On reading my girls-only high school's annual fund raising pamphlet this year, I noted that its carefully chosen words celebrated and reflected the many career possibilities for females. Yet, one glaring career choice for women (in my view) was omitted – Motherhood.
My high school has a clear purpose – the best of learning, irrespective of gender. Surely then the role of girls' schools in this century is about nourishing identity, purpose and pride in being uniquely female!But being a potential mother should also be part of a girl's identity and a source of pride. Isn't motherhood worthy enough to be listed as a career choice by a girls' schools in their brochures? Not mother slash brain surgeon, but mother full time? Or does that choice belong firmly within the domain of each girl's family and culture?I reflected on my own time at high school 30 years ago, grateful that the experience taught me to make choices and to develop a purpose. At my graduation ceremony, our guest speaker talked about achieving our full potential in our future careers, but I did not hear anything about the choice of motherhood.
What I heard was that I should choose a career, just like the male of the species.It was only after having children that I discovered that motherhood could not be outsourced. Life choices were a great deal more complicated.Now, as I approach our class's 30th reunion, I'm aware that I'm on the downhill slope, past 45 and moving far too briskly toward 50. Truthfully, I would like to have had more children, but now it's too late.
What stopped me?
Was it the script handed to me in school about what is important and how women can make a difference and be of value? I believe that pride in motherhood has fallen, and I was one of those women who kicked it to the bottom of my list, assigning it limited value until I went through the experience myself.Without an early awareness of the complexity of motherhood, will girls miss the opportunity to reflect about the many ways in which other women have managed the choice of children or no children? I believe that the sharing of experiences would be empowering to them.
Canada's birth rate is diminishing and our society is at risk of fading away. If female schools are staying silent on motherhood, how can we expect anyone else to begin the conversation?I respect motherhood now after being so disparaging about it before I went through the experience. I think it is important that girls' schools include the various options of motherhood in their career choices. I believe girls today should be made aware of the range of ways to be mothers: together with a big career, a mummy-track career, a part-time career or a career on hold for a decade or so; or indeed consider seriously the choice not to have children at all.
My one wish for graduating classes of 2007 is that as girls listen to the empowering speeches, they will hear an acknowledgement of one uniquely female choice that may lie ahead on their path: motherhood.