We are taking a chance for a better future
“Motherhood is not where dreams go to die.” When I saw this headline on today.com’s website, words of a frustrated mother I had met years ago at a volunteering camp flooded my mind. Minutes into a discussion about ‘a woman and her dreams’, she asked: “why do women’s dream die once they get married”? I just nodded in affirmation to a truth I was coming to terms with for lack of words to give an answer. I had thought along those lines, too, before that day.
Before I got married, I visited a married couple; and when I got a chance to speak with the wife, she was saddened about leaving a high-paying job in one city so she could settle down at another with her spouse. And having taken that step, it became increasingly difficult to find another job. Surviving on a single income source was not sustainable, and sometimes she felt her life was wasting away as she couldn’t find a platform to express her skills and abilities.
Again, not too long ago, a top executive featured in Warwick Business School her alma mater had this to say about the challenges women face on the journey of motherhood and the benefit to society and organizations if women were to get the support they need.
“We have a lot of women at the entry point – but at mid-career, when they start getting married and having kids, women start to disappear and that is at the management level. We need to do more to ensure women can stay in their career…if we have more women empowered and educated, social issues can be addressed, as well as it leading to diversity of thought and experience in organizations.”
In my field of work as a women’s issues writer, I have come to discover that of a fact, social issues like domestic, financial and emotional abuses will be reduced to a certain degree if women are intellectually, economically and socially empowered.
A woman will be seen as a person of high value in her marriage and family rather than a liability if she is empowered. She is less susceptible to those forms of abuses because her contribution to her husband and family is invaluable. There are fewer tensions in the home that lead to strife and battery because resources are flowing in. And not only that, women can now make decisions which affect their wellbeing directly. This impacts her confidence, and therefore her output in her family and in life.
Compare the benefit of a woman’s empowerment in her home to an organisation. At whatever time employees cannot contribute to the bottom line, they are at risk of losing their jobs because they don’t have value anymore. Although a marriage relationship is a covenant kind of relationship, so you don’t get to bolt out when things aren’t working financially; however, the burden of keeping the home going is lessened when both partners are contributing to their household’s income.
…the story of Mileva Maric
Talking about the impact of creating an enabling environment for women to pursue their ambitions, the story of Mileva Marić is apt here.
When you hear about the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein quickly comes to mind. Albert Einstein has been famed since the 20th century as the Father of Relativity. However, few people know that his first wife Mileva Marić was part of that success story. Recent research reveals that in letters exchanged between Mileva and Einstein, he referred to the paper on relativity as their ‘work’.
This finding has provided insight as to the extent of her contribution to the theory of relativity.
She was also a talented physicist; however, she didn’t get the chance to develop her potential or express her talent. She encountered an avalanche of obstacles. She got pregnant, attended a boys’ only school, and her professor had a bias toward her and Einstein. He deliberately reduced her scores such that she could barely get the pass mark in her final year, and of course she failed her final exams.
Afterwards, she got married, had two more kids, and that was the end of a nearly-successful intellectual journey. If Mileva had contributed to Albert’s life as history and research shows, first during their studies in a Zurich polytechnic and also to his work on relativity, I wonder how much more her intellectual capabilities would have benefited society if she had continued with her studies.
One forward review for an essay on the life of Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić succinctly puts it like this: ‘…success is not based on gender, but in opportunity, encouragement, and education; and denying such things to women is a sorry waste of gifts that a much troubled world needs”.
Africa and Black women all over the world are celebrating Kamala Harris as the first female Vice-President and Dr. Okonjo Iweala as the first woman to occupy the position of Director General of the World Trade Organisation.
Perhaps these women wouldn’t have come this far in their careers if they didn’t get some form of support at home and on every path that has gotten them to where they are today. I am not saying they had it smooth in their journeys, that they didn’t also get their fair share of biases or gender discrimination; but some form of support enabled the giant strides they have taken so far.
A morning show debate
In a morning show on T.V., the topic discussed was a viral question that surfaced online: “Are women with children truly happy?”
