By Liza Vasquez ICF CMC
Certified Master Business and Life Coach
We have arrived! It is 2022, almost sixty years since the modern feminist movement began in the 1960’s. And yet, the curious part is that there is still as much confusion now as there was back then about what Feminism means to the lives of individual women as much as it does to the world at large.
The question remains: What is Feminism?
The Answer: Feminism is really about all genders having equal rights and opportunities. It is about respecting diverse women’s experiences, their identities, their knowledge, and strengths, and to empower all women to realize their full rights as well as potential.
The technical definition of Feminism is the advocacy of women's rights based on the equality of the sexes. This concept has a number of synonyms that you are familiar with, such as: the women's movement, the feminist movement, women's liberation, female emancipation, women's rights, post-feminism, and womanism.
In order to fulfill the promise of feminism we must level the playing field between genders while ensuring that diverse women and girls are having the same opportunities in life that are available to boys and men.
As a Life and Business Coach for professional women, my goal is to help you have the life you want; and for you to have arrived at your critical life’s decision without undue pressures from your family, parents, life partner, colleagues, and from the overall culture and society around you, free from the pressures of those who have their own agenda for what they think your life should look like.
I see that many of my young female clients are overwhelmed by their professional lives and the impact this is having on their personal lives.
Let’s take a look at Feminism, what it might mean to you, and how it is contributing to your current circumstances in both a positive and negative way.
Certainly, Feminism has enabled a great many women to have the professional careers they want. And every woman, whether single or in a relationship, is now free to structure their domestic roles and financial responsibilities as they want. This is a commendable societal change since the days when our roles in society were almost exclusively defined along gender lines.
Where is the confusion?
I do not believe that Feminism was ever intended to mean that women were supposed to give up all their traditional roles automatically, without giving it a second thought, and take on what had previously been traditional male roles. After all, there are many traditional female roles which are very satisfying.
In fact, many men have not been that excited or comfortable with their traditional roles as the family breadwinner with all the responsibility it entails. After all, it is very stressful and anxiety provoking when you believe you are supposed to be ambitious and continuously striving for a higher position and more income. If you are the main supporter of a family, whether you are a man or woman, then you know exactly how this feels.
Over time, with the acceptance of Feminism, some men were so embracing of the societal changes it brought them that they were relieved to have these new options!
The role of “House Husband” or “Stay at Home Dad” became a viable option. The ability to stay home, take care of and nurture their children, go shopping, and prepare the meals was appealing to many men. Staying home also gave them time to pursue other interests that being the breadwinner had denied them, such as writing, painting, reading, doing carpentry, working on their car, exercising, maintaining a garden, the culinary arts and so on.
To be sure, the House Husband is still more the exception than the rule. Nonetheless, I have couples in my coaching practice that have adapted this form of domestic partnership. Of course, my clients also include couples that have designed a domestic structure that provides for shared responsibility in all areas: cooking, cleaning, shopping, and financial management of the family. This arrangement also includes shared childcare responsibility.
For both men and women, being a lawyer is a wonderful profession for the intellectual challenges it offers. It is also a very demanding career in terms of the time commitment required to be considered a successful lawyer. As a career, in terms of the time required, it is like a tablecloth that is too short to cover the entire table at the same time. If you pull it to cover the uncovered end of the table, then the other end of the table will be exposed.
What are some of the things you might be missing if you are a compulsively dedicated and ambitious lawyer? Are you finding time to read, meet with your friends, exercise, dedicate romantic time to your partner (or to finding a partner) or have you forgotten how to just BE? A bigger issue might be: are you spending enough time with your child(ren)?
Take a step back, and think how you arrived at the place where you find yourself now because this is the point of my opening question: Is Feminism a Choice or an Obligation?
What I have seen in my practice is that too many young women were on automatic pilot as their lives unfolded in front of them. It was as if they had a questionnaire of life choices in front of them and, considering the rising prominence of Feminism, they were obligated to check off the boxes of their accomplishments without thinking.
