Monday, 26 March 2012

Career vs. Family – the 21st Century Struggle

The world we live in is one plagued with many injustices, discrimination and inequality. Society plays a significant role in how we perceive each other, our environment and ourselves, and more so on what we consider to be unjust, biased or unequal. On a more positive note, today’s society has come a long way in the past centuries, abolishing slavery, abolishing child labour, interracial mingling and the feminist movement, which laid the foundation for the establishment of equal opportunities for women. However, the past progresses can be misleading. Yes, slavery has been abolished according to history and society, but what about the increasingly vast amount of women and children sold into sexual slavery? Yes, child labour is illegal according to international law,[1] but what about the immense amount of children working in factories for less than a dollar a day? Yes, we have changed our views on interracial mingling, but still there are cultures that require marrying their own ethnicity. Yes, women have come a long way since being perceived as mere brooding machines and homemakers and have equal opportunities as men, but what about the choice imposed by society to choose between a career and a family?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not deprecating the progress made over the past centuries. I am fully aware that had I been born a century ago I would not have enjoyed the same rights, privileges and experience that I enjoy and cherish today. I am fortunate to be of this age, having enjoyed education, a decent living, not experiencing war and being able to pursue my dreams without facing the obstacle of withheld because of my gender, because I’m a girl. However, it must be said, regardless of the progress made in the past centuries, society still determines the role that women take upon themselves.

Moreover, in today’s society women do have more possibilities and opportunities and are treated (partially) equal to men. However, there is still one issue which 21st century women face, the issue of having to choose between a career and a family. Of course there are those amazing women who somehow make it work. Being able to work eight hours a day, cook dinner and tuck their kids into bed without seemingly breaking a sweat. However, there are negative presumptions surrounding the “career-mommy”, such as the effects it has on the children, the home and even the physical and mental health of the women. But the real question is does today’s society support, or better put, encourage either career focused mothers or stay-at-home moms?

Society seems to diminish the value of full-time motherhood. Ridiculing stay-at-home mothers because they are unemployed and their home activities do not contribute to society as a whole. Stay-at-home mothers will often be socially stigmatized as having too much time on their hands, not doing any work whatsoever and having rich husbands. Dealing with comments like; “When the kids grow up, will you get a real job?”, “If I had a rich husband I wouldn’t work either?”, “I’d love to have some extra time on my hands?”, and many more comments which demean the activities of stay at home mothers. The social stigma surrounding stay-at-home mothers clearly indicate that society is unsporting and discouraging towards women who chose their family over their careers.

Similarly, society also imposes a stigma on working mothers. Working mothers also deal with their share of unpleasant comments, such as “You must feel so guilty”, “it must be hard missing all the special moments” and “aren’t you worried your children will hate you because you were never home?” Society places working mothers in no better position than those who stay at home.

The 21st Century is one of female importance and leadership. Many societies have accepted and embraced women, their strengths, contributions and attributes. Yes, hurdles, struggles and many challenges still lie before us, and societies social stigmas do not make it any easier. However, to end on a light note, the power to choose the course of their lives belongs to women. Women can choose to stay at home, or choose to be a working mother. Women have choices. Society will belittle either one, but it is not society’s life to live.
By Mellaney A.H. Rodriguez

[1] International Labour Organization Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (date of adoption 17 June 1999, entered into force 19 November 2000 Geneva).

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