Women have it all, right? The women’s curse is that we perceive that we owe it to previous female generations to do more. Yet – women can achieve anything they want today. Take on any job. Be a domestic goddess at will. We also find total balance in this multitasking maze like master jugglers, right? Todays women have new dilemma: Knowing you can do ‘it all’, but feel a pull to do less. Do you too find yourself in the quandary of work — life balance? You know how your forerunners fought for you to have ‘it all’ – but is it perhaps time to claim your right to work and have a healthy lifestyle too? Is it perhaps because you want more?
The Women’s Curse: The Push of Ancestry
The curse of ancestry hangs over women of today. From our ancient roots to our own mothers – our forerunners were just as caught up in an eternal dilemma: What you should do versus what you actually want to. It becomes a curse when you feel you’re not living up to expectations laid upon you.
“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” – Clare Booth Luce keepinspiring.me
Each generation looked back to those before them and felt the pressure to do better than what they had managed. Thus the wheels kept on spinning. How much do our previous generations still guide our decisions now?
Women of the Ancient World
My Viking ancestors would roll over in their graves — or rather laugh out loud — if they heard anyone utter that I am not capable of doing something. I restock the wood, hammer in a nail, and power tool my way through my country life. My Viking ancestry can rest easy on this account.
Women of Scandinavia can look back upon the Vikings however, the ancient history reveals a number of strong, independent women all over the world: The Trung sisters in Vietnam, Boudicca in the UK, Cleopatra in Northern Africa, Penthesilua of the Amazons but to name a few.
Viking women led their own tribes, fought valiantly and brought up strong warrior men and women to take over from them. Viking women’s ability to take on different roles were challenged but rarely questioned. The Viking women organised the domestic tasks in groups, and collectively looked after children, food and household, thus sharing in a way that we can look at in awe today. When I look back at my ancient roots I feel proud — but then I wonder what on earth happened.
When did women become viewed as fragile, less able, and not capable to do certain tasks or jobs? One can argue that the views of women changed because religion came into play – and that men took a lead role in the interpretation of what Gods’ word meant. Other arguments can be made that the new world needed more compartmentalized roles whereby women were deemed ‘better’ to look after domestic priorities.
The Women’s Curse: A Changing World
Somewhere between the ancient world and women of today the world changed. Revolutions, wars and strong female voices made it possible for women to get into decision-making roles again.
Today – unlike many parts of the world, woman in the so-called Westernised world can: Vote; have access to education; enter any professional role (almost); fight in wars; drive a car; own property and inherit.
The way in which we think of ourselves has everything to do with how our world see us and how we see ourselves successfully acknowledged by the world. – Arlene Rankin keepinspiring.me
Today the right to have the same choices as men is often taken for granted. Yet – still the access to child care, domestic relief, flexible work arrangements or medical assistance make some of the choices near impossible for many.
The choice becomes: Choose a given profession over having a life. The strain of overdoing it all has hit the new generation. The fact that our mothers tried to combine it all has made it clear for many women of today that they want more: Work and life on our terms.
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The Women’s Curse: Stereotyping and Glass Ceilings
Stereotyping is alive and well all over the place. Jokes are being pulled over the fact that a woman captains an airplane, or a female chief surgeon’s ability to operate. In daily speak you hear how women age, while men mature. Advertisement still refer to washing and kitchen as a womanly domain – while cookery shows tend to be dominated by male presenters. Am I wrong? Just take a look at the Top Sexist Ads through the ages 1920 – 2015.
Todays’ women are for the most part well aware that no road is closed. We can do what we want if we so choose. The glass ceiling has been cracked in many instances. Women transition between many roles and are learning to art to live.
The many roles of women were far more compartmentalized before. Yet – the pioneering women of my mother’s generation ended up doing it all and more. They cooked dinner for their husbands, cleaned the house, went off to board meetings, and got the groceries in between business trips.
The actual equality between men and women had not yet seeped into the household, and while their ancestors had help at home, the modern woman of the 1980s could not. So – the curse became to overdo it all!
The strain of doing A to Z became all too apparent, even if this was not something women in my mother’s generation would actually talk about. They had sung at Woodstock; burnt the bras; taken part of the civil rights movement; and worn shoulder pads the size of hockey goalies to show that women could do it all.
Our ancestors had to fight battles to get us to where we are today. Our grand mothers and mothers strived to do so much better than the generations before them.
The pull to do ‘it all’ seems to have faded for the new generations. We know we can — but do we want to? The tendency now is that many women leave successful careers leading to the ‘broken window’ effect. This is an interesting article from The Guardian UK: Forget the glass ceiling, we need to fix the broken windows first
I ask myself if ‘to do it all’ in fact means: To do less and better — to get more?
The Women’s Curse: To Do It All or More?
Now the pendulum seems to have gone the other way. My generation has seen many women talking about work — life balance in a new way. The fact that we no longer want to do it all has struck a chord. We want more. We want a life and real work. We want choice. We want it all.
Family life is being recognised as an equal partner in the discussion. Today men and women share the belief that family and domestic logistics are a joint undertaking as it is core to a balanced life.
While the domestics logistics sharing is great, it has come at the expense of overtaxing the 24 hours in a day. We eat take-outs, run to / from child care centres, order diapers on-line and organise playdates via Facebook while answering business mail from the Smartphone.
The core of a stable family life has faded into multi-tasking madness with stressed children and parents. The dilemma for women and men of today is how to find a way back to a balanced work and family life.
The Women’s Curse? Agility and Flexibility
The solution seems to be in a more flexible approach to work itself. The idea that work is centred in a different location where we are chained to a task between set hours has been become questioned.
We find new ways of working. Some work from home, others work away from home, and we look actively for flexible hours and shorter work days. A new generation of domestic engineers ( men and women ) has presented itself proudly and happily — fully dedicated to dealing with home and child care.
The wish to do ‘it all’ has faded in favour of a balanced lifestyle. Perhaps the fact that we know that we can, and are allowed to do all those things our ancestors could not, makes it less pressing.
If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.
We remain eternally grateful for the ancestral fights that allow women now to take the equal rights issue to a new level. The challenge is now: To do it all — with less — for more.
The mantra is not exclusive to man or woman. It is shared. A partnership of work and life, man and woman, wo/man and wo/man. A way to balance our time for what matters most at the end of it all: A healthy fulfilling life that allows us to expand, enjoy, share and live wholly. Together.
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