Brisbane, March 2016
Before you start reading, stop and answer this question out loud: “What is your definition of a successful woman?”
Ok, you can continue now.
I’ve always been very passionate about women’s rights, women’s living and women’s roles.
I was raised with the awareness that I needed to study and work hard. In my parents’ house, not going to Uni was not an option. My parents showed me that I had to, so I could have a good job and a better life than them. It always seemed right.
I still think that studying is very important and going to Uni taught me a lot – how to think, solve problems and to work hard. But it also impressed on me that working is the most important thing and that without work (paid work) I would never feel accomplished as a woman.
I don’t believe that anymore.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I thought I would put her in day-care when she turned one and my maternity leave ended – but as the time came nearer my “suffering” increased with that plan. I started thinking “Why do I need to do that? She is just a baby. I don’t want to be away from her. I don’t want her to be in day-care for 8 hours, not even 1.”
She has always had a delicate personality, very sweet and calm. For me, she was not ready to go and my motherly instinct also told me that I wasn’t ready.
So, what I did was extend my maternity leave… thrice.
My ‘official job title’ is what’s called a Stay at Home Mum. Very poor title. This does not mean I stay at home doing nothing as I work pretty hard to raise my girls.
The way society ‘evolved’ makes us think that caregiving is far less important than breadwinning. How scary is that? Is taking care of your kids less important than making money and having a career?
It’s now gotten to a point where women are under a lot of pressure. Not only they remain the housework main contributors but are now also convinced that, in order to ‘be someone’, they need to have a career.
How did we get to this point?
Why is women’s success defined by men’s success standards? What I mean by this is that society has labelled successful men as those who earn a fat pay-check and have a distinctive career, and now women have that same definition of success. Society just devalued what women traditionally did by defining success based on what men traditional did.
Fellow women please consider the following questions. Why is working so important to us? Why do we feel more successful if we have a career? Why is breadwinning more important than caregiving?
Caregiving is hard work. Caregiving is the most meaningful work that we can do. It’s the best investment in our life, in our society, in our future. It’s investing in people.
Stop the loop, think, analyse, question.
Some friends have told me that they think this country is far behind because mothers go on maternity leave and never go back to the workforce. Why is it that we, intelligent women, believe this?
Society makes us believe that caregiving and spending time with loved ones doesn’t make us successful. I’m not promoting this as a woman’s responsibility alone. I deeply believe that men have a great role to play in the change that needs to happen.
Men are also under a lot of pressure, because if they want to be caregivers, society brands them as lesser men. Men are perceived as weak, weird and unambitious if they want to take time off work to spend with their kids.
My partner took 4 months off so he could be the main carer of our lovely daughter and he got a few comments along the line of: “So, how to do feel doing mum’s work?”
What we are looking here is for equality, but the first step is to remind women that caregiving is as important as breadwinning. Never be ashamed or feel less successful if you are taking care of someone. We should be proud, very proud. I know I am.
I am a successful woman because I chose to invest my time in my girls, the most important thing in my life and I feel great to have made this choice. I will definitely do some paid work one day, but my priority will always be the girls. This is the mantra my partner and I have chosen to live by.
Ladies and Gentleman, caregiving is cool.