Me with my son, February 2016
Life and life experiences bring many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain for all of us. Of adults, women often seem to face many more challenges than men. There are different familial, cultural, and societal expectations of women. Women are portrayed differently (and often less respectfully) than men throughout the media. Women can be leaders or followers or somewhere in-between. However, women are always women, regardless of the types of experiences and lives we lead. There is so much that women embody, and there is so much that women do and say. More often, I encourage women to be more supportive, understanding, and helpful toward each other. One never knows exactly what another person is experiencing, and just a simple smile or word of encouragement can go a long way. On International Women’s Day, it is the perfect day to promote awareness of all of this.
In my own life, I have experienced many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain. I recall some of the happiest times of my life being when I gave birth to my son, my wedding day, and each of the days that I graduated from school, college, and university. Additional happy times have been in celebrating happy occasions and accomplishment of my son. Some of the most painful experiences I have had have included my divorce, being unemployed, and having financial challenges. I am thankful for the people in my life who I am closest to and my faith for helping and supporting me through the ups and downs of my life. I am thankful for those, whether female or male, who have helped me to become a better, stronger, more sensitive and compassionate person. I am thankful for all those in my life who supported my life, growth, and development, as well as my beliefs in myself, my self confidence, and my self esteem.
There is so much expected of women. We are expected to be wives, mothers, teachers, caretakers, bosses, employees, leaders, and followers. We are expected to carry our religious faith and convictions over to our children, and even to others’ children. We are expected to help others, to volunteer, to give of ourselves, sometimes until there is nearly nothing else left to give. What is there left for ourselves, at times? This is what we have to find, and this is often the balancing act that we have to play. How do we get our own needs met while also fulfilling (or helping to fulfill) the needs of others? For some of us, we have it all worked out; for others, it is a lifelong journey.
Some of the most important aspects of my own life have been the support and interactions of family, friends, and/or colleagues (emotional and/or financial); religious faith; education; and career. Supportive people in my life are sometimes few and far between, however those who are supportive are those I highly value and cherish. My religious faith has always been there, and while I do not support everything within my faith, I know where I stand with it. Education has always been something I have supported. Knowledge is power, and one can never have too much knowledge. Regarding career, I am a woman who believes that working in a career position, such as a teacher or counselor, is as much a career as remaining at home and raising one’s children. And, there are many of us who do both of those and do them well.
Therefore, these aforestated aspects of my own life have contributed to shaping me into the woman I am today. While I am a woman who would like more work and career opportunities in order to be more financially independent and self-sufficient for my family, I am also a woman who is thankful for the opportunities I have had to be an involved mother, role model, and guide for my son. I am thankful for being able to be personally involved in my son’s life. I am not a woman who regrets being unable to spend quality time with my son because I am one who has done that. And, it is my hope that it has contributed to his welfare and benefit, and that he has and will become a better and stronger person for it, as well.
As women, we are all intertwined with each other, whether male or female, girl or boy, woman or man. I encourage women to be more supportive, helpful, and understanding of other women. Our society so often encourages men and women to be hard and insensitive on our way to the top. However, I question whether what society perceives as “the top” might sometimes actually be the bottom, based on my own values and perceptions. We must all consider who we are and how our lives and life experiences has contributed to making us into who we are. I would like to ask that, on this International Women’s Day, we all consider and take action toward being more supportive of women, and reflecting on who we are and what has made us into who we are. I would also like to encourage that if there is anything in those perceptions and reflections that we dislike and/or can improve – in a values context – that we do so. If all of us do this, it will have a positive ripple effect throughout our society, one that we can definitely use.