Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Having a role model

It can be kind of a downer these days to hear all the chatter about work-life balance. This discussion is necessary, because nothing will change unless people talk about what needs to change. But the discussion exists only because people (especially women) feel they can’t do it all. So many women who have reached the pinnacle don’t have children, are not married, or have a husband who is already retired or stays at home. And many women with children make sacrifices that keep them from reaching what they might have otherwise accomplished.

So who am I going to show Willow as a potential role model? What kind of women can I teach her about that have lived full lives in both spheres?

I wouldn’t have thought Pakistan would be the first place to look. But I’m watching a PBS documentary on Benazir Bhutto (called Bhutto) and I’m in awe. This is a powerful, educated, committed, passionate woman who lived by her ideals, fought the system, and also operated within the political realities. She married and had children, assuming the office of Prime Minister only three months after her first children was born.

Coming from a wealthy and powerful family, I’d imagine she had the resources for all the domestic help she might want or need. The lack of affordable, quality childcare is, I believe, a major contributor to women feeling pressured to pull back from their career goals. Nevertheless, it still can’t have been easy for her. While I watched her being sworn in, I wondered, was she lactating? Did she worry about leaking? Were her boobs about to explode? That is what would be on my mind three months after giving birth. Or perhaps, for the good of a country, she decided not to sacrifice herself to on-demand feeding.

In doing a little googling, I found this essay she wrote, in which she describes letting her kids watch cartoons, when she didn’t really want to, because she had to leave for a meeting. She also admits to constant doubts about whether or not she’d make the grade.

I’d like to come up with a list of women that serve as role models, not only for me, but for Willow. I’d like to buy books about these women and have their images and their stories accessible to Willow, stories of women with deep, complex and varied characters.

Besides Benazir Bhutto, who else would you suggest putting on the list?

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