Recently I read a blog post that asked the question, "What is your greatest achievement in life"? This was a blog written by and for women and the blogger was now reporting back on the answers that she had received from her readers. The majority of women stated that raising their children was their greatest achievement. They were proud that their hard work as mothers had resulted in adults that were good people. But I was shocked at the blogger's response to her readers' vision of their personal achievement. She minimized their achievement by saying something to the effect, come on ladies, men don't claim raising their children as their greatest achievement, haven't you done anything else in your life besides child rearing, try again?
I haven't ventured back to her blog because I realized we had nothing in common. I believe that women should have all the opportunities that are open to men including raising children. I believe women should have access to a good education, be physically safe in our society, have an opportunity to pursue meaningful employment and be able to create a family that is fulfilling and satisfying. I also believe that a woman may choose not to pursue anyone of those opportunities including having children. I believe a woman has the right to declare what is meaningful to her and state her "greatest achievement" without having it marginalized by another.
I am old enough to have experienced some very real prejudiced behavior by men and corporations. When I was pregnant with my first child, JC Penney's let me go from my job because the manager of my department thought it was unsightly to have a pregnant woman waiting on customers. I went quietly because I was young and stupid. Years later I wanted to buy a BMW; it was my "reward" for working hard at my job. The male sales rep told me that he would sell me a car when I came back to the dealership with my husband. I give you my word, true story. Instead, I drove across the street and purchased a Volvo; they had no husband requirement. To this day, I have not nor will I purchase a BMW. Fortunately that kind of prejudice has been tempered though education and a few hard fought lawsuits.
In spite of those who would limit my ability to pursue my goals, I've earned a degree with honors in Political Science, I own my own company, I've traveled to China, South Africa as well as to many other unique and engaging countries and I'm writing a book that once finished will be a proud moment for me personally. But the most important achievement in my life has been to raise children that contribute each day to the lives of their families, to their jobs, inside and outside of the home and to their community. When I read another woman minimizing that achievement, it's just plain irritating. I could go on and on about how it takes finely tuned managerial skills to raise children, manage a household, work a job outside the home and maintain a marriage...or any combination of those. Should we shame the individuals who choose not to have children or travel outside of the United States or own a business? No, real choice comes to women and men when they can craft a life that fits their talents, abilities and desires. So I will ask you, what do you value? What is your greatest achievement? And remember don't let anyone steal your power by minimizing your achievement.