A Woman's Worth
Do you want to have kids?
Why is it that this is usually one of the first questions asked after people find out I'm studying to be a physician? It's practically a follow up after being asked what specialty I plan to pursue. And I cannot lie, it's one of the most annoying questions for a woman in medicine; it's right up there with "Medical student? So are you the nurse?" My question is though, if I were a male, would my desire for children be a follow up question? Probably not, and why does it matter anyway? Because unfortunately, as my friend Beunca pointed out, regardless to what we accomplish as women, we are still judged by our relationship and maternal status. And I wish I could say this question came from mostly men, but oddly enough, I get a fairly good mix. Which leads me to believe sexism in our society is so deeply ingrained that we women don't even know we are perpetuating it.
Having children and having a career are not mutually exclusive, and it's time society stops trying to make us feel like we have to choose. We can be successful professionals, and great mothers if our hearts so desire. But unfortunately we as women have been conditioned to believe that we must pick one. I too am guilty of this school of thought. It made choosing a specialty an excruciatingly hard process. One that pitted mind versus heart. I knew in my mind I should choose something flexible, deemed a "good lifestyle," so I could have a family. In fact I had worked hard to achieve good grades and scores, for the sole purpose of having the option to select something more "lifestyle friendly". However I knew in my heart what would make me happy, so after much deliberation, I decided to follow my heart.
Unfortunately I often see my female peers make the former choice, and I don't fault them. We have a small window of time to decide, limited information, and guesses about what our life may or may not be like in twenty years, and what may or may not make us happy then. I have some classmates who already have families and are better able to assess their priorities. They want to maximize their time as parents because that's what's most important for their happiness. But for the childless among us though, we often fall into this trap of basing decisions right now on the family we may have in 10-20 years, before even finding a partner.
I find myself falling into this trap at times; limiting myself and my potential because I may have kids one day. It's in those times I have to stop, step back, and think if I were a man, would I be doing this? My male peers often pick what they like. The possibility of them being a dad one day usually isn't a limiting factor. But us women, we limit ourselves based on that metric, and it's time we stop. Once we realize that priorities change, careers evolve, life is flexible, people adapt, and nothing is set in stone, we can start achieving our FULL potential. There are kick ass boss women we see everyday with successful careers, flourishing families, and full lives, so why would we be any different?
So the next time someone asks you about kids, kindly tell them to mind their own business, because a woman's worth is not based on her ability to marry and reproduce. A woman's worth is measured by the lives she impacts, the benefits others gain from her successes, and the love she leaves behind. Once you know your worth, no one can tell you otherwise.