School,college,marriage,kids – is there more to being a woman?

Published: March 8, 2013
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One wonders where the woman is in all of this- what about her dreams and aspirations? PHOTO: REUTERS

From a very early age, girls are taught to be responsible, politically correct and open to compromise, with a greater emphasis on conformity for societal appreciation.

There is just one problem, most of these lessons are bequeathed with the view of a woman’s future home, future in-laws, hypothetical husband and even more hypothetical children.

Lessons that bring forth a form of “automatic decision- making” that is of the “school-college-marriage-kids” variety.

It is almost as though a majority of women conclude that the ultimate result of any pursuit prior to their mid 20s will be matrimony and anything different would be rather unfortunate indeed, to the point that marriage becomes the apex of their lives, their primary focus, the very reason for their existence, and this is not considered unhealthy in the least.

The achievements of women in society then become increasingly measured by how soon they get married, how cleverly they manage family relations, how happy and fulfilled their husbands are, how well their children are performing at school, when their children get married, how successful their careers and marriages are because quite obviously, that is the litmus test of good upbringing.

One wonders where the woman is in all of this– what about her dreams and aspirations?

I have come across women who reflect a sense of emptiness when they reach the later part of their lives, not because marriage is unfulfilling or because raising children is unbelievably exhausting (which it is), but because they have lost themselves in the chaos of it all.

I have also come across young women who do not even consider the possibility where marriage could be put on hold for the pursuit of some other form of self fulfilment, whether career or education related, perhaps because the notion of deviating from a predetermined, socially approved plan presents a quandary of its own, one that is too overwhelming to deal with.

I do not mean to generalise, of course, there are a number of women, both young and old who view marriage and children as something that is a part of life, not the sole purpose of it.

I have, however, overwhelmingly engaged with women who reaffirm a rather different story; the consequences of which may be more detrimental than we realise.

Women should take a moment, preferably near their early 20s, to ask themselves what they would like to accomplish as individuals; to imagine how different life could be without marriage and children, what it would mean, how it would affect others, and how it would change society.

I do not know what the answers to these questions will be.

They may lead to wanting to solely raise children which is a task in itself and tougher than most careers, but they may also open doors you had not considered before, and they may make you realise that you value a life where your personal aspirations are both recognised and pursued – whether these aspirations include reading 500 books before you turn 40, teaching at a school, starting your own company, completing a graduate education, volunteering for different initiatives every year or a million other permutations of infinite possibilities.

Many women do not have the luxury of choice, some would argue, many would say they do not have the resources; even more may say that these are the ramblings of a feminist.

Regardless of what you may say or think, however, I pray that we begin to teach our daughters that they are individuals first, and wives/mothers second, that it is absolutely critical for them to determine who they are and how they will make an impact on the world.

They should be taught that the sole purpose of their existence is not to raise the next generation of Pakistan, granted that– that is a responsibility they all share and must fulfil to the best of their abilities.

I for one am certainly grateful that my parents gave me the courage to find this sense of self, to dare to imagine how I will leave a mark on the exceedingly crowded map of the world. And whether or not my “dreams come true”, the point is that I have them, and that they allow me to recreate and redefine a “happily ever after!”

Read more by Fatima here of follow her on Twitter @zahra7891

Fatima Zahra

Fatima Zahra

Fatima is a graduate student at the University of Southern California, and is passionate about using Communication Management as a medium for solutions to social issues. She tweets as @zahra7891 twitter.com/zahra7891

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.