“You can't do it all. No one can have two full-time jobs, have perfect children, and cook three meals and be multi-orgasmic' til dawn…Superwoman is the adversary of the women's movement.”
— Gloria Steinem in Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In
I am not a feminist, nor do I believe in the superwoman myth. I love my independence, but I thrive better with support. As conversations intensified in the elections in both the United States and Jamaica, and the debate about gender equality in politics heightens, I disappoint my advocate friends when I declare that I want to raise my children first and I am not interested in shattering that damned glass ceiling.
I used to pretend that I was just like them—that I wanted to reach the top and I would defy the odds to get there. I support women around me who have those ambitions and I expect the same from them. To support my own ambitions to live my life exactly how I desire. Sandberg opens her book Lean In with an acknowledgement that —“not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both…We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values and dreams.”
As I watched the debates on gender equality on social media, it struck me that the women who were leading the debate had a privilege. They were in the privileged minority of women who were educated, earning enough to afford 'help' and were, more often than not, living with an equally successful spouse. What is clear to me is that there is another set of women who are managing households on their own, barely earning enough to take care of their families; another group of women who are happily married, work full-time jobs but not enough spare income to hire help, who, despite having ambitions to break the glass ceiling, just do not have the time.
Is the woman who chooses to enter representational politics, or becomes a CEO, more successful than the woman who chooses to stay home and take care of her family? How do we measure success? More importantly, how do we measure ourselves?
I have learnt that life is not a 'one size fits all'. My children require different levels of my energy and attention and so I engage them differently. I do not hover over my children. I set rules of engagement and we follow them. Homework is an independent activity and projects are consultative. I am not doing their work for them. Does that make me a 'lesser mother' than the mom who sits and works through assignments every night with her children and even finds the time to tuck them in?
Too often we allow societal pressures to dictate how we behave as women. It is a choice and we have a right to choose the type of life we want for ourselves.
The images of the successful super woman are certainly beautiful to behold and inspiring to young girls. At the same time, we also owe it to our young girls to be honest about our ambitions — that we all do not want to rule the world, that some of us want to lead, but there are others who are content with tradition.
Women have the right to be leaders at work, to be in Parliament, to be mothers and partners. We should support those who are brave enough to step up and lead and bold enough to support the ones who choose not to.
After all, it is a woman's right to choose where she wants to be.
Coleen Antoinette is an Arts Educator and lover of culture and people. She is currently the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. You may share your thoughts or own experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.