Opinion

Time for next generation of moms to grab the baton

“Can we think of social structure where the value and respect is not just measured by wages?”

— Ursula Franklin, Canadian physicist and pioneering feminist

Dear Ms. Franklin,

Three years ago, almost to the day, I was listening to CBC radio in the car after dropping the girls off at daycare.

The show’s topic was the state of women. There was a panel with three women — you were one of them. The youngest had written a column stating “feminism is partly responsible for a contingent of overworked, overburdened and overachieving — and therefore very unhappy — young women today.”

I awoke from driving on autopilot and turned up the volume. She had just defined me. I had a six-month-old at home with me while I worked between her naps, and two others in care. I had become resentful toward feminists who created an expectation that girls could be raised as equals to boys, but who didn’t consider the consequences when these educated and capable women had babies and were homebound in a role they weren’t prepared for, and the same wasn’t true for men. Or that’s how I saw it in my sleep-deprived haze.

I was frustrated I couldn’t work the long hours to be as profitable as others. I was confused about my role in society. When money is what matters, and babies slow down earning potential, my contribution — raising a family — had no impact on Canada’s gross national product, so was less important.

An example: the maximum maternity leave pay is around $1,600 per month. I was earning nearly three times that for 10 years before my first baby was born. Because I worked part-time before my second baby was born — so I could nurse and spend time with my first — my second maternity leave pay was $1,200.

I listened as you told that young woman it wasn’t the intention of the feminist movement for women to do it all. You said, “What you describe is overworked lady patriarchs who are trying to fit into a patriarchal structure so I say for heaven’s sake, look at social ordering. There’s nothing wrong with women, there’s a lot wrong with the rest of the world.”

Three years on, this overworked lady patriarch has changed her focus. My business is less profitable than it would be if I wasn’t a mother. But being accessible for cuddles and storytelling means more to me than affording fancy clothes or expensive vacations. Moreover, the kids give me perspective and purpose, and make me use my power for good.

As one friend put it, “If I didn’t have kids I could do so much, but if I didn’t have kids I wouldn’t want to.”

Many of us slacker-generation women have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to engaging in women’s issues. As such, we didn’t realize you were waiting for us to take up the baton and run with it. Now that we have endured the discomfort of parenting and mortgage payments, we have started questioning status quo.

I ask women — working or not — what they would change to make home or work less overwhelming. Job sharing, a living wage, multi-generational living, in-house company daycare, shorter workdays, community kitchens are just a few ideas. We probably need to dream bigger, but these conversations will contribute to a shift in social ordering so my three beautiful girls will grow up expecting a more family-friendly work environment than today’s. It’s progress, and it’s all thanks to pioneering feminists and mothers, like you.

Ms. Franklin, thank you—and just so you know, we’ve got this.

Maeve Maguire is a technical writer who lives and works in Maple Bay and writes monthly in the News Leader Pictorial. Visit her blog www.cowichandale.com, or email her at maeve@describewriting.com.

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