Today Google celebrates International Women’s Day with a special banner. The day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, advance and appreciate them, but I have lamented in the past that only woman who become astronauts, firewomen, judges, scientists, and doctors have seemingly been appreciated, while those in the trenches of family life are forgotten.
However this year Google’s campaign is different. The slide show pictures a little girl being told an imaginative bed-time story about fascinating, historical women by her grandmother. What points to the essence of being a woman more than a grandmother curled up with her granddaughter on her knee, nurturing, loving and teaching her?
While the historical women celebrated in the story are remembered by the world for being a suffragist, pilot, painter, architect, researcher, singer, astronaut, computer programmer, dancer, doctor, lawyer and tennis player, the little girl is ever present in each picture with them, seemingly reminding the viewer of women’s unique role as the bearer of new life and the ever-present role motherhood plays alongside whatever each woman has also contributed to the economy or human endeavor in the eyes of the outside world. The little girl’s presence in each frame can be seen to represent the often hidden sacrifices of family life; the self-giving generosity and sensitivity women are so uniquely good at.
While I really respect the many achievements of great women of the past and celebrate the historical progression of women’s rights such as the vote and entering medical and law schools, I would also like to be celebrated and recognised for my unique femininity too; something women bring to all areas of life whether it be family life or the workplace.
Simply celebrating becoming more and more like men is hardly a real appreciation of what it means to be a woman, and celebrating only women who achieve great heights within the working world does seem to drive down the many, many intelligent and creative women who sacrifice those things to focus on their family home and being there for their children. Ironically, after seeking to increase productivity and GDP through more women in the full-time workforce for many years now, more and more governments are now recognizing that the gift of motherhood is just what is needed to support our economies, workforces and ultimately any human endeavor, as fertility rates remain chronically low.Along these lines, American economist Maria Sophia Aguirre has commented that:
“The ageing population, I think, has forced us to face reality and decide what is important. Which brings us back to the work of the home. Where do you learn to not respect the law? In the home. Think about pollution – where do we learn to be polluters? Where do we learn the culture of waste? Not in school – by then it is too late. You learn it at home. All these things, whether it is nutrition, the environment, social stability – and we saw what happened in Paris – whether organized crime, armaments trafficking, child trafficking, prostitution, drugs – it all goes back to the characteristics of the family. This is what the data shows.”
Unfortunately, at least in my current experience of my two and four-year-old preschoolers, it is not always possible to find a flexi-time astronaut position or find enough time for civil rights activism while also pureeing baby vegetables, cooking dinner, checking homework, and generally being there for your children when they need you. Perhaps what we really need more of as mothers is flexibility in the workplace and a real recognition by society that, no matter what else women do, motherhood and raising a family is also a really important and valued part of life, as is our unique femininity.