Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Politics, family and career

When I stopped working as an SAP consultant 2 years ago in Lisbon I was earning £39.000/€57.000 per annum. According to this recruitment ad, I could now be earning £95.000/€138.000 per annum doing the same thing in London (why are people so underpaid in Portugal ?). Obviously, this very generous income means that you have to be 100% committed to your job and this is almost impossible when you're a mother of small children and your main priority is the well-being of your family. In very exceptional circumstances, depending on the type of job and - always ! - with the help and good will of close family or friends, a woman can manage to be both a successful career woman and a good mother. In most cases, though, that doesn't happen and one of three things will happen: either the career suffers, the family suffers or, most probably, they will both suffer and the woman will feel as if the whole world is coming down on her at some point. In my personal case, juggling motherhood and a very demanding full-time job eventually lead me to a major depression, having to be heavily medicated, quitting my job, putting on quite a lot of weight and being a lesser mum to my daughters. The road to recovery has been tough and long.
Yet, as it happens, for the past 30 years (a whole generation !) being a superwoman is what society expects of any woman. The money earning, successful career woman, mum, wife and homemaker "all in one" model has been praised and idolized to exhaustion since the revolutionary 1960's decade when silliness, transgression and hallucinations were in vogue. After all, we do live in a male dominated society and this image is very appealing to males on a number of levels. Women's liberation has meant, in many cases, that women still do what they did before their "liberation" while they've also piled on most of the men's chores and responsibilities. All in the name of "liberation". Go figure ... how could we not be the lesser sex.
As a result, to a greater or lesser extent, there are currently fewer traditional families (many marriages can't cope with the outside pressure directly or indirectly derived from two 100% commitment full-time jobs, especially when they involve being away from home most of the time), fewer children (birth rates have dropped drastically since the 1960's, dooming tomorrow's pensioners, who will have no one to support them in as early as 20 years time), depression is on the rise (if you're not suffering from depression yourself, chances are that anywhere from 15 to 50 of every hundred people you know are), delinquency, poor achievement at school and drug abuse are on the rise (there's no one to look after the kids, to educate and teach them basic values, to talk and listen to them and to be there for them at home), old people have to die alone or among strangers because no one in the family can care for them, and so on.
Isn't it time to get back to basics and put the limelight back on the extremely significant role a mother should play in a family and, therefore, in society ? If families are ill no wonder society's ill ...
A part-time job during school hours is the most alluring option a woman can have if and when she wishes to continue working (for whatever reason, and there are many !) while she is raising her children. Due to unprecedented pressure from mums like me, part-time job opportunities are slowly being introduced in the workplace, although they are still vastly insufficient and mismanaged and they don't cover every type of job. There's a lot to be done by governments in this area if they really want to help families (and all of them say they do!): it's not all about just creating more nurseries where children are left for most of the day and handing out tax credits.
This is one of the key issues that guides my vote on any political election. Not the blind stereotypes imposed by the traditional and sterile "left" and "right" denominations that are a thing of the past.


Anonymous said...

I would very much like to have your readers comment on this issue.I too think this is the time to reevaluate many of the ideas that have brought upon women,and children!, such a heavy burden in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Claudia ! I'm not a mum but I couldn't agree with you more. It probably is just as bad for women overthere in England as it is here in the USA. Keep in touch. Love,