Go to university Check
Find a romantic partner Check
Go to law school Check
Become a lawyer Check
arry a romantic partner Check
Have a baby or two Check
Work long hours
Become a partner
Work thirty or more years
Make a lot of money
Invest your money
Play with the grandchildren
Wait for Jesus to call you home
I stopped showing check marks after Work Long Hours because that is where I find most of my female clients to be. Let me discuss a few of these points on that questionnaire.
Marry romantic partner – I have many couples in my practice who spent a year planning a wedding but never devoted any time whatsoever to discussing the real issues of what their lives together would look like after the wedding. Such as, how many children they wanted to have, if any. How will they raise the children and how will they divide the childcare responsibilities? Often by the time they come to me, some serious cracks have already begun to appear in their relationship.
Working long hours – What often suffers when you have a serious legal career is time you can dedicate to your life partner. Time is even more scarce if you are trying to be a good parent, and afterwards there is almost no time available for your life partner. As wonderful as the children are, they are going to grow up and have their own lives. If you hope to still be married to the same person when the children are grown up and out of the house, this will take time now.
You cannot wait twenty or so years to recreate a relationship that you have allowed to whither while you dedicated yourself to work and the children to the exclusion of your partner. This is not a “woman issue,” this is a human issue. And then there is YOU! Most professional women forget, in all the hustle and bustle of career and family life, that YOU are the most important person in your life. Making time for yourself is the most important part of the Feminism equation. Nurturing your emotional and physical self will not only keep you healthy for your loved ones, but it will keep you happy and healthy for yourself. Without this you cannot have what you want or need.
I want you to have the legal career you want. I ask you to keep in mind that no lawyer that I have ever coached – man or woman – at their retirement party ever said “Why didn’t I spend more time at the office? Why didn’t I see more clients?”
I have been a dedicated mother while being a fulltime life coach. My daughter is 32 years old now, and we have a very close relationship. I assure you that there were times when I chose to sit on the floor with her playing games, drawing or reading to her over seeing another client when I felt she needed me more. Again, there were also times when work called and there was no getting out of or working around my professional obligations, so I made the right choice for my professional life and my personal life. Our children learn by example, remember this.
Happy fulfilled mom, happy fulfilled child. Parenting, especially when you have a demanding career, is a delicate dance. Sometimes we are in step and sometimes we miss a beat. The important thing is to be aware and keep working to improve the ‘balance’ needed to enhance the journey.
“You can have it all” is a myth that somehow has become embedded in the contemporary Feminist movement. It is a myth because by itself it is only a half truth. The truth is that “You can have it all, but not at the same time.”
There is no substitute for a loving life partner and happy, healthy children. Do you think your clients will surround you with love and genuine caring as you age? Not likely. But your family will. My recommendation is to dedicate time to your life partner and your children now. You will never be able to recover these years. You can work part-time or remotely nowadays. Find romantic getaways with your partner as often as you can.
Deciding not to have children and dedicating your life to your legal career and other important endeavors is another way of having personal and professional fulfillment. There is more than one way of living a life. As a matter of fact, there are countless ways. All I ask is that you think through the choices and decisions you make.
You can have a strong legal career later if you are willing to emphasize other priorities now. I certainly agree that it is unlikely for you to be able to enter a major law firm at age 45+ as an associate lawyer. But a position with a major law firm is only an ego issue. You can certainly find work in your 40s in a smaller law firm handling other interesting matters and transactions. You will earn enough money to take care of your needs and save for retirement. That will not be a problem.
That is why I ask you: have you chosen the practice of law? Or have you felt it was an obligation? As a life coach for female attorneys, I want my clients to make enlightened choices so they can look back at some point in the future without regrets and say, “I had the life I wanted.” Remember, “need” and “want” are not the same thing.
Coaching and Support in 2022 and Beyond
What I have discussed in this article is only a small fraction of what I cover in my individual coaching sessions with my clients. Your coaching sessions will be guided by your wants and needs, both short term and long term. Please contact me for a free half hour diagnostic session to see if coaching with me would be the correct course of action for you.
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