Every conversation I have with my mother nowadays seems to end up in the same place: my future. In my mother’s mind, women of my generation are supposed to subscribe to the feminist ideal of female empowerment and putting their career before all else. She often makes me feel like the only way I will lead a fulfilling life is by graduating from college and building a successful career. Only then should I even begin to consider settling down, getting married, and raising a family.
The ironic part is, my mother did just the opposite. She graduated school, married her college sweetheart, then went on to have four children and be a housewife.
A part of me wants to be her opposite—an ambitious workaholic who has no time for feelings or people. But I also have been influenced by her, as I too want to get married and have children, although probably not four of them. I plan to prioritize having a family over any career opportunity I am presented with.
There was a time when I tried to be the ideal modern woman. I used to claim that having a career was so much more important in this day and age than settling down. But every time I saw a cute baby, I would know that not having children would never be an option for me.
Nowadays, people place so much emphasis on having a career that they undermine the value of personal relationships. Relationships are put on the back burner in favor of commitments that will contribute to future career development.
This behavior is especially prevalent in college culture, especially at competitive schools like Georgetown. It is incredibly common to hear people complaining to others that they don’t have time for friends or romantic interests because they are just too busy with clubs and student groups in order to stay ahead of the pack.
The way I see it, the people who you were in contact with, who you made time for, and who made time for you are infinitely more valuable if you want to live a well-rounded life than any kind of work experience or career path you might be pursuing.
I applaud those who find their passion and are fulfilled by pursuing a career they care about. I just hope that they didn’t forgo relationships for the sake of their passions, and that they lead a well-balanced life.
As a woman, having the opportunity to hold a career in almost any field is something that should not be taken for granted—equality has been, and remains, a hard-fought, uphill battle. Women should not be afraid, however, of being labeled as regressive if they feel that focusing solely on a career wouldn’t be fulfilling in and of itself.
I’m not demeaning women who don’t want children or those who think that having a successful career is what they need to feel fulfilled in life, but I recognize that we can empower women in a different way. With all the progress we’ve made toward equality, we have also made it seem as if women only have two options: a career or a family.
Women should be able to strive for a career and a family, or just one or the other without anyone judging them. The long march towards equality has pulled these two futures far apart, when they should be compatible. Women feel pressure to adhere to the new model of being a woman: she is no longer a meek housewife, but a strong, independent career woman.
It’s a shame that many people think being strong, independent, and career-driven, and wanting more traditional things, such as a family, are mutually exclusive. I consider myself a feminist. I believe women should be able to want a career and be as ambitious as men have always been encouraged to be. I also feel strongly that women should not be judged based on whether or not they fit the mold of what is seen as an antiquated family model by today’s standards. Some people, men and women, will always value relationships more than a career or will prioritize having children, and that choice should be equally applauded.
As long as women feel that they have to make the choice between career and family, when these two things are not mutually exclusive for men, equality between the sexes will not be achieved. Equality should not just be about women striving to enter the workforce on equal footing with men, but about women being able to have the same choices and opportunities as men in all aspects of society.