Free choice and the pressure to “have it all”

It’s very easy as a society to accept the cultural norms surrounding the idea of family and the gender roles of women and men in terms of child care without realizing the very sexist and problematic nature of the societal division of labor. It is an undeniable fact that women are, by and large, expected to do the majority of the upkeep and childcare around the house. At the same time, our progressing society has seen a new rise of “career women” and an influx of women who are rising to the top of the ranks and co-existing alongside men in jobs that 50 years were solely reserved for those of the male gender.

And this is great, right? It’s so exciting that I, as a young woman, am able to look at female role models in every potential career path I could take (whether that be politics, business, etc.). What isn’t so enthralling is the new developing standard for women: now that we are free from the bonds of homemaking and sewing, we need to have high-ranking, impressive jobs. And have a husband. And kids. And be at home to take care of those kids. Instead of women losing the pressure to conform to a societal ideal of femininity in the home, now women are expected to “have it all.” Societally, women that can do everything perfectly are the new ideal.

As our society continues to progress, we can see a new wave of “shared parenting” and fairer divisions of labor within the modern-day household structure (this was discussed in Lisa Belkin’s article, “When Mom and Dad Share It All”). But will this idea of “having it all” disappear as we break down societal norms? My hope is that with a more societally pervasive practice of “shared parenting,” or at the very least, a fairer division of labor, that the conception of “having it all” could more realistically be attained instead of an inaccessible ideal. Women have a right to access and choices surrounding her own source of income and occupation, family life, and motherhood, and should feel free to choose one or any combination of the above and more to create for herself a fulfilling life. It is when societal pressure forces women to conform to an impossible ideal that the choices women have worked so hard to obtain become debilitating rather than freeing.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

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