We all begin life as blank slates. If we are lucky, we have people who love and nurture us; and help us charter this journey called life. We receive guidance along the way, learning language, manners, and the skills to lead a happy, loving life. The maps and guide books we are given determine in large part who we become. Our ideas of gender roles, political ideologies, religious doctrines, and what we think of as right or wrong are influenced by these “travel guides.”
While journeying through life, our maps direct us where and when to turn left, right, or veer straight ahead; and when our paths intersect with others, we feel that our own guide book determines who has the right-of-way. In life, it is not that simple. In a melting pot society, guide books come in various versions; transmitting different sets of values, mores, and tenets. Recognizing that others will choose paths different from ours, and that they are following their own right-of-way, is crucial to avoid harmful collisions.
As we grow, we may take detours from what we have been taught, and we may question whether we should adhere to the so-called “right” way to live our lives. Some people take circuitous detours, and end up back on the same road. Others take detours that turn out to be virtual exits from the thoroughfares they were traveling. The journey that women take through life is often one of those circuitous routes with highway signs that advertise various exits and detours; such as: Next Exit: College! Taking the college route, women view other signs along the way, such as: Next Exit: Career of Your Dreams! Women are told to dream big, lean in to their careers, and their rewards will be financial security and respect. Somewhere along the way, women encounter the sign: Detour Ahead: Motherhood! Not all women want to take this route. Statistics indicate that the majority of women travel the well-worn path toward motherhood, a place that they know very little about until they arrive. Women are told that motherhood will complete them, that it is their calling, and that their lives are meaningless without it. How true you believe any of the aforementioned phrases to be depends upon the guide books you received along life’s journey.
Some women choose not to take the motherhood detour. Instead, they keep their pedal to the metal and ignore those signs that advertise all the joys of motherhood; they opt instead for lives filled with their own definition of happiness. The unadulterated truth is that not all women want motherhood; and the numbers are growing. Despite the shifting paths of women over the past few decades, the guide books still describe motherhood as the quintessential ingredient to a happy, meaningful female life; and it leaves women who do not want motherhood out in the cold -- feeling judged or criticized. For those women who missed out on motherhood because of biology or circumstances, they are left feeling confused, cheated, “less than,” and left out.
Life’s journey does not include “Rules of the Road” that are as straightforward as the ones we receive from the Department of Motor Vehicles. In life, we must find our own way. Myself, I took the motherhood detour three times. Over the past three decades of being a mom, I’ve hit many speed bumps; some of which included a divorce, single motherhood, remarriage, and navigating stepfamily life.
Once upon a time, women wanted something different for their lives. They wanted the right to vote. They wanted the right to pursue advanced education and exciting careers. They wanted control over their bodies with regard to procreation and reproductive rights. Women are a brave lot. Much has been accomplished when women unite. Together, we can re-write some of life’s guide books. We don’t want to delete any of life’s paths; we just want to know where the paths lead and evaluate for ourselves what we want. Our blank slates have been written on by others; and now we’d like to evaluate which paths feel right for us.
You are invited along for the journey as the assumptions for females’ lives are examined and questioned. It’s happened before; it’s happening again. Join us, won’t you?