The Second Shift ...

All magazines advertise and portray the super mom syndrome, glorifying the image of a working mother as she strides forward with a smiling child in one hand and a brief case in the other, suggesting how happily and efficiently she manages her child and job. Efficiently, very true, but is it happily always? Little is understood as to what actually a working mother undergoes. And conveniently is ignored what the sacrifices are like to manage work (mostly fulltime) and kids (always over demanding) and house (has to be spic and span).
Confident, happy and content, active, liberated yet feminine is the ideal picture of the society's imagination of today's woman/mother. Nowhere, by mistake also, one gets to see a picture of an unhappy and tired mother whose hair is a mess, nails are jagged and who would be some pounds overweight.
Does this mean the yet to be wives and mothers are getting disillusioned to the whole reality of life...and basking in some thought that they would make it as shown and as portrayed.
As young girls read more about metrosexuals they dream of a very smooth sail. But as we know what the metro sexual husbands are capable of doing ...maybe taking the car once in six months to the mechanic, or may be they try their hand in changing the baby's nappy in front of a guest, glorifying the fact that they know how to do it. The shift in the office has to be tiring but then back home also she has to join immediately for her second shift. No respite.
Like many people of my generation who came of age studying women's liberation (by choice) and the sexual revolution, I wanted it all and got most of it -- an aerobicized body, exotic boyfriends, and a job. Things were all going fine and then the natural course of turns took place, I got married. I was going to be a mother very soon, happiness knew no bounds. My child and family captured me, and I surrendered, at first reluctantly and finally had to leave the adrenaline-laced field of work.
To all this, my high-voltage friends with big jobs (but unmarried) accused me of abandoning my feminist ideals. It is not as easy as it seems, to manage a job and the house and the child. Well, here's where the dream that one can manage the home/house and the job efficiently, begins to curdle.
As for me I couldn't handle the pressure and it was just too much for me to juggle three things-jobs, house and child. The thought about hitting back when the child starts going to school and needs you less, consoles one...but by then your value in the job market goes down so much that you feel dejected.
Very similar is everybody's story. Somewhere she continues working and somewhere under pressure she gives up. But nowhere is seen a story where things happen with just the moving of a magic wand, she has to toil it out. It is never a perfect figured non-messy picture as magazines claim to show.
Alarming is the story of all working women's double day. Working women work one shift at the office and a second shift at home. Women seem to be far more deeply torn between the demands of work and family. (Some would strongly resent the idea that homemaking is a shift)...for them family might be the life line and household chores (for them) can't be reduced to a job.
I hear newly married ladies saying, we can work and have high-flying careers, and we can also have the choice of having a family at the same time. Is it as easy as it sounds?
Motherhood does not have to mean jumping off the career ladder, and an increasing number of women are choosing to juggle, but juggling parenthood and a career often means making compromises.
As society changes and the roles of women get more complicated, many women are deciding to combine motherhood with a career. This seems to be an ideal situation. A woman can fulfill her own dreams of success in the world and still have the family that she wants. But, it this really the way it works?
Many of our sisters, bless their optimistic hearts, are certain that, when their time comes, they'll have this whole work/life balance thing under control. And why shouldn't they think that, when they will grow reading and people making them believe, that they can.
Encouraging and celebrating the girl child is ok but making her grow in a rosy hued upbringing is like not showing her the true light, (the image of a well kept and content career mother is a myth).
True the amount of confidence and ambitious energy the young girls show is impressive but it becomes mandatory to also let them know that the market is not that gender friendly as they claim to be. It does not occur to them that anything can stand in the way of success on their own terms. After all, the barriers to entry had been toppled long ago. These students planning on becoming wives and mothers as well as high-earning professionals, have no idea how hard this can be. Their vision of the future is clouded by a new kind of dream, one filled with fantastically enlightened employers who would make work/life balance a breeze.
Their dream scenario went something like this: a loving, lasting marriage and a high-paying job, with a two-year career break for the first child, and then maybe a reduced-hour schedule. I mean, they look forward to workplaces transformed into a family-friendly utopia. Sounds like a myth very much heard of.
Reality goes like this; whenever women decide to take a break it does cost her a price. Such career interruption costs her bargaining ability and subsequently downsizes her ambition.
Clearly, it's time we mothers, sisters, friends, and colleagues did more in the way of truth-telling. Daughters should be prepared for the barriers ahead, and keep her away from fake idealisms. Now, if we could just make sure these young women see the roadblocks as well as the road, maybe they'll be likelier to use that idealism to drive some real change for all...help, consideration, recognition and respect at the second shift and a family and gender friendly atmosphere at the first shift.    

Image (c) Gettyimages.com 


More by :  Soma Guru

Top | Women

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