truth be told my partner would probably have preferred I’d earned more dosh over the years. But this doesn’t mean the choices I made are for everyone. Some women, including some that are mothers know what they want in life and happy to keep striding toward their goals, baby or no baby. I have no qualms with this.

Women like men, should be able to choose what is right for them, regardless of their position in life. Unfortunately those in the lower socio-economic grouping have fewer options, likewise those who live in the third world.

So here I am on the phone and I happen to mention, that I wouldn’t want the position of a CEO, and being on call 24/7. And this is when the unnamed caller made the above remark. The remark came from someone who was in her late 20’s during the 1970’s, the time of the ‘second wave’ of feminism.

I mentioned she had made a sexist remark. She disagreed and said that women were too busy as they had children to care for, houses to clean ecetera. What about the CEO who is a father, is he in the wrong choosing a career where he works long hours? Fuming I gave examples of women friends who had kept working full-time in high pressure positions, some used nannies or childcare, while others had husbands who were happy to stay home with their children, most often because my friends earned more than their husbands/partners, and of course loved their chosen career. Although this didn’t mean they didn’t have heartache some mornings when they left for work or times when they yearned to be home instead. Just the like the mother who chose to be home with her children, but at times wished she was at her work desk, nattering about some frivolous TV programme she’d sat and watched the night before at the early time of 7 pm (the time when her child always argues about going to bed), instead of standing in the kitchen cutting sandwiches in three different ways to keep the peace. Life isn’t easy, and the last thing a woman, and especially a mother needs, is to be criticized for the decisions she made as woman and a mother.

Helen Clark, ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand and currently the third most powerful person at the UN, in charge of the United Nations Development Programme.

Helen Clark, ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand and currently the third most powerful person at the UN, in charge of the United Nations Development Programme. Go Sister!

We don’t have to be slaves to past culture constraints, we can liberate ourselves, because to be honest I want my daughter to know she has choices and that she can be or do anything she wants regardless of her sex, and I want my son to understand that the women’s role isn’t only in the home and that women are equal to men.

We all have choices, both men and women, let us all live the life we desire whether it is working in the home with our loved ones or commuting into the city to work in a commercial high-rise building.

What do you think about this issue? Have you faced sexism? Should women be the main caregiver for their children? If you have a family how do share the role of parenthood and career, if you share that is? Have you made compromises?


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