3 Kinds of Women
SUPER SOUL SUNDAY:
Elizabeth Gilbert: “There Are 3 Kinds of Women”
According to Elizabeth, every woman falls into one of three categories. “There are women who are born to be mothers. There are women who are born to be aunties. And there are women who should not be allowed to be within 10 feet of a child,” she says. Find out why she believes it’s very important to figure out which camp you belong to. – Oprah.com
The past two Sundays Oprah’s guest on Super Soul Sunday has been author of Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert spoke about her journey as a woman and coming to terms with her destiny in a society that has set ideas about the role of women. Gilbert began life, as most American girls do, expecting to follow in the footsteps of her mother, grandmother, and many generations past. The expected role of young women has traditionally been first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes woman with the baby carriage. As many of us have, Gilbert began this journey without thinking about whether it was the right journey for her.
Why think about it? As women our course has been set for us, right? Have womb, must use it.
Today women have the great fortune of living in a time where there are real choices for us. The mantra has been set. We chant to young women, “You can be anything you want to be.” But what if the question is not what you want to be, but rather what you do not want to be.
It is very easy to define who you want to be by titles – astronaut, banker, pilot, president, mother. What happens when who we want to be does not have a title? If you are a woman without child, then you are described as childless. Men are rarely described as childless, but this term is commonly used when speaking of a woman who has no children. The term insinuates that without child you are less than. It does not ring with positivity. It even sounds sad. There should be a better term that more accurately describes a completely fulfilled woman without child, or change our perception of the term childless. This is the obligation of all women, and it is on the shoulders of us mothers to begin the process.
Consider being a woman who is better suited to be an auntie, or one who should never be within 10 feet of a child, living in a society that expects, and in some ways rewards women, for having children. We celebrate Mother’s Day with gusto. We pamper pregnant women by giving them front row parking spaces. Ex-husbands use the fact that their ex-wife gave birth to his children as an excuse for his current mate to put up with his ex’s bad behavior. This must be extraordinary pressure for a woman who does not feel led to become a mother.
As if that were not enough, once our girlfriends marry, us mothers waste no time in asking when are they going to have children. If they divulge their desire to remain childless, we immediately tell them that they will change their mind once the biological clock starts ticking. When they stand firm in knowing who they are and what they want, we do not give up. We immediately forget the sleepless nights, endless laundry, frustrations, and the intense continual guidance needed by another human being that comes with motherhood. We cannot resist explaining all the joys of motherhood and the special experiences with our children that we do not want them to miss.
We should think of motherhood more like we do roller coasters, for that is really what motherhood is – a never ending magnificently winding roller coaster. Some people really love them, and throw their hands in the air in pure excitement and joy. Others become terrified, and throw up all over whomever happens to be in the way. In the case of motherhood, the person in the way is a child, who does not deserve to be thrown up on and will be incapable of cleaning the mess up themselves until at least adulthood, if ever.
With the stakes so high, why is it so difficult for us mothers to understand that another woman might be more useful to the world in other ways? Perhaps, it is because we easily made our decision to become a mother based on a title that we wanted. Gilbert poses an extraordinarily important example of why consideration of what we do not want must be a prime consideration in deciding to have children. Do any of us want a woman who should not be within 10 feet of a child having children just because it is the next (not so logical) step in her journey as a woman?
Those of us who were born to be mothers find motherhood challenging. How much more challenging must it be for a woman who is not necessarily meant to be a mother. Imagine being good at intermediate math, but not truly enjoying it, and struggling with advanced math. Then one day you discover that you must spend every day of your life for the rest of your life being required to do calculus. Over time you may get better at it, but the likelihood of ever finding true joy in it is slim. This is what we are asking of women who are better suited to be aunties. Worse, imagine failing math so badly that the best tutoring will not save your grade, then suddenly being required to do calculus every day for the rest of your life. You are likely to spend those days struggling and unable to fully contribute in other areas due to the stress. This is what we are asking women who should not be within 10 feet of a child to do. It is a very dangerous proposition.
Just as women have the right to choices in career and marriage, they also have a right to choose to not to have children. Motherhood does not a woman make. This is a profoundly liberating realization, not just for the women who do not want children, but for all women.
If mothers allow aunties and those who should not be within 10 feet of a child to be accepted for who they are, their gifts to our children are extraordinary. Children need women of all kinds to look up too. They need aunties to make them feel special and provide a listening ear for those times when mom just does not understand them. They also need women, who may be terrified of them, to show them things about the world that our mother brains may miss, because we are so focused on being mothers. The scope of possibilities is unfathomable when we rely upon each other’s strengths, rather than placing judgment on attributes that are not shortcomings or failings. These attributes are necessary components to our society and deserve to be celebrated.
SO this is a call to action for all woman. Lets celebrate each other, rely on each other to fill in our gaps, and become compassionate toward one another.