Hi everyone. So I am up early this morning catching up on some work emails (because who doesn’t voluntarily start work at 6.45am?), and I saw this article in my inbox: “‘Remember to have babies’ says ‘City Superwoman'”. And then all I wanted to do was jot down my thoughts on this.
First up, the headline does a great job of making a judgement: the quotation marks around ‘City Superwoman’, sets her up to be discredited, like they don’t even believe she’s a City Superwoman. Even using that term following that particular quote is immediately condescending, and sets to divide her from the reader. Who is this City Superwoman who deigns to advise us Normal Non-Superwomen?
It’s clear that British Investment Banker Nicola Horlick feels a little under fire for managing to balance a high-powered job and six children. She’s keen to point out that having job and money doesn’t equal happiness, which I think is fair, and that everyone should make their own choices.
But here’s the thing about this whole article, rather than what Horlick specifically says. I don’t think many young women need to remember to get married and have babies. I think it’s something that they are reminded of every single day: through advertising, through their own natural inclination to want children, and through articles with headlines such as this. Thanks everyone – we have received your message loud and clear! You can consider us women informed.
Out of the women I know personally, many want to have children, and some want to get married. However, there are a few other things to consider:
- Marriage isn’t something the woman does by herself: there’s usually another person involved, and tradition unnecessarily dictates that this other person is actually the one responsible for asking The Marriage Question. So the choice is made together by two people.
- Many women work hard to get ahead in their careers, to pay their rent, to buy the outfits for work (because God forbid they wear the same thing two days in a row), and to save for a house deposit. Sometimes it’s a choice to wait until you are more financially secure before you make a lifelong commitment to a child.
- This whole idea that it’s a choice is kind of insulting to those who haven’t met the person they want to marry or have babies with, or who can’t have children at all. They would make those choices if they could, but the universe has other ideas for them. Way to make a girl feel insignificant; that their merit or contribution as an individual isn’t worthwhile.
- Women who return to work post-child often struggle to balance their responsibilities. This is mostly anecdotal, but I know women who aren’t able to work flexibly, who returned to work and found their whole role had changed in their absence, or who find themselves at a disadvantage because they can’t put in after-hours efforts they once did. Again – way to make a woman feel valued.
It must be said that Horlick does point out that she knows she can afford good childcare, and that people need to be open minded as to the choices of others. She’s also speaking from the horrific position of a mother who lost her child, which would colour how she views her work vs her family.
To a certain extent, everyone out there – women and men – have a choice to:
- get married and have babies
- get married, have babies and pursue a career
- have babies and a career
- have babies
- stay single
- be with someone, married or not
- have children, married or not
- pursue a career, whether married, in a couple, single or a parent
And there are many more combinations I’m sure. Go nuts, make your own combo.
Unsurprisingly, there are no articles advising men to get married and have babies: when you reverse it, you realise how sexist it actually is. In the reverse, it reads like something from the Fifties: find yourself a wife and start a family!
I’m sure there are men out there who wish they hadn’t focussed on their careers at the expense of having a family, but maybe there were no helpful articles to remind them, so they forgot.
Women don’t need another ‘reminder’ that we may have some challenging and different choices to make in our lives. We are already getting feedback on how to lower our voices in the boardroom so as to appear more executive, and that our heels should be high but not too high. Those who want children are already aware of this fact about themselves.
What we really need is the ability to make these choices as easily as possible. With support and infrastructure to help us out. These days the cost of childcare is a serious prohibiting factor, as are inflexible working conditions, and these make the choices much harder.
I much prefer the message from Sheryl Sandberg, which is that we should focus on our careers and not the day that we might have children, because we could miss out on professional opportunities which would put us in a stronger position if we ever do have children.
PS – this was written in a rush before my official work hours started. I’m sure I’ll read it in about 8 hours time and cringe at the raw emotion, the bad arguments and the spelling mistakes. Thanks for your patience