This is a topic that has gone through my head far too many times. It’s hard to find the truth about what reality a lot of young, career-focused, or business-owners have about being Muslim, balancing kids and marriage, as well as the future of the Somali Parenthood.
Let me explain my story. Even if you didn’t come from my particular background(East-African, female, traditional value but grew up in a nontraditional household where the mother was the breadwinner and was educated in some of Western education), you will be able to relate.
Like many other women in their 20’s, I find myself soul-searching and excited about the possibilities of life. I’m currently working on my own start-up and my interests in life aren’t a secret from the thousands of people I have reading this blog.
I was reading this piece by a really edgy blogger I often read, Penelope Trunk–her piece: “Marissa Mayer becomes CEO of Yahoo and Proves women can’t have it all.
As well as this brilliant piece on this topic in The Atlantic by first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter “Why women still can’t have it all”.
They both advocate a very “old-fashioned approach to family life and having a career. One would say, our mothers were right all along but hearing this from modern Western women who come from very egalitarian societies is refreshing.
She makes an interesting case for woman to start rethinking about what success is and to take a close look at how our society prefers women who work 120 hours at a corporate job than staying at home and raising a future generation.
A lot of how we are socially conditioned as young women is to believe this premise, even as a women who practices Islam. Many of the parents, teachers and schools desperately try to make us follow a very traditional practice of putting family first and thinking that this will change the tide, but the demands of modern life have flipped traditional, conservative lifestyle around.
Even I, deep down, have been conditioned to believe that the exclusive focus of raising children and being a mother/wife is less desirable than a high-powered career.
Deep down through modern schooling, the idea of careers/work-life outside the family had been planted. The idea of women being the caretakers of the home was not only shunned but considered a downgrade from all the wonderful things that could happen if you decided to ‘full-fill your potential’ and “chase your dreams.”
Huh? Was this exclusive to having a family and kids? Why is fulfillment being framed in a context outside home-life with kids?
Growing up, I had a friend of mine who came from this type of traditional background but was raise and educated in Canada. When I say traditional, I mean, the father is the breadwinner and takes care of most of the financial issues and the wife is stay-at-home and raises the kids. This balance, in retrospect, though I scoffed at it and viewed it as women “giving up her dreams”, was probably the most pragmatic method for women to be have stable home lives.
But long gone are my days of believing that having a career is better than staying at home.
I’ve come to the conclusion that women can have it all but not at the same time.
What do I mean by having it all? Marriage, career/business, family and a happy life. This type of pressure is incomparable to any type of societal pressure men face.
It’s women, most often than not, who has to manage this complexity. I’m expected to do it all–and look beautiful too! Crazy!
What makes it more complex is the many young women(many from my community can attest to this) who never saw their father be the breadwinners, but rather saw all the emotional, physical and mental burden of finances and child-rearing heaped upon our mothers have to manage their own set of expectations. These expectations are made difficult by not wanting to share any financial responsibility with anyone! Deep down, it’s because we aren’t able to after having never seen a traditional home function as a traditional home. We can trust people, but not trust them too much. Lest they should leave us…right?
And what is worst is the inter-generational gap that has them raising their children in a modern, Western environment while holding on to very Eastern, traditional values of the way a young women’s life should be shaped.
And here’s a big secret not many people like to talk about. Regardless of how successful our parents say they’d like us to be, at the end of the day, they want a husband taking care of us and to have x amount of kids with your own beautiful home somewhere. Regardless of how big your ambitious, and how much they support you, they don’t really believe it deep down.
Raising women with high ambitions and goals is more of an exception to the rule than the rule itself.
Although, it’s true what your parents marriage/life looked like may not have any semblance to yours, it does effect it. And this terrible cycle of emotional and psychological scarring makes it difficult for many young women to want to embrace security–and that also means a traditional family life. It’s not because we don’t want to, it’s because we can’t. We weren’t taught to.
And this can only be fixed through creating our own expectation of what ‘success’ looks like, release the baggage that our parents left us with and decide that having your own autonomy and career is great but it will clash with the traditional goals of raising your own kids. My solution is for young women to build their own businesses. Yes. And I believe everyone can do it. If one type of dependence(relying on a man for financial support) is bothersome, should another type of dependence(depending on a boss for a paycheck) be as bothersome as well?
This will help you “have it all” according to what you decide “all” is. Although it’s an alternative route not taught to most of us, I believe it’s the most stable route to go.
The history of women, at it’s core, has been the management of expectations –which is a very terrible form of suffering because it requires you to look outside for validation and this is precisely why this conflict of women “having it all” has even taken place–because we are always looking to society to validate our choices.
Let’s create our own choices and look to no one else to validate them but ourselves.