My daughter turned 10 yesterday. I cherish each and every moment I spend with her and as her "mommy." Yet, I am so amazed at how much she has changed in 10 years and how much she has stayed the same.
Birthdays cause most of us to pause and remember. Yet, this time it is a little more special to see my first child walking into her two-digit years to grow up even faster. A decade is quite a time to look back and think about what has been going on.
I can clearly remember the day my daughter came into the world; it's as if it was yesterday. That day, I knew I had changed forever. I didn't know it at that moment, but now I can easily see that I found a missing piece of me when I became a mother. Now, as a mother of two, I am a different person than I was 10 years ago.
Not just me, but many things have changed in 10 years, especially for women in the U.S. Generally speaking, the generation before us fought to get into the workforce -- but over time, women realized that their efforts to keep their position at work was damaging their relationships, affecting their children and ruining their health due to the stress of carrying too much. Women had to struggle for a long time to get into the workforce, and they are still fighting for the right to hold any position they want, to obtain whatever they reach for and to be paid equally in the U.S. and the world.
For the women of today, it's not enough to enter the world of men. But, it's time to change the parameters of that world, time to reshape the way it can function for women. There is a new "women's revolution" now. Some call it the "second women's movement."
In The Atlantic's July-August 2012 issue, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote an article that has become quite a phenomenon: "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Slaughter describes how she was working her dream job under Hillary Clinton as the first woman director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department. But she left work and returned to Princeton University to teach -- a less demanding job that gave her more time with her teenage sons and a more active role as a parent in their lives.
Slaughter claims that today's women "can have it all" but cannot "have it all at the same time," not with the way America's economy and society are presently structured. She said today's problem is that people have devalued the family side of "the work-family balance." According to Slaughter, what needs changing isn't individual action, but instead we must reinterpret cultural structures -- not just in the U.S., but the world over.
Recently, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's new book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" has been on the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. In her book, Sandberg points out that many gender biases operate all over the workplace and she suggests that women continue to believe in themselves and give 100 percent to what they do.
She has lots of meaningful slogans in the book, like "lean in" and "don't leave before you leave" -- and in this way she encourages women to believe that they have the ability to successfully combine work and family. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington is one other pioneer of this new women's revolution. This month she told Forbes, "This time we're not just fighting for a space in the world, we're fighting to change it." And she is doing just that.
I am so blessed to be watching this blossoming revolution, because those are the beliefs of where I am from. Hopefully, with this revolution, gender parameters will change for the better in our modern society.
When I first became a mother I thought I could be nothing else. The ties were so strong between my kids and me that I found myself tangled-up. My kids are two years apart, which makes parenting twice as hard -- especially if you're living in a foreign country without any family support. Sometimes it is double the joy, but other times it is double the trouble.
However, years passed and together my kids and I learned how to unravel those tangles and survive happily. Of course, I am so blessed to have a husband, a great partner who is ready to share and shift responsibilities to support our family. It's complete teamwork.
My daughter once protested: "Giving birth is too hard. Why do women have to do it!" I, naturally, answered her without even pausing to think: "God created us to be strong but, because we were overly protected, we never realized our capacity for strength. Giving birth is a great way to make that discovery." I still don't know where those words came from, but it satisfied her curiosity and eased my self-doubt.
Now, seeing my daughter move into her pre-teen years, I am so happy that I can encourage her to look up to wonderful women like Slaughter, Sandberg and Huffington. They were able to succeed, but they never gave up their healthy and happy family surroundings. They are extraordinary women who are not scared to look ordinary, and they have done astonishing things for today and will do more for tomorrow. My daughter is lucky to see that being a strong woman doesn't mean giving up on her feminine side. She doesn't have to reject motherhood or her womanly nature. Happy birthday to all our daughters and to the second women's movement.
This article was previously published in Today's Zaman.