This past spring break, I was passing through the supermarket and fell victim to impulse, purchasing a Cosmopolitan right before checking out. Usually, I leave the gossip magazines for summer beach-reading or long airplane rides, but since I was stuck at home in rainy Albany, New York for all of break, I said screw it and treated myself.
After browsing the glossy pages, I settled on an article by Rebecca Traister. In summary, Traister highlighted society’s lack of recognition that single women have priorities and obligations just as important as married women do.
All my Stony Brook single ladies who are graduating and being thrown into the working world know it is nothing less than a shark tank out there. The workplace is already disadvantageous enough to women as a whole, but it is even more difficult for a woman who is single, and that needs to stop. We need to stop weighing women’s lives on a scale that measures based on marital statues.
Sure, I love to spend my time in my International Management class planning my dream wedding down to the last sterling-silver detail. But I, like most college women, have no real intentions of getting married anytime soon.
I am 20 years old and very far from knowing how to properly (or even partially) be an adult, but for graduate students and graduating seniors, this is not a distant dream. It’s a reality. And in the not-so-distant future I will be a young, working woman who will have to battle for time at work to achieve my dreams that so often get seen as secondary to mothers or wives in the workplace.
In 1960, 68 percent of all women in their 20s were married. By 2008, that number fell to 26 percent. Today, single women make up approximately 53 percent of all unmarried adults and represent more than half of American voters.
Considering the growing number of unmarried women in the professional world, why are we not addressing how difficult it is for a single woman’s ambitions to be as valued as a married woman’s?
Yes, we are moving towards accepting women’s independent professional, sexual and social lives, but we still associate the fulfilling purpose of womanhood to be a diamond ring on the left hand and the inevitable screaming baby. Both of these notions are wonderful, powerful, life-changing experiences that women can by all means desire, but what if I don’t? What if I choose other people who aren’t my offspring or spouse to be the main focus of my life?
I experience the single-lady struggle first-hand at my job working at a daycare. Most of the employees are over 35, married and have at least one child. I, on the other hand, am still not able to legally drink and the closest thing I have to aggressively care for is the half-alive potted plant on my nightstand.
Still, I worked two jobs this past summer and managed to work the daycare almost every day of the week. I picked up shifts when someone’s daughter threw up or someone had a son who sprained his ankle. I cancelled party plans and lunch dates with friends if a coworker’s husband needed the car for work. My contact information was passed around faster than a joint at a frat party. I was messaged by employees I had never even met before and asked to cover their shifts.
At first I was grateful, ecstatic even, over the open shifts. More shifts meant more money, what did I care how I got them? Then things changed, and it was as if it was expected of me to cover the shifts of the other employees. It was as if my responsibilities and my obligations were not nearly as pressing as theirs. After all, I only had a potted plant.
One employee, who is married with two children, once told me that she would put me down for all the open shifts that month because I was “home for the summer and not doing anything.”
The life of a working parent is incredibly strenuous and I try my best to assist freeing up any mother’s schedule so they can worry about one less thing being on their plate, but that does not mean I don’t have other roles and jobs to fulfill. Why is it that if I am not caring for a baby, my actions are marked as having little to no substance? My family BBQ should be seen as just as important as Sally’s dance recital. My dinner date with my boyfriend should not be deemed beneath a night out with the husband.
As Traister put it, “I had obligations to myself and also to the friends who filled my life with needs as authentic as any spouses.” No matter how pressing your PTA meeting is, my potted plant needs me too.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Jewish Women’s Archive/Flickr