It is the common theme running through conversations I have with my friends who are mothers – many are exhausted, trying to find the work/life balance and determined to do the best for their children and families. I am beginning to think we are setting the bar too high.
The glow has gone from their faces. They were vibrant, career minded women in there 20s who could concur the world. A couple of kids later and we are all struggling to work out how to bring up children to the best of our ability and still concur the world. Some of my friends have full-time jobs, some study, some have part-time jobs and if they are at home with their children, they are looking for something else to go with it. All are trying to work out the best way to be a mother in the 21st Century.
Case in point is high-profile journalist and mother of 2, Georgie Gardner who left Channel 9’s Today Show last week citing she needed to spend more time with her children and ‘give back to her family’. She wanted to be at home when her children woke up and start the day with them. She wanted sit around the table to eat rice bubbles and get her little darlings off to school in the morning. Maybe she wanted to do reading at school occasionally and pack their lunches in the morning rather than be at work at 4am five days a week. I get it, but Georgie has been the perfect role model for many mothers and it was a sad day when she realised she just couldn’t be everything. It made me angry and sad at the same time – sad because she is a high-profile mother and can’t do it all and angry because she wants to do it all but has realised she can’t. Her, along with many other high-profile mum’s look like they have it all together and really they are just like the rest of us trying to find the balance.
Even on Channel 9’s House Husbands last night, the message from couple Abi and Mark was that they are setting their bar too high. They are trying to achieve too much in a limited amount of time. They have two children, one aged 6 months, and Abi has gone back to work as a doctor in Emergency and still breastfeeding. Mark has started his own marketing business and is now buying a pub. They are still trying to be exceptional parents and ensure their children are getting the best nutrition, education and love.
I know myself, the thought of being a stay at home mum nearly killed me and the short times I did have to do it, I chose to study and finished two degrees. I went back to uni at 39 weeks pregnant with my first child and had to ask my lecturers if they minded if I bought my baby to lectures next week. Since then, I have juggled work, study and children – most often a combination of all three. It is exhausting and mostly I don’t feel like I am doing anything well but my bar is high.
So the question is, are our generation of mothers setting the bar too high? Are we showing we can be exceptional in all areas of our lives and ‘have it all’ at the expense of ourselves?
Why can’t we be content with the way our grandparents bought up our parents or with generations before that? As a large generalisation, our grandmothers mostly didn’t work, didn’t go to university as a rule and didn’t have to take their children to 25 afterschool activities to feel satisfied. It was a different time back then. They had cups of tea with their neighbours and the kids who lived over the back would be your friends. They lived in a community, not an economy. (My dear Grandmother was an exception, she studied at a college and worked as an advertising executive in the city in her early 20s. That was unheard off. She then spent the rest of her life having children and diligently following my grandfather around. She had a taste of freedom and independence, but then had to revert back to the norm of the day).
It was the women of the baby boomers who put the spanner in the works, right? It became a woman’s right to have an education, go out of the house to earn a living and fight for equality. They were admired for doing this.
Now, our generation is trying to work, have children and maintain an equally well run household because our mothers and society taught us we could be what ever we wanted to be in this world and we could have it all. While trying to do this we still feel a duty to our husbands (because we married them) and a duty to our children to do the best we can for them. I just heard on the radio that 4 out of 10 women earn more than their husband. That is probably 4 in 10 women who are trying to keep it all together, at the expense of their selves.
Added to this, we are now teaching our girls to get a good education and they will have the choice to be who ever they want to be in their life. Are we the best role model? Are we setting them up for a fall?
I am not for one minute suggesting we should be a 1950s housewife and revert back to lack of equality for women, but I am suggesting that we may be setting our bar just that little bit to high. We have an education and a determination to be something else and couldn’t go back to 1950s but could lower the bar a little? Or are we too far along?
Do you think this generation of women is successfully ‘having it all’? Are we setting the bar too high? Get involved with this debate now but adding your comment below.
To read more on this, click here for a straight from the heart account from the U.S. State Department’s first woman director of policy planning who left her high-flying career to be with her teenage boys.