Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Question of Having it All

Increasingly we live in a society that tells women that not only can they ‘have it all’ but that they absolutely should. It has almost become an expectation that young women today should aspire to have a high power career, a fantastic relationship with a romantic partner, a large social circle and active social life, a string of hobbies and interests, to be attractive, fit and in shape, a clean and tidy house and to juggle all of this with having children. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

As much as society seems to be telling women they should be ‘having it all’, it doesn’t seem to be making it any easier for women to achieve this. Currently female unemployment in the UK is at a 25 year high and increasingly middle aged women are the first to be made redundant, and the last to be hired. Women still do the majority of the domestic labour and on average the amount of cooking, cleaning and childcare done by men has changed little since the 80s. The cost of childcare continues to rise even though wages do not. This isn’t just about facts and statistics; it’s about real life experiences.

This week at work one of my male colleagues finished at 3 on Friday (our office hours are until 5.30) to go and pick his daughter up from school because he wanted to spend some time with her and take her to the park and he was widely praised for being a fantastic dad. Now I’m by no means saying that he isn’t a great parent as I’m sure he is, but there are lots of women in the company who work flexible hours so they can do the school run every day and to spend time with their children when they finish school and to my knowledge no one has ever called them a fantastic parent because they pick their children up from the school gates.  It’s because it is expected from women, in a way it isn’t from men. I’m in no way saying that this is true for everyone, I know many men are stay at home dads, and many do the most of the childcare, but this isn’t the case for the majority of people.  We need to stop expecting women to be superheroes, and to expect more from men when it comes to childcare.

I’ve also experienced women who choose not to have children being called selfish. Whether a woman decides she doesn’t want a baby because of her career, because she values her sleep or because she’d rather not be tied down, I can’t see how this is a selfish decision. Again, I’ve never heard a man be called selfish if he doesn’t have children and doesn’t want to. If anything, having lots of children when the planet has such overpopulation issues can be considered a selfish decision, but it’s very rarely that this will be brought up. Society believes that all women want, and should have children, and any that don’t aren’t ‘normal’.

As a feminist I strongly believe in choice. If a woman wants to and is able to be a stay at home mum, then she should completely do so, and her contribution to society should be valued much higher as raising children is incredibly difficult. If a woman wants to have children and a career, then society should be structured in a way that no only allows this to happen, but actually makes it easier to combine both. If a woman doesn’t want children then she should never be criticised, and she should never be seen as less of a woman because of it, I know plenty of people who believe that having a child is the mark of womanhood, and this is wrong. There are lots of amazing things in life, and having children is only one of them.

It shouldn’t just be a question of having it all and how to achieve that, but also a question of “is having it all right for everyone?” I think for a lot of women, it isn’t, and that is okay. Feminism is about having the freedom to choose, and being supported in that decision.

What about you? How do you feel about having it all?


  1. I def think 'having it all' is something that puts people under a lot of unnecessary stress on a daily basis. I'm currently working 3 jobs, one involves 6am starts and 10pm finishes, writing a daily blog and planing a wedding and on top of that I put myself under pressure to socialise with my friends regularly, spend time with my partner, keep our apartment tidy and our clothes washed, exercise daily, cook daily dinners from scratch. I know i could make things easier for myself, for example one of my jobs is voluntary and i could quit it, i could cut down on blogging and i could have the occasional microwaved meal but i think theres a huge pressure on women in society to have to get on with all this stuff.

    My partner works very hard but he works a regular 9-5 job and when he comes home in the evening he has the whole evening to chill out and watch tv or whatever. We share the chores 50/50 however its him that receives the praise from family and friends, commenting that i should consider myself lucky to have a man that helps me out! The insinuation of course is that he HELPS me out because the chores are MY job in the first place. On the occasion that i don't cook him dinner (he hates spinach and i love it therefore at least on a weekly basis he won't like what i've cooked) i get berated from my mum for not cooking him an alternative dinner, not even considering how much more time i would have to spend cooking a completely different meal from scratch. There's even been suggestions i should only eat meals that Chris likes!

    I'm only 22 so i'm fully aware that this could all change but at the moment i'm of the opinion that i don't want to have children. The main reason for this is because so far i feel like i've spent years with a balancing act of jobs, university, household etc and this will continue for years to come with getting married and then we have plans to relocate back down south. I look forward to my 30's as a time when i've become settled, where i have time to relax in the home that i've nurtured and spend my money on travelling the world with Chris. Children don't factor into my plans. As a consequence i've been called selfish and immature and i do get very patronised by people saying when i grow up I'll change my mind (which i'm not saying won't happen but i know my own mind at this point in time).

    There have been people in my family who haven't had children and they've always been labelled a bit strange, there's been speculation that maybe they had problems conceiving because of course EVERYONE wants children right? It can't just be that they're happy with their lives as they are, it MUST be because they're biologically unable. I have total admiration for those who have children, they've done something that I'm not sure i would ever manage, however i agree with you that its all about choice and everyone should be able to make their own decisions without fear of judgement.

    haha rant over :)

    1. Chelsea I have to say I think you are an inspiration! I literally think you must be a time lord or something to fit everything in. But then as the saying goes, nothing worth doing is easy.

      Well of course! I know how frustrating it is when people think you are being 'helped'. Tom and I are similar and try and split stuff, I do the cooking and Tom helps me, I call him my sous chef, and then he tends to do the washing up because I really can't stand it. People like telling me how amazing he is to me, which of course he is, but him doing the washing up 'for me' isn't high on my list of his amazing qualities. I love him for being him, not because he clears up 50% of the mess we BOTH make.

      I can completely relate to the meals thing. I'm in the process of converting to being a vegetarian, something I've chosen to do gradually over 2 or 3 years (I'm pretty much there!) so a few nights a week I cook two versions of the same meal, because I don't feel right pushing my views on Tom, so will do 1 meat and 1 veggie. This isn't something he asks for, he'd happily eat vegetarian food every night (as long as it doesnt involve mushrooms) but I feel this is my decision not his, so if I can I'll make him a meat option a couple of nights. I could make it easier on myself by not, but this is a personal choice. However it really annoys me when people tell me I shouldn't turn vegetarian because it isn't fair on Tom! Or that I'm 'lucky' my boyfriend is so 'accommodating' of my views!

      Urgh, I hate the "when you grow up" talk. Sure as I age I might change my mind on lots of things, but right now I think this [insert thought here] and I would like people to respect it, rather than tell me I'm wrong and that one day I'll feel differently. If now you don't think you will want children, then that is completely fine, after all there is more to life than procreation! I'm completely undecided on children myself. It annoys me when people call not wanting to have children selfish, if anything choosing to have biological children when there are so many waiting to be adopted is selfish, but you don't commonly hear that argument being used against people like you do with the not wanting children is selfish argument.

      Ha, a rant is always a good thing if it makes you feel better! x

    2. Aw thank you Sam. We're completely the same with the washing up, i hate it so Chris does it haha. I prefer to cook alone though, Chris does do some very nice signature dishes however! Well done on the veggie move, I'm not a meat eater really but i also like very few veg! I use a lot of quorn haha and Chris will eat that too but he does like his meat pizzas. It sounds like you've done it really well. I have a feeling this blog could be like therapy for me, haha get used to my rants :) xx


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