Be About Your Business

2015-03-31 22:00

A while ago I found myself speaking to some colleagues of mine about ‘how career women balance work and family’. As women in advertising, we love our work, we revel in it and allow that passion to empower us professionally, emotionally and socially. Then the question arose – “Will there ever be an ideal time to have kids when you’re so busy pursuing growth in your profession?”

The thing is - it’s not like we were even complaining about having no time to entertain a life outside of work. Quite the opposite really – at least for me anyway, I found that my love for working had made me question whether or not I even want to have kids. Perhaps my quarter-life crisis might have something to do with my reluctance where companionship, financial stability and overall “readiness” are concerned… but then came the more frowned upon alternative that ‘hey, you know what, it’s okay not to want to have kids – that’s an option too.’

Naturally, some women might argue that it’s a selfish foot to put forth considering the vast number of women who are infertile or simply unable to bear children for some or other reason. I won’t dare to address that in a bid to remain sensitive to that sample of women. However I still maintain that - should the decision to refrain from having kids be something I wish to consider seriously, it would after all be my decision – a sentiment that I imagine so many other women possibly share.

For decades - women have been badgered about their priorities and subjected to public scrutiny in the event that their otherwise "skewed" priorities were deemed inferior and unacceptable. They've been made to feel selfish for the decisions they have made and continue to make to advance themselves, especially in those aspects of life that do not relate to or satisfy the expectations of typical gender roles. Over time, these roles have become so heavily embedded into the conventions that govern our lives that we've adopted these ideals as our own, forsaking our own aspirations in pursuit of a decent life and, in consequence, our own happiness.

Lately I've noticed 'marriage and kids' trending on my social feeds like it's breaking news and everyone's just discovered it! Occasionally, I'll even assume the role of elders in my life by confusing myself into mild-depression with several questions 'why?' Like "Kgau, what's wrong with you? Why aren't you looking for a husband like the other kids? When are you going to have kids? Why aren't you thinking about kids now? Why do you work so much?'

Eventually, I get to a point where I start to think that there's something wrong with me - like perhaps my mind hasn't fully developed the way it's supposed to for an adult who is built to have maternal instincts. So then I spiral into a never-ending series of more questions 'why?' and 'why not?' that eventually bring me right back to the initial thought that, "hang on, actually, the reason I'm not ready for that life is because those are not the goals I have set for myself right now - and that's okay."

Nonetheless, it would seem there are a number of people who measure the prosperity of others by means of assigning a particular meaning to life – and attributing that meaning to the lives of everyone around them. You find that they do this, completely oblivious to the possibility that people hold different perceptions of what constitutes a meaningful life. For some it might mean ‘family’, for others it might mean ‘work’, ‘service’, ‘religion’, ‘relationships’, ‘independence’, sometimes even all the above or other. What it does not mean is that people with an overall sense of accomplishment, are warranted in their misguided tendencies to impose judgment on those who hold different standards - and in effect, making them feel inadequate as women, the way they do towards women who can't have children.

Of course I would like to have kids at some stage in my life but the point I’m trying to make is that if I didn't, I shouldn't have to feel insecure or ashamed to admit it. I shouldn't have to walk around looking over my shoulder, wondering who's judging me because I don't aspire to the kind of lifestyle that's expected of a young woman.

In fact, I feel that there are already so many tensions and complexities into which women are born in our contemporary society - things ranging from gender equality, abuse, infertility, breast cancer and other - that one would expect that the last thing either of us need is other women (and men) dictating how we should manage our time, what we should do with that time, the people to whom we should look when seeking counsel on how to become a “good person” and the like. Instead, we live to pull each other down and delude ourselves that we’re above everybody else who doesn't share the same values that we do.

Fortunately, we live in a progressive country where most women are able to appreciate the value that their individual worth adds to our multifaceted role as women. Fortunately, these are the same women who continue to propel talks of women empowerment, as well as asserting themselves against the misogynist claims of men who undermine their intellect, their purpose, their beauty and differences. Not only are these all notable acts of integrity but they represent something bigger than who we are when we're not alone. As noted in the article ‘Feminism: Know when to raise your fist’, these notable acts further represent an incredible testament of personal development, self-affirmation, self-respect and continuous growth.

Essentially, our inability to discern between what we think is right and what is actually right when discussing other people in relation to ourselves, should be the one thing that redirects our misplaced sense of self in society. It should make us teachable and open-minded to understanding perspectives that are different to our own, as well as understanding that people adopt approaches to balancing work and family that are better suited to their individual needs. Understanding and practicing this is not just a solution that is better for one person, it's a solution that is better for all of us.

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