This year’s International Women’s Day is looking to #pledgeforparity – parity being equality between genders. Its call is “to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias”. To my mind, this is a call to encouragement, and a view that all life paths are created equal.
Yet envy rather than encouragement and equality is all too easy. She has children. She has a career. She’s higher up the career ladder. She’s married. She’s single. She owns a house. She’s travelling. Her children are so well behaved. She’s a leader. She’s always beautifully coordinated. How often have you compared yourself to another? Maybe you’re the same age, from the same university course or NCT group. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and one that does little for our opportunity to respect and value difference.
The recent Facebook motherhood challenge of sharing five photos that made you happy to be a mother was both celebratory and unintentionally hurtful. Choosing ‘great mothers’ to tag reminded me of choosing your ‘best friends’ in a playground, but also felt more widely exclusive. I wasn’t going to be tagged. Friends who have experienced miscarriage, infertility, or who harbour a life-long dream for motherhood weren’t going to be tagged, either. On a day-to-day level I really enjoy seeing the joy and celebration in what must be an incredibly tough and exhausting, yet rewarding life choice. I’m pleased the potty training week stuck indoors paid off, or that your child has been Star of the Week. But being a great mother might never be my life, so am I somehow lacking?
I toyed with the idea of posting photos of my lie-ins and late night outings to theatres and much drinking of wine – though I imagine motherhood doesn’t diminish this last one – but that simply felt antagonistic. I didn’t want to say that my life was better, but that my life had as much value, too.
Because no lifestyle choice is better. No one has all the elements of their life perfectly nailed down. There is always room to envy and covet what we don’t have. But for all that I don’t have, there are many blessings available to me in my life that others may not have access to. They may be living parts of my dream, but perhaps I’m also living parts of theirs?
In the story of 1 Samuel 1, Peninnah taunts, goads and provokes Hannah because she has not given birth to a child. Hannah is given a double portion of meat because her husband loves her. Perhaps he feels sympathy and wants to cheer her up. Perhaps Peninnah is jealous because his love appears greater for Hannah. Hannah is certainly desperate to have a child of her own. Each is unhappy in her own state, and wants what the other has despite their own blessings. Hannah has time to draw close to God and to be spoken to and encouraged by Him, secure in her husband’s love. Peninnah has a young family to enjoy and raise that has doubtless brought her husband joy.
Each lifestyle has blessings and hardships and disappointments and unexpected joys, yet still we compare and covet.
In the interests of parity, I also believe men and women were created deliberately different and I love that. We are designed to complement one another; an awesome creator idea. But all women were created different too and it becomes dangerous when some roles for women are particularly seen as having more worth; God has created us as individuals, yet we allow ourselves to be labelled by only what we do or have. Each woman is unique, with different passions, temperament, abilities and strengths, with different dreams, goals and expectations. Let us be real with one another, sharing the hard parts and the joys of our different lives. Let us share our dreams, realised and unfulfilled and celebrate with others even when they seem to have achieved all we ever wanted, while it passes us by in the rush of work, or the bringing up of children.
God didn’t choose biblical women based on whether they worked or didn’t, were married or single, were mothers or not. He used women who served Him and who trusted, from queens to prostitutes. On International Women’s Day, let us work for parity by building up those around us, sharing their successes and supporting them in disappointments; take the time to build up and encourage a woman for all that she is and value the differences between you.
Different is good; God made you different. And God made you, you; all you do and are has parity in His sight.
This is part of our series for International Women’s Day, this week. And if you haven’t bought tickets to our GIRL BOSS event in London tomorrow night, what are you waiting for? Get them here!