Somewhere in our collective childhood, Cinderella’s glass slipper broke. So did the glass ceiling.
As society changed, Disney princesses and Barbie dolls became symbols of women’s weakness. To dream of being a mother or housewife became shameful. To be a career woman meant facing judgment for rejecting a traditional family lifestyle.
Shame should not have to await either woman.
“When I first got here (to Taylor), there was this expectation that couples would get married,” Michael Jessup, professor of sociology, said.
That was over 20 years ago.
Now? Men and women alike are prioritizing careers over family, with more couples choosing to have children later in life, or not to have children at all.
“Even evangelicals are delaying their marriages,” Jessup said. “(They) want to get started in their careers.”
This message of choosing career over family is now trickling through the generations, from schoolgirls dreaming of future families to the working, 20-something wives on birth control.
But in a world where women can be anything, the question of what women “should” be has persisted. This question is as alive today as ever before.
“Historically, it is interesting to kind of see what happened after 2000, because in some ways, it was like, ‘OK, we finished the woman question, it’s done,’” Elizabeth George, associate professor of history, said. “But in many ways it’s not.”
At present, it seems American society is turning in favor of women who prefer not to have children, as a 2021 study from the Pew Research Center revealed.
The study found that a majority (56%) of non-parents younger than 50 who say it’s unlikely they will have children, do so simply because they don’t want to.
“Childless adults younger than 40 are more likely to say this than those ages 40 to 49 (60% vs. 46%, respectively),” Anna Brown, staff writer for the Center, wrote.
But while these statistics show just how much our society places value on work, it doesn’t mean the childless or the child-bearing should be looked down upon.
At the college level, choosing to graduate and work full-time should be as respectable as raising a family, the knowledge gained from a degree not wasted, but reapplied.
Scientific fields equip mothers to emphasize critical thinking and curiosity to their children; the humanities value creativity, imagination and ingenuity. Even time management and multitasking skills are imminently desirable outside of institutions.
Linda Taylor, assistant professor of professional writing, raised three children while working. With one of her children in her arms, another in a bouncer chair and the third lying down beside her, Taylor had her work cut out for her.
“It wasn’t always easy,” she said. “I often felt when I was working that I should be playing with my kids, and vice versa. It was important for me … to be able to give my best self to all those parts of my life.”
The two were difficult roles to balance, but Taylor’s dedication to being a working mother allowed her to experience both the professional and domestic worlds at once.
Still, those who remain single or who prefer not to raise children should not be defined by their choices or circumstances. Those who long to be mothers should not have it assumed of them that they attended college for a marriage license.
There is no one modern woman, but there is a singular shame.
Cinderella’s slipper shattered 20 years ago. In its shards are a million reflections of a million women who do not deserve to have their dreams broken as well.