Writing for the Times of London, Eleanor Mills admits that she, and many of her female peers, were raised to value their careers, "but now, and often too late, we are realising that no job will ever love you back."
Mills, who is 39, notes that her own mother made her brothers play with dolls, while she was given a computer to play with, a gender role challenge she says many of her peers were given as well, as her friends' feminist mothers pushed them to step outside of expected domestic duties and challenge themselves in traditionally male areas. "One feminist mother of a friend of mine never let her daughter clear the table or wash up," she writes, "her brothers were expected to do it - because she didn't want her daughter to think domestic chores were women's work."
And while Mills is quick to point out that her friends have gone on to great successes, career wise, as a result, she also notes that many of them are struggling personally, ending up alone and childless in their 40s and regretting some of the choices they've made. It's an odd article, as Mills is writing it from the perspective of a married mother, and most of her insight seems to be sprinkled with smug married syndrome and a dash of "oh, poor thing" pity for women who didn't choose to follow the same path. She repeatedly expresses a sadness for childless women, going so far as to assume that one of her child-free friends is pulling away from her and other mothers as "if my biological clock were ticking out, the last person I'd want to see is a married mate with three kids."
Mills' language strikes me as a bit extreme throughout the piece; in one paragraph, she seems to paint all 40-something single women as Scary Sadshaws who can't fill the holes in their personal life with the shoes in their closets and such: "As they stare into a barren future, many singletons wish they'd put some of the focus and drive that has furnished them with sparkling careers, worn-out passports and glamorous social lives into the more mundane business of having a family." Who are these "many singletons?" There are no quotes from any in Mills' piece; just an observation she seems to have made based on her own projections of the inner lives of single women. She goes on to ask "what went wrong?" and wraps up with "I wish all my single girlfriends luck in finding a husband and having two healthy babies in their forties. But fairytale endings are hard to come by."
I can understand the underlying point of Mills' argument; that perhaps girls need to be reminded that family should be as much of a priority as career, and that we should not attempt to diminish one by promoting the other. But everything about her article, including the title, "Learning To Be Left On The Shelf," implies that there is something wrong with a woman who chooses one over the other, or a woman whose idea of "happily ever after" doesn't include a husband and 2.2 children. Perhaps instead of pitying women for the choices they've made, or blaming them for not being able to make "the right" choices and find "the right" balance, we should continue challenging the societal standards that STILL make it so difficult for women to do and have both, or either, including the disapproving stares of other women who take their own fairytale endings and try to apply them to everyone else's lives.
Learning To Be Left On The Shelf [TimesOnline]