by Myrrhanda Novak
After a yearlong maternity leave, I just finished my first week back at my full-time job. I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions as I say goodbye to my boys each morning and goodbye to the season of being home with them nearly every day. I am giving up slow mornings and walking my oldest to school. I'm risking that my baby will miss me at daycare and I’m nervous that maybe he won’t really miss me at all.
And then I see one of those ads on Instagram for some elusive career where you sit on a beach with a laptop and make six figures. Or, I hear a story of a mom who, like my recent podcast guest, left her corporate job to start a wildly successful company, or the story of a woman who, like Stephanie’s last guest, left her job to stay home with her kids. And all of the options are simultaneously tempting and overwhelming. Am I doing the right thing?
One of the biggest gifts of feminism is choice. Now, instead of women’s paths being laid out for us (marriage, children, homemaking), we have our own hero’s journey to create and discover. But all the options before us and around us can lead to guilt, self-doubt, comparison, judgement and just a whole lot of anxiety. We’re thankful to have greater autonomy, but this comes with a new set of challenges.
Countless times I have read the bio of a woman like podcast guest Tonia Jahshan, founder of Steeped Tea and mom of three and thought to myself: 'Honestly, Myrrhanda, you are such an underachiever.' Or, sometimes I think: 'That woman is so damn lucky. I don't know how she did it, but I'm sure it was some kind of crazy fluke.' It's a bit absurd how I turn another woman's success into a weapon that I use against myself or against her.
In my interview with Tonia, one of Canada's top entrprenuers, she shares how challenging it was to create what is now a $20 million company and how hard she’s working at this stage in her life.
“Do I feel like I’ve taken on too much sometimes? Absolutely,” she says. “It’s so exhilarating and fun and you have this sense of accomplishment, but sometimes you wonder, at what cost? I was truly encouraged by Tonia's honesty. Yes, she has had phenomenal success and most of us probably envy her a little bit. But we can't look at her story or anyone else’s without recognizing what she gave up to go up. And we shouldn't assume (as I definetly have) that she feels surperior to every other mom and thinks she's done it all right every day.
Instead, maybe we can create space to celebrate another person's path without feeling like it's a judgement of our own.
This is so well articulated in our newest episode with maternal health advocate and stay-at-home mom Jamie McCallum. She left her career as a teacher after having her first child, and her perspective is insightful and refreshing. Her path might be a significant departure from the powerful career women we’ve interviewed so far, but like WOMENdontDOthat's other guests, she owns her choices, and I think that is real empowerment. “My advice is be brave. Do what works for you and what is good for you and... don’t worry about all of the advice you get and what everybody else thinks,” says Jamie. “We should be able to follow our instincts and follow our own path and not make it about what somebody else is doing.”
After all the self reflection that going back to work has brought on, I remember that I very much enjoy working outside the home, I don't want to take on the risk of being an entreprenuer, and basically, I enjoy the life I’ve created and need to stop comparing it to all the other options. Whether you’ve chosen a big family or no family, a big career or no career, there isn't a universal best way to live your life as an empowered woman. The true empowerment of feminism happens when we choose the path that feels best for us without needing to justify it to or seek approval from anyone else.
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