Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, was recently under fire for saying there are jobs for ‘boys and girls’. Probably not the most well thought out comment on a public platform. Nevertheless…sometimes it's not about gender but simply what you’re more attuned to and what you’re able to get done without getting a headache. If you want to be a girlie girl theres nothing wrong with that, and if you want to go and take the bins out then do so - am sure he won’t be complaining!
A recent article in The Atlantic referred to research done in the 1970s coined the Queen Bee syndrome. It spoke of women emphasising their own masculine traits to climb up the ladder and not acknowledging gender discrimination but attributing success to commitment and hard work. We all get so caught up in proving ourselves we forget that its okay to just take a step back sometimes and relax, that it’s okay to do ‘girlie things’ like go for a spa treatment or spend an afternoon making brownies with the kids. If thats what you enjoy, what helps you relax, you don’t have to feel guilty about it. These things don't make us less successful!
It’s interesting because apart from the conversation around children and social convention, there are also scientific reasons why women seem to be sacrificing a lot more than men in the race to the top. Ariana Huffington, in her book,‘Thrive’ says that women in highly stressful jobs have a nearly 40% increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks compared with their less-stressed colleagues, and a 60% greater risk for type 2 diabetes. Women who have heart attacks are almost twice as likely as men to die within a year of the attack. Women with high levels of stress are also more prone to eating disorders. And according to her statistics most women with families would take the time out if they had the financial luxury to do so.
Women are often pulled in all directions trying to please everyone (its a natural trait!) but maybe the trick is to have less stress at home if we can’t always change the dynamics at work. I was recently in Australia for a holiday and caught up with some friends after several years. Many of them now married and some brining up children. One thing struck me as I met with each one of them. All of their partners HELPED them around the house, with their errands, driving the kids around, picking up groceries - you name it. It wasn’t a request or an exception to the rule but far more an accepted culture of sharing the workload. The question didn’t even arise in my mind to wonder whose job was more stressful or whether both partners worked or either one. The image was so seamless I just sat enjoying it for a while.
Women are often pulled in all directions trying to please everyone (its a natural trait!) but maybe the trick is to have less stress at home if we can’t always change the dynamics at work
I think the big success is when there is enough comfort in a relationship to accept each other as true partners and when we embrace each others strengths and limitations. One of the above mentioned girlfriends happily supported her husband while he looked for work. In another case, my friends husband comes home by early afternoon to help out with 3 kids! Meanwhile a friend of mine back home recently spent endless nights post 16 hour days at work helping his wife out with her search for a new job. He was selfless and devoted - not to how much money she would earn or what was socially acceptable - to her happiness.
We’re still evolving and getting there but I do feel happy knowing it can and does happen. With our crazy, super connected lives (in which if you watch news channels it feels like the world may end every day) it’s important to keep sight of what matters and to create a personal environment where we feel safe from judgement and criticism, where you can just be yourself.
The views are author's own