Gwyneth Paltrow recently made a statement about motherhood that set off a media frenzy. She said it is harder for her to be a parent as a working actress than if she had a 9-5 job. Needless to say, 9-5 moms don’t want to hear how difficult motherhood is for someone who can afford nannies, cleaners, cooks, even private planes, and all the other niceties that make life so much easier. You can find the interview with Gwyneth here.
Any woman who makes an absolute statement like this one should read my book Happy Woman Happy World. There is one thing I want all of us to agree on: it is hard for all women. It doesn’t matter if you want to make partner at the law firm, be a stay-at-home mom, serve your country, be an astronaut, own a business, or have a 9-5 job. Each direction has its own challenges.
I remember how it felt to be a broke business owner newly emigrated from Germany and a single parent to my young daughter. It was hard for me because I didn’t have family nearby or a support system. I barely believed I would make it through those years. I also thought about the difficulties faced by a woman soldier who leaves her husband and kids to go on tour overseas for six months at a time. I eventually realized that no matter which end of the spectrum we stand on, managing the demands of life and fulfilling our calling can be hard for all of us.
The Women’s Code shows us why the debate about “my life is more difficult and demanding than your life” is pointless. The core of this inane argument is that we were led to believe there are women who actually do have it easier than we do. In my book, I describe it as the Superhuman Paradox. We think a woman who has figured one thing out automatically must be good at everything else. For example, we assume a woman who has a good job and always looks “put together” also has an immaculate home and a perfect marriage. Of course, being perfect in all areas of life is not possible.
We keep putting other women down when the reality is that we are all searching for better ways to manage the demands of our careers and our home lives. The Women’s Code moves the conversation from slamming and belittling other women and turns it to important questions: Why is there such little support available for women? What do we need so that we don’t feel overwhelmed? What can we as a society provide that makes a woman’s double shift easier to manage?
Patriarchal systems don’t work for women
We live in a patriarchal society and all our systems were created decades ago to make life easier for men. The reason is simple: these systems were set up when the vast majority of households had two parents and men worked outside the home. This structure allowed for a simple separation of roles and responsibilities. Fast-forward to today where women college graduates are at an all-time high and 140 women will earn a college degree of some sort compared to 100 men, according to an article published by Stanford University. Although women are now running businesses or climbing the corporate ranks, our roles at home have changed little. We have taken on more responsibilities while trying to mesh with the traditional patriarchal system.
To me, the implications of the statistic from Stanford University are very clear. Any existing system, whether in government, a Fortune 500 corporation, or in the private sector, is destined to fail if the system is not adjusting to the massive influx of women leaders.
Women need better support systems and flexible schedules. We need our own leadership principles that define what traits an excellent woman leader should posses. We need to learn what we can do to help each other lose our guilt and hold on to our sanity while we try to make it all work. What we don’t need is one woman telling another woman that she has it harder. We each have our own hurdles.