To Soar Through Shattering Glass
I believe that we have witnessed the shattering of the glass ceiling in the candidacy of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States and the nomination of Governor Sarah Palin as Vice Presidential nominee. Yet, I believe that the scores of young women inspired by these candidacies will crash against the shattered pieces of that ceiling as it falls when they bear children and become mothers, because we, as nation, give only lip service to the value of motherhood. Governor Palin and Mrs. Clinton operated in environments which afforded them unusual workplace flexibility. In the sparkling sequelae of Mrs. Clinton’s and Governor Palin’s comets, the time is now to turn our attention to the intersections which we will reach when our educated daughters, inspired by these campaigns, and brimming with unlimited aspirations, give birth to daughters of their own, and confront the sacrifice of personal achievement required of them in a society whose workplaces often lack the flexibility that would allow them to become mothers and continue to soar.
Teaching kindness and gratitude; modeling honesty and integrity; nurturing curiosity and compassion; demonstrating hard work, persistence and honor—these are the Herculean tasks we charge those raising our children. And yet, we rob women raising children of even a sustenance stipend or Social Security benefits; we fail to account for their household management and childrearing labor performed within the home in our country’s Gross National Product. We do not grant motherhood ‘productive employment’ status afforded the most menial or the most trivial of jobs; mothers are not counted among the productive laborers who contribute to the economy of this country, though trash collectors and the marketers who name lipsticks are. As a nation we further devalue motherhood when we, unlike other first world nations, fail to pass legislation granting parents reasonable paid leave following the birth of a child, when we resent the leave that enlightened employers permit mothers in our workplaces, when we as employers fail to advocate and ensure accommodation for a working mother struggling to work and raise a child, or when we fail to use our considerable talents, ingenuity and resources to devise workable options for workplace flexibility, quality day care and childcare for working parents. I believe that in the absence of true workplace flexibility, too many women are asked to choose between their professional selves and their children—-a choice men rarely are required to make.
I believe that we are perched in the arc of a swinging pendulum. The pendulum began its sweep in a bygone era when women lacked the right to vote and rarely attended college, continued through the time when the few women attending college pursued their professional aspirations at the expense of motherhood, on through the decades when a woman’s education was a prelude to her career as a housewife, past feminism and the notion that women could “have it all,” to the era when the “have it all” generation realized they couldn’t, not at the heights they dreamed and in the absence of genuine support. I believe this grand pendulum is about to swing into a new dimension–one where we are required to formulate new constructs that support women as workers and as mothers.
I believe with every fiber of my being that our children are our future, and that raising a child is the most challenging, rewarding, difficult, complex and underrated profession in the world. I believe the time is now to depart from the realm of lip service and enter the stratosphere, where we say, in word and in deeds, that motherhood has value. I believe my daughter can be anything she wants to be, and I believe it is incumbent upon me to be an architect in designing a world in which she has real options to pursue those ambitions and experience the joy of motherhood.
This I believe.
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