The feminist career conundrum

20:34, Sep 27 2012

You are probably not going to believe this, but when I was nine I wanted to be a nun. That's right, a nun.

It didn't take long for that to change. By the time my 10th birthday rolled around I wanted to be a Spice Girl, and come sixth form (Year 12) I wanted to be an actress.

In fact, I've always wanted to be everything: a chef, a writer, a private eye, a teacher, a florist, a director, a fashion designer and even a fireman. If I could have a different job every month I'd be the happiest person I know.

As a young woman living post the feminist movement I've always felt like I could be anything I wanted to be.

The world is now a smorgasbord of career options for us.
We no longer have to watch the boys go off to be educated while we stay behind, learning to ice cakes and iron handkerchiefs. But do we now have so many different career options that we can't decide what we actually want to be?

Did our strong female ancestors fight for equality, only to empower us into disillusionment?


When our great grandmothers were our age, they had about three  choices - be a teacher, a nurse or become a wife. It's highly likely that one appealed to them the most and the decision was easy. From a young age they knew exactly where they were heading, even if it was to the kitchen.

But what about us 80 years later? Well I'm 26 and I still start sentences with, "when I grow up."

Like many Modern Maidens I went straight from school to university, not really knowing what I wanted to be but knowing I was expected to continue my education. I floundered around, taste-testing papers and enjoying the art of learning. But in reality I had no idea what my career would eventually be, quite simply because I had so many options I just couldn't decide.

After 10 years of trial and error I finally feel I may have found a job I want for the rest of my life, and it's an amazing feeling. However, I'm 26 and one day, I hope, I'm going to have children, which requires taking a break from my career.

If I had not been fed such delusions of grandeur I may have chosen a desired field much earlier and be well on the well to cementing a place in an industry I would return to after taking maternity leave.

 But someone told me I could do anything I wanted, and to me that meant more choices than I had the ability to decide upon.

Now I'm not saying I want the femme fatales to return to the kitchen, but when many of us are training for jobs that don't even exist yet, how do we, with endless options, choose our path early enough? Early enough to allow us time to have a career and children.

The women who were busy telling me I could be anything I wanted to be forgot to mention that time waits for no one.

We've all experienced that mid-20s crisis and discovered we are not Peter Pan. I have a frown line smack-bang in the middle of my forehead, and two nights of drinking in a row now takes me a week to get over.

It's moments like those when I fear I'm behind the schedule of life.

The problem many women have is with so many options, it actually takes us years to decide what we want to do with our lives, and by that time, we are shit-scared that we've left it too late to fit everything in.

So I pour a wine, cut a slice of that cake I iced, pull out my neatly ironed handkerchief and have a moment.

It's never long before I'm raising my wine glass and thanking the feminists who gave me the conundrum I have today.

Because let's face it, growing up with too many choices is much more fun than growing up with no choices at all.