Media and Motherhood

Within the space of 24 hours this week two young, female journalists –  from two completely different countries — asked me how I’ve done  it… how I have managed to pull off a career in the media and take care  of three little children at the same time.

“It’s been hard,” I admitted to them both. I’m not one for lying or  candy coating the truth, especially since seeing Lynette Scavo’s rant  about motherhood and career on a recent episode of Desperate  Housewives.

There were times over the past decade when I was ready to give it all  up, I told them. When after being up all night with one or more crying  babies, I had to focus at work editing, proof-reading or writing stories.

On some of those days I’d come dangerously close to either falling asleep at my desk or quitting completely and opting instead to be a full-time stay-at-home mum able to sip coffee with my friends and fold laundry at my leisure.

I didn’t quit my job of course because as much as I like to complain about having “two full-time jobs,” I could not imagine just being a mum without a serious job or just being a career woman without my precious ones.

Eternal dilemma

While compliments showered on me by both of these promising journalists – one married, the other contemplating it — was heart-warming, what prompted me to write this post was the question posed by one of them.

“Do you think its better to have a family first or to focus on building up my career first and then start a family?”

It’s a question I am still pondering but I think I have figured it out…

There is no doubt that being a journalist is full-on. It’s almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week; it’s working on national holidays and religious festivals, it’s listening to the news first thing in the morning and last thing at night, it’s sniffing out a story when you are at a party or social gathering in your free time. It’s a job where you never quite hang up your uniform and take a break. When you get the urge to write – whether it’s night or day – there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Exhausting eh?

Now, consider motherhood. You are thrown into with little or no training and while the responsibility is something that most of us can cope with, it’s the constant demands for attention, love and practical help that keep us busy from morning until night (and sometimes through the night).

It does seem almost impossible to combine the two making the career vs motherhood debate an eternal dilemma that most young female journalists are faced with, especially because journalism is known as a profession for young people.

Another inequality for women

The question made me sad and frustrated. Why do we, as women,  need to choose? Why do we have to ponder this dilemma at all? Do  our male colleagues have to factor in a time schedule of when they  should focus on their career or when they should have children?

While some of the answers to these questions are obvious, others  have been discussed since the feminist revolution of the 1960s and  70s when women were thrust out of the household and into the office.

However, what I told my young journalist friend (she is 27) was as  follows:

Even with all the hardships and heartbreak caused by our children, they are a blessing and no one wants to be an old mother or run the risk of not being able to get pregnant because of age. At the same time, intelligent women, who might have dreamed of having a career in the media all their lives, should not have to forgo that in order to have a family.

It’s just a case of putting one thing a little bit ahead of the other, at least for a while and then you can make them a joint priority. In my case, I chose to put having children first but I insisted on continuing to work. There were times when I had to pass up certain opportunities – to travel or take on a thrilling or dangerous story — because I was a young mother but I don’t regret this.

Rather, I started my family young and in my head, I still feel young, and with my family established I now feel ready to put my career up another notch. Luckily, there are no more diapers, night-time feeds or inexplicable temper tantrums.

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