I attended a women’s event while working as a researcher at a British university couple of years ago and we had these wonderful women speak to us about careers and goals and doing great things with our lives.
It was a refreshing time for everyone.
But then came question time and that inevitable question arose.
The question about balancing work and family.
I have found a lot of antagonism against this question in recent times. It is almost becoming a sin to ask a woman at the echelon of her career how she balances work and family.
“Would you ask a man the same question?” is the usual rebuttal.
And this rebuttal leaves me somewhat amused and a tad irritated.
We are women for pete’s sake, living our reality day after day.
How we have to be constantly compared to men is both irritating and amusing, considering that the group of people asking this question about men ceaselessly inundate us about how we ought to run our own things our own way independent of men and all that load of hogwash.
Well, it’s another international women’s day and the theme is “Balance for better” bordering mainly around gender balance in the workplace.
But while the entire internet community would perhaps be occupied with this theme, I wish to poke a sore spot today, something a lot of women are worried about, but which a select few would not let us openly discuss for very silly reasons; and that sore spot is BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY.
In today’s balance for better, women are basically asking for there to be more women in Orthopaedic Surgery and Neurosurgery and Space exploration and Petroleum Engineering and all the professions where you have to work twelve and a half hours straight and sometimes be away from loved ones for months at a time.
Which is a wonderful thing I must emphasise, as I have not to this day, for instance, gotten over the excitement of being ferried across the English Channel from Roscoff, Northern France, to Plymouth, South West England by a female captain, a few years ago.
But I have been silently querying the methodology by which society is currently going about getting this done and I’m genuinely worried about the wellbeing of women in this regard.
At the women’s event I attended, two of our panelists who were professors did say that they did not have children. One of them said that she didn’t want children, but I looked at her face and saw something different.
From the moment that sentence left her lips till the end of the event, that woman wasn’t the same – there was a clear discontent written all over her.
While I am in no position to categorically say what went wrong, I am strongly tempted to believe that she really did want children but the false belief foisted on modern women that children and family were anti-career had sadly caught up with her.
By mainly biological reality, the responsibility of birthing and caring for children in their early years rests squarely on the shoulders of women and there is nothing anyone can do about it without ultimately hurting women.
Former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, did say that “The biological and the career clock are clashing. We can’t have it all as women.”
While discussing her new book, Becoming, Michelle Obama, former FLOTUS in an interview, last year, went a tad sweary when she said:
“That whole ‘you can have it all.’ Nope, not at the same time. That’s a lie. And it’s not always enough to lean in, because that shit doesn’t work all the time.”
What these women are inadvertently doing is to push the narrative, which I strongly disagree with, that to climb to the peak of a demanding career, women would have to sacrifice family life and vice versa.
They are actually trying to say and quite correctly, that women would never do things at the same pace as men, if they choose to be mothers. But that is not the message the outside world is getting.
In fact, I have read on social media in recent times about how marriage inherently frustrates women and how domesticity is something achieving women should be ashamed of identifying with; which is all nonsense and all of its siblings, I must say; a misinterpretation of reality.
It is a fact that no two women possess the same balancing abilities, as one woman can be an astronaut and a fantastic wife and mother at the same time, while another would say she cannot be both for the sake of raising children.
Both stances are valid, but what is infuriating is women on one side of the divide shaming and bullying women on the other side, which we see everyday.
And much more appalling is the media putting pressure on women to go out there to prove their mettle in the work place, else, they are deemed useless.
Can we please learn to stay on our lanes, once and for all?
Professor Francesca Okeke raised 6 children while achieving her PhD in nuclear physics.
Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, Mum to the famous British Cellist Sheku, chose to give up her career as a lecturer at the University to look after her 7 children.
Both absolutely valid choices.
German Defence Minister and Professor of Medicine, Ursula von der Leyen raised 7 children while climbing up her career ladder, while Melinda Gates, wife of former world’s richest man Bill Gates, chose to give up her career in information technology to stay home with her two children and to support her husband.
Both absolutely valid choices.
I am called to be a doctor and I’ll probably fall sick if I stop practising. I intend to have as many children as I possibly can, God willing, while slaying at my job as a research physician.
Some other doctor is probably planning to stay home to raise her children and is absolutely satisfied with it.
Our choices are both valid.
I think we ought to let women be.
While the Proverbs 31 Mama was an international business woman, Deborah was the judge of all Israel and Pricilla was her husband’s business partner; Sarah was a stay at home Madam, Mama Samson was probably a housewife, and Jochebed was, perhaps, just sitting in her tent.
God recognised and blessed all those choices and so must we.
So, while you assess and understand your own personal balancing ability and make your choices today, dear woman, ensure that you are not coerced into sacrificing your personal happiness in the process.