Saturday Soapbox: Keeping It Real With Role Models

True it is that it is Sunday morning here, but in cyberspace everyday lasts 48 hours and it’s still Saturday somewhere – hello to all my West Coast US readers!

Earlier this week, I wrote about Nigella Lawson and how she seemed real to me as a domestic goddess. Nigella is in stark contrast to Martha Stewart who is about as real to me as a set of silicone implants. I am not talking about Martha’s appearance rather her approach to domesticity. With all due respect to Martha and her followers there is no way I am spending two hours a day folding my towels and sheets so that they form colour coordinated, scented sentinels at the ready. My linen cupboard, as a place for storing functional material, is a semi-organised lucky dip.

This got me thinking about the role models I have had and the women who have been seemingly trotted out to me as role models during my life. As most of you know, I am in my 40’s. I have read various articles which place the year of my birth anywhere in the late Baby Boomer category to the early Gen X basket and if that were not already confusing enough within something called “Generation Jones”. What is Generation Jones? I regard myself as a Gen Xer but whatever the label, I am amongst that generation of women who were led to believe we could have it all. Just how we were to have it all was the $64 million question.

I have spent my working life in a male dominated industry. When I started my career there were very few women in senior power positions and those who were did not seemingly have it all. They had parts of it, but never the whole box and dice. Even now, some two decades later, the statistics are sadly lacking in terms of senior women relative to the percentage of women in the industry as a whole. I will be upfront and say that I have never placed much credence in the view that there is a glass ceiling. There are a whole lot of reasons as to why the statistics are the way they are that have nothing to do with a glass ceiling – I won’t bore you with those reasons. Let’s just say the statistics are now trending in the right direction, albeit at a pace that is certainly not hare-like.

In all fairness to my industry they have tried to grapple with the lack of senior power women. Some of the measures employed include women’s networking functions, skilling and reskilling seminars for women and even affirmative action. I will be upfront again and say I am not a fan of any of these. The answer to me lies more with a change of culture and attitude towards flexible working practices – an issue, that with an aging population, will increasingly affect women AND men. But’s that’s a whole other blog post.

Time and again, I have sat at these functions listening to these supposed power women role models and thinking that people need to keep it real. There was one female executive who was paraded as a role model who indeed had reached the dizzying heights of corporate success whilst being a mother to three children. What became evident as she spoke was that she had a passel of nannies and other paid help and a schedule that enabled her to sleep four hours a night. Whilst I am very pleased that it worked for her, how many of us can function fully on only four hours sleep a night? I know I can’t. Also how many of us can afford paid help, especially at the start of our careers?

Yet another woman who travelled the world in her corporate guise had been married three times and had the reputation of a pit bull ball breaker. After hearing her story, not only was she not someone who I wished to model myself on, but she was someone with whom I could not identify. In saying that I make no judgement call on the reasons for remarriage/divorce or the state of being divorced. All I know is that it is not something to which I aspire.

Show me a woman who has a successful career, a family, gets at least seven hours sleep a night, is involved in her family’s lives, is personable and approachable and possibly has a bit of baby spit on the shoulder of her business suit and I am on board. I appreciate that everyone is different and that the issue is quite subjective, but it’s important that we keep it real for those that are coming behind us. There is way too much spin in the world already. Maybe the lesson here is that one can’t really have it all.

Right now my hands are fully occupied juggling balls that don’t include a perfect linen cupboard. Maybe by the time the perfect cupboard comes under my radar domestic science will have evolved to a degree where I can have my colour coded scented linen sentinels at the ready in under an hour. One can only hope.

19 thoughts on “Saturday Soapbox: Keeping It Real With Role Models

  1. After having children, I came to the conclusion that a woman may be able to have it all, but she can’t have it all at once. Something has to give. But it’s important to remember that life is a series of chapters–it’s really more fluid than people believe. Kids grow up, careers change, and pieces once lost come back together over time. At least that’s my two cents on the subject. As for my linen closet? Please don’t look inside it…

    • Ha ha Carrie. Sometimes I need a flack jacket to get inside of mine :) I am coming to the same conclusion as you about having it all. Life is a series of priorities that change over time.

