Be “empowered” but keep me out of it!

March was the month for women to bond and celebrate their achievements in time and history. The word “empowerment” was sprinkled abundantly like flour on pizza. I am all for women having the freedom to make choices; however, individual life choices should never become a burden on society. We should be open to all choices that women make, and not only to those  deemed relevant by the few. In the mid-60’s the women’s liberation movement burnt bras as a symbol of freedom. Although thinking about it right now it makes little sense to liberate the breasts while the brain remains in neutral. The movement fought for women’s rights but it also inadvertantly pushed women in taking up roles they might not have felt comfortable in taking. The likes of Gloria Steinbeck wanted a war on men and consiquently the family nucleus became a casualty. Stay-at-home moms were rediculed, and some women were literally bullied into the work force under the pretense that they could have it all: the kids, the house, and the job. They could”bring home the bacon!” If you couldn’t do it; you were ultimately a failure.

Last week I had an interesting encounter with a German young lady who was elated that women in Germany can take three years off for parental leave and then go back to the workforce if they so chose to. They could really “have it all.” I had to remind her that it was these pollyannaish social benefits that gave Germany the destinction of being one of the most expensive European Union countries to do business in. Women go on maternity leave six weeks prior to birth, and a mandatory eight weeks after. A three-year parental leave option can also be taken in two installments of their choice. My question to the enthusiastic “empowered” lady was: where does that leave the employer? Who carries the burden of work in these women’s absence?  The German maternity social plan reads like the works of Shakespeare on a cold winter’s night. Very long and comfortable only to those who pretend that they really know what Bill was talking about. Pages upon pages of “health” restrictions are embedded deep in a labor law that makes the employer accountable for the well being of the pregnant employee without any consideration to the business.  As my young friend excuberated her enthusiasm, I felt my blood pressure reaching critical mass remembering my own experiences with pregnant employees and my futile attempt at providing adequate staffing to our customers. At least the young enthusiast did remark that she had never thought about the impact on the employer and the business. How convenient!

I think that motherhood is a moment in time all women should experience. As women, it brings relevancy to our lives. After all we are biologically made up to procreate. Also, I am all for freedom to have it all: but at whose expense? It boils down to the fact that someone’s choice to procreate becomes an employer’s problem to try and keep a business going. The employer ends up being the accomodating party through long absences and activity restrictions imposed by law on the individual herself, and the team. The business still needs to run and someone has to run it. All the burden falls on the employer. When I chose to be a mother I did not expect society to be involved in my decision to have a child. I was “empowered” to have a child but I was not empowered to make it someone else’s problem. I chose to have the child and I should be soley responsibile for it and for my well being. Not the government, not the church, not social services, and definitely not my employer.

Women seemed to have gone nova when it comes to “their body.” The continual bombardment of how as women we have the right to make decisions about our bodies is becoming as old as my “new 40” body and equally exhausting. We get it: we want equal pay, equal rights, and equal opportunities, BUT: let’s face it, our biological purpose is reproduction. We have the babies and men don’t. Fellow women: get over it, and please quit moaning that you want it all. As a woman you want to be taken seriously yet when it is convenient you become pathetically maternal and whine that there is a “war on women.” My advice to our current generation of women who feel that their biological clock is ticking and get the urge to reproduce: take a V8, take a shower, watch a movie, text inane messages to someone, but please, please, do not become a parent so that at the first opportunity you put the child in day care to be raised by someone else because you get “bored” at home. If you want personal “growth” read a good book. How many “empowered” women have the guts to tell their kids that they prefer”empowerment” to being a parent?

Has the women’s movement in all their eagerness and anger to get back at men make men inconsequential? Is that why so many women are single mothers? Which is ironic, because when I speak with these strong and hard working women who have to raise and provide for the family single-handedly; they all wish they could stay home and raise their kids. They go to work because they have to and not because they would be “bored” being mothers. How sad that the inherent quality that we have as women: nurtering, should be debased as a nuisance by so many in power. How sadder is the fact that so many women believe that unless we do it all we are worthless?  

My mother raised seven children on my father’s salaryy. Some would say that it was easier in the past. Why? Whatever was considered expensive then would still be considered expensive now, relatively speaking. Needs were different. We did not need a television in every room, an electronic gizmo for every child, and two cars. My father managed to take us around in a VW Bug! When I started my family we followed suit and kept our needs in line with my husband’s military salary. It was taken forgranted that when one starts out one takes it slow and generally borrows furniture or buys it second hand until we grow in our role as parents. Now our “needs” have ballooned into the ludicrous brand mania. The ones at the short end of the stick end up being the kids, the family, society, and employers. 

Although my digression took me all over the place, the thought process remains the same: ladies we cannot have it all. We are only “empowered” as far as doing the right thing for ourselves, our families, and if employed: our employers. We cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we can have the courage and tenacity to realize that to do everything well, we must make hard choices. Those choices should not interfere or put demands on the rest of the world. If there is a “war on women” we are waging it on ourselves because we have become our own worst enemy. We whine, we demand, we expect, and we feel entitled. A few months ago while visiting my 97 year-old mother at the senior’s home. my niece walked in with her toddler to visit. She was lamenting the hardships of motherhood and how she would never have another child because it was too much work. My mother listened patiently and when she left she remarked: “such a fuss, I had seven of you.” How true, and it was my mother who later “empowered” me to be a stay-at-home mum until the children grew up and I could start a career. Not an easy choice, but now I can truthfully say that “I’ve had it all.”

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