Many women tweeted their responses to answer in the negative. Some regretted not having a life before going down the aisle. Others said they couldn’t continue their careers because of their kids, hence they their career advancement goals were slowed down or completely halted by child-bearing.
A recommendation by one discussant on the talk show that I think was a brilliant suggestion is for grandmothers to be of help to their daughters-in-law when the need arises for them to put in more work to advance in their careers.
One woman, counting the cost of having to stay at home to raise her home-schooled kids, said the result was having well-bred and mannered kids. However, she added “I lost all my life and dreams in the process”. Saying one lost all her life despite the gains is a very strong word. If we dig deeper, this woman may be living an unfulfilling life because she made this enormous sacrifice to raise her kids.
This results not only in economic, social or intellectual loss for the woman involved, but also for her family and then society. When a woman puts the decision to achieve self-fulfilment on hold because of family and kids, though a beautiful time in her life, that time can also be filled with lots of frustration and deep-seated longings to have a life outside housekeeping.
…Glenn Close’s Mom
On the day popular American actress Glenn Close was given her Golden Globe award, she dedicated it to her mom amid tears – saying her mom at 80 years of age had told her that looking back she felt she had wasted her life because she put her career and dreams aside to support her dad’s career.
One working mother says that having a professional life is “an outlet for a woman’s passion and creativity”. And when this outlet is missing, she finds she cannot be fully present in her family even though she is now home full-time. There is this constant pull to do something, to be more. You hear words like “my life should be beyond changing diapers”.
Women who have a professional life and are juggling between family and work are often frustrated and become overwhelmed by the demands associated with having to balance both areas of their lives.
All hands need to be on deck to support mothers in the discharge of their traditional roles, to reduce the burden on women and also to enable them develop their abilities and potential beyond housekeeping and domestic chores. As earlier noted, ignoring the contributions that can come from women will only lead to our collective societal potential being underutilised.
If mothers who stay at home full time get adequate support, they can get a professional life or find activities that help them find self-fulfilment. Also, if working mothers get adequate support at home, and at work, they can advance in their careers and also be effective at home because they will have more time to put in quality effort to keep the home front flourishing.
Mothers are responsible for bringing new humans to life, and they also nurture the children that are the future of our society. When mothers are not supported, they become unable to give their best to the children who will become tomorrow’s leaders and our future. The result will be children and youths who become dysfunctional.
When spouses and extended family members give support to the women in their lives, it not only benefits the women, but also rubs off on the household and then society – because every family is a unit of society. For example, one American family engaged in what they termed ‘successful partnering’. The husband celebrated the gains from having to support his wife’s career and ambition. “It opened up new experiences and opportunities for our family,” he said.
Government institutions should make and implement policies and programs that are geared toward orienting people at every level in society to support mothers. They should create more awareness about skill development programs and loans and grants that are available to support women-led businesses.
These loans and business support initiatives are available, but not many women are aware of their availability; or enough is not being done to get the information to women at the grassroots. More research should be done to ascertain why women are not taking advantage of business support services created specifically for them.
Although due to the pandemic, working from home is gradually becoming the norm, organisations should also extend programs designed to help mothers combine motherhood and career to also accommodate female staffs in lower roles. Small and medium organisations should also be involved in implementing programs and policies that support mothers.
Women should also explore other avenues to having a professional life. A 9-5 role isn’t the only way to continue in the pursuit of career advancement. Running an online or brick and mortar business, freelancing, consulting based on your years of experience and expertise, running a social enterprise or non-profit, and remote jobs are some of the ways that can enable career advancement. The term ‘career’ shouldn’t be limited to landing roles in corporate organisations.
>>>The writer is a women’s issue writer and researcher. She is the founder of hapiwify.com.ng an online resource platform that helps young women navigate the challenges associated with combining motherhood and pursuing their career ambitions. She can be reached by mail on [email protected]. Linkedin: Awunli Edith Eghosasere. Instagram: @awunlieghosasere.