  2. No one can have it all, they might think they can, but no. Career women give pieces of themselves to everyone and no one gets the full deal, including yourself. Look at Martha…her towels might be colored coordinated, but she doesn’t have a healthy relationship with her daughter. I love dust bunnies, messy linen closets and happy kids. Now that my children are leaving me in the dust I can start cleaning and folding.

      • I had a career that I LOVED, but my boss would never tolerate “I can’t come in the baby is sick” and I knew it, he was selfish and I had to leave. I stayed home with the kids and tried to be a 50’s housewife. I worried more about the kids & house being perfect and missed out on the fun of motherhood…I turned it into a job. I went back to work in a more mindless atmosphere when my kids went to school, but again I was torn. Bottom line..there are no right or wrong answers, you just have to do the best you can. Women will always feel they didn’t do enough..it’s our nature to nurture. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

  3. First, my linen closet is the last place I organize..lol
    To me a successful woman is not one with a fantastic career, 2.5 kids, Hubby in the wings and a house spit shined top to bottom. That to me is a robot..Women role models (now this is for me, maybe not others) are the ones who show love, care & compassion for the world at large and actively do something to help the lives of themselves & others be better..

    Great, thought provoking post!!!

    • This is a great comment. I have learned through experiance that compassion and kindness are really what makes the world revolve. I pity those who don’t recognise this to be true. Your linen closet sounds like my kind of place :).

  4. Pingback: I won!! They DO love me!! | newsofthetimes

  5. I like Nigella, she looks like she enjoys what she cooks and I have been compared to her … not in sexy (sadly) looks but cooking skills :-)

  6. This is such an important issue. I feel like there are so many more professional opportunities for women now, but workplace policies have not caught up. Our generation – I just turned 40 – has really experienced this. Thanks for a great post and for raising this issue.

  7. When I get my towels organized and the whole of my cupboards in line, all of my carpets scrubbed and every room in the house is in proper order – it lasts for about 10, 9, 8, 7…its over.

    My femaie role models are women who did not lie to me and add to my near nervous breakdown in trying to do it and have it all. I was a beast in corporate America but my marriage was failing, which I in no way attribute to my career success. I slowed down in my career and rebalanced to focus on what held more importance. Prioritized. Wrapped my own mind around the purpose and function of my life.

    Role models should actually fulfill roles that resemble the happiness, wholeness and health we want our lives to look like. A stint in federal prison is not part of that picture for me, yet a comeback from a fall like that does personify a skill worth investigating.

  8. Can an old fart comment? I linked to you at the encouragement of my friend at Newsofthetimes. First off, middle age is always 15 years older than you are at any point, so stay young at heart. We men are fixer-uppers. You will never get us exactly the way you want us, but try to smooth out our edges. I have been married for almost 27 years and my wife is easily the best half of the family. I would describe her from Loggins & Messina’s “Danny’s Song.” – Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup; drink it up; love her and she’ll bring you luck; and if you find she helps your mind you better take home; don’t you live alone; try to earn what lover’s own.- The secret is her sense of humor. By the way, she loves Nigella, so maybe that is the key to life. Thanks for letting me sing my song.

    • I love your comment and Old Farts (deliberate use of capitals – see my comment on your blog) are most welcome. I know all about fixer upper men, I have one and have had one for more than 20 years. He is the practical grease in our family machine. I’m more strategic navigator, social director, helicopter pilot ;). You will get no argument from me about humour and laughter, it’s what keeps me grounded and sane. Please swing by and sing your song anytime you feel the urge, hope it’s often – we might even have the same hymn sheet. And thanks to my blog friend, NOFTTy for the linkage :).

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