In preparing girls for later life, feminists and society-at-large offer the same suggestions. Get good grades, get a great degree, and pursue the heights of career achievement- especially if it is a STEM job.
While this advice isn’t wrong, it omits the fact that for most women, their life journey will include motherhood. Right now, society hasn’t offered many effective solutions for moms in these higher-stress jobs (much less low-wage jobs)!
A Huffington Post op-ed about this dichotomy has received a lot of attention:
“We are functioning in a society that pretends women don’t grow up to become mothers.
We are so driven by the focus that women can do the same and be the same as men, that we completely fail to provide them with education or understanding of what may be ahead for them, as future homemakers and those who raise children. How can we ensure equality for all women, when we place so little value on the role of the mother?”
When widespread contraception use makes sex-without kids an expectation, it is easy for our culture to ignore or forget that for most women, sex does eventually lead to kids. The blessing and burden of having and caring for children is “owned” by mothers as their personal problem to sort out.
An authentic feminism would recognize women’s exceptional baby-creating power as a “good” and would help girls prepare for the best pregnancy and child-raising experiences. It would prepare young women to make choices in sex, relationships, marriage and family formation that support their empowerment, well-being, and the well-being of their children. It would also work to make society a place where families can make career choices that support caregiving.
We can’t marginalize women’s fertility and motherhood when seeking to empower women. As the op-ed author notes, “the reality of our society cannot be ignored.”