Right now I’m enjoying a few quiet hours in my lovely garden office before my family returns from being out and about enjoying some school holiday fun.
If you’ve got kids (and even if you don’t, you’ve probably seen this with your friends’ kids), you’ll know the crazy juggle that takes place when the kids are on school holidays.
Of course there are lots of ways to schedule your business and life so it’s a joyful experience for everyone (as opposed to something you endure, limping to the finish line on the final day of holidays, desperate for rhythm and regularity to reclaim their rightful place). But what I’m interested in today, is how this relates to the invisibility of the feminine.
Schooling hours and school weeks are predicated on the idea of Mum working at home, taking care of domestic responsibilities while Dad works for a company, earning the money. When your family structure operates in this way then yes, it makes sense for school to finish at 3pm and for there to be far more school holidays than there are annual leave days available to working parents.
But that kind of arrangement is becoming more and more rare and society hasn’t really adjusted to this new reality. What has happened instead is that women have adjusted. They’ve bent over backwards to juggle working life and home life. They’re racing home from the office to pick up their kids from after school care, cook a meal for the family, try and have a meaningful conversation over the dinner table with overtired children who need a good deal of support to navigate the challenges of their everyday environments, supervise homework, bathe the children, read them a book, and then put them to sleep. And then when school holidays roll around the whole thing reaches a new level of insanity. Play dates on this day, cultural and sporting activities on that day, holiday camps, kids in front of TVs so mum can have a moment to herself, supervising craft activities while sending emails, whatever it takes to get through the day.
What if, instead of asking women to dance the logistical shuffle, society actually prioritised women’s needs and sought to wrap its structures and services around us? What if, instead of only really accommodating one kind of individual – the working man with a wife at home to take care of the entire rest of his life – society asked women what they need most and created support systems to attend to those needs? What would things look like then?
No doubt so many women are drawn to running their own businesses because the conditions are so much more humane than working for a big corporation. Starting work late because your kid is getting an award at assembly? No problem. Taking the afternoon off so you can take your daughter to see Wonder Woman. Why not? The flexibility that comes with being a business owner is fantastic. And still, I see so many female entrepreneurs and small business owners lacking the support they need to be a great mum AND build an amazing business.
The only model I see really working at the moment is this one; build your business to a large enough level that you can pay other people to do pretty much everything. Then you can focus on just two things; playing with your kids and working from your zone of genius.
My concern about that approach is that it places all the burden on the woman (again). Suddenly she’s responsible for (a) clearing all her inner blocks so she can even allow that possibility into her life and (b) building a business from the ground up; doing all the work that’s necessary to get it a level where she can employ other people to do much of the work for her.
My questions about that scenario are these; (i) how realistic is that for every woman? (ii) how many years might it take her to get to that point? and (iii) at what cost in the interim?
What if, instead, society provided that support? What if it didn’t have to be an either/or situation where you’re constantly choosing to prioritise either the needs of the family or the needs of the business? (By the by, where a woman’s needs fit into that scenario is anyone’s guess…)
This kind of change will only happen if we call for it. It’ll only happen if we speak up. It’ll only happen if our voices are louder. If we’re heard and seen and our needs are understood.
It’s why I’m so passionate about the visibility of women. Because when women’s voices are heard, society changes. And when society changes to accommodate women, then children, families and communities are affected in a positive way.
Women sit in the heart of our societal infrastructure. We’re the glue that holds communities together. It’s imperative that society supports that role in a much bigger way than it’s doing right now.
Often it’s difficult to know where to start with a task so huge. Perhaps you want to start with your partner; mentioning that you’re burdened and need some help. Perhaps you want to start with your local MP, calling for more funding for child care places, or tax breaks for families who employ nannies, or a new piece of legislation to introduce more flexible work hours. Perhaps you want to start with your children. By letting them know that you’re a human being too. That you have needs and that you can’t physically accommodate their needs 100% of the time. Perhaps you want to teach them self sufficiency and empowerment and healthy boundaries by modelling that yourself.
Here’s where I start; with me. I start by working to become more visible to myself and in every situation in which I find myself. I start by understanding my worth. By knowing that my thoughts, my opinions, and my needs matter. I start my modelling that to my daughter, to my girlfriends, to other women.
So that’s the invitation for you this week; to keep speaking up. To step into your power. To allow yourself to be more visible.
Whatever you choose, know this; your voice matters. Your opinions are important. The pressures you’re facing and the challenges you’re encountering are not yours alone to carry. The job of society is to support its members. Let’s reimagine the social contract so it does that for ALL people, particularly the women of the world.