As a senior in college, I am reaching a point where I have to make some decisions about my future. I don't think I need to have a plan for the rest of my life, but I know that now is when I should be thinking: What's next? As I've considered this question frequently over the past few months, I've discovered how complicated it is particularly for women to decide on career paths. While this is a long way down the line (at least for me), I have to ask myself: When does a family fit into my life plans? That question affects job plans and grad school plans.
I noticed that dilemma during a conversation with one of the women that lives on my street while I was waiting for my brother at the bus stop. She was asking me about my plans after college. I remarked that "I wasn't sure at the moment." She responded that she had an assortment of jobs after college. She worked in an after-school program for ten years and at a doctor's office. Then, she said that after she had children, she didn't work again because "her career just didn't matter..." When she made that last statement, her voice trailed off, suggesting that there was a mix of emotions packed inside of it. Perhaps, guilt, frustration, angry, indifference... I'm not sure, but it made me realize that this is a big feminist issue! (Note: I don't mean to offend stay-at-home parents. I respect mothers that want to stay at home with their kids because it's a tough job, but in this post I am discussing working moms).
While women are not confined to their homes like in the 1950's, they are now constrained with "mommy guilt" if they work and have a family. Women are expected to be "superheroes" that work all day but have the time to bake cupcakes for their kid's class, read books to their children and cook a delicious meal.
These images of women are perpetuated in media portrayals. The film I Don't Know How She Does It, to be released September 6th, features an overwhelmed Sarah Jessica Parker trying to juggle work, family life, and a husband. I question what the point of the film is. Is it to give viewers a relatable heroine and stick up for working moms? I think one benefit of a film like this is that it contrasts the media images of women that have "it all figured out." The "perfect" mother now has some flaws and maybe women will feel less pressure to be perfect. But is that true? My thought is that even if Sarah Jessica Parker has struggles in this current film, she still finds that balance at the end of the movie, and the storybook ending ensues. But, what happens after the credits roll?
Let's be honest here... While writing this post, I saw a Loreal commercial on television with Julianna Margulies. She stared into the camera, exclaiming, "We all need to do ten things at once. That ages you." She then went on to promote Loreal's new anti-aging face wash. Why is it that "We all need to do ten things at once?" Who told women that? Can women work and be moms without "Mommy guilt"? This issue is also complicated by the fact that daycare in the United Stated isn't great. Anyone above the age of 16 can work in a daycare center in the United States, and the required education for daycare teachers is minimal. This doesn't make it easy for parents to feel comfortable leaving their kids in daycare with some (not all) unskilled professionals.
I'm tired of being told I need to be perfect and look 21 for the rest of my life to be happy.