by Julie Zaccone Stiller
When you are a woman
It is not all up to you, even now
It is better than it was, absolutely
All of the roles we inhabit overlap
There are more choices available to us, as well as new societal support for more of those choices. But not for all of us, depending on where we live or who our parents are, there is a huge array of variability in what choices are available to us. If you are born poor or non-white, your options will be very different from a rich white woman.
First up in our lives are the roles that we do not choose, because we do not choose them, they tie all women together in a common set of experiences.
Daughter, sister, aunt - it’s just not up to us at all whether we have these roles in life. We can choose to refuse our family obligations when we are older, but when we are children it is not up to us at all.
Second comes the roles we have some choice in, especially now.
Wife - most of us get to choose now, whether and when and who we will marry. It’s no longer common for women to experience arranged or forcible marriages. Even now there is still the societal expectation that you will marry but there is much more of an acceptable delay,
Mother - since the advent of easily obtainable fertility treatments, birth control and abortion, it is much more of a choice as to when or if we become mothers. It is crucial for us to remember that these are not at all universal, affordable or societally approved of options.
And then third is whether or not we participate in the economy by becoming a Wage Earner.
The vast majority of us now work outside of the home, if not for the majority of our adult lives, for at least part of it. It may be a choice to stay home and raise children and care for the home, or there may be some middle way chosen. It is still much more common for this to be a path that only women can take.
Whichever choice that women make, they will hear from others that they are wrong,
If we are from wealthy families we may not have to work outside our home.
If we have spouses or partners who earn enough we may not have to work outside our home.
If we are disabled we may not be able to work outside our home.
No matter which roles we choose to take on during our lives, it’s important to remember that we only have these options and choices because of the struggles of our foremothers (and some of our forefathers too). And whichever roles we choose, we have to learn to value those choices because they are ours to make now.