Ever feel like a lot of phone conversations between women recently hinge on who is busier? The incessant playdates, the overwhelming workload that seems to have doubled during quarantine, and the various social commitments. So, one person talks about how they haven’t slept properly in months and the other counters by telling us how she’s managing 4 projects. This continues until you hang up. I call this the struggles of modern women. The ridiculous expectations to always excel.

When I was younger, I remember teatime afternoons sitting outside chatting to my family. Teatime was sacred and could sometimes last hours. Now I barely see my kids for more than a few hours and in between those I’m still either working, disciplining them or trying to squeeze in some educational lessons to share with them. We’re never just relaxing.

So what changed? I think there are a few factors that contributed to this.

Social media

Modern technology can be a bit of a curse. Suddenly we’re privy to what everyone is up to, any time of the day. You see the superwomen managing their multiple roles with so much ease. You see the career women thriving in their respective jobs. The crafters knitting blankets for their kids. The home bakers making batch after batch of broccoli muffins that I can’t even follow the recipe of. Everyone is excelling, whereas I feel like I’m drowning half the time. When did perfection become such a prerequisite?

The fight for emancipation

I, like many women today, am done with notions of subjugation. I know that I wasn’t raised to be dependent on a man and I have actively tried to be an equal partner. However, the responsibilities of women haven’t changed. We’re still, for the most part, the primary caretakers, just because men are still earning more. Schools still reach out to moms first and kids turn to us for their needs. So, in essence, even though our roles have expanded, the other responsibilities haven’t eased up.

There are certainly more opportunities for us now than there were for my mother or grandmother. I now know that I can be a multi-faceted individual. However, in this struggle to be better, and explore more, I’m now a headless chicken. I want to be fitter because it signifies discipline. I want to read more because it allows me to have a different worldview. I want to work harder so I can grow in my career, and so on. As we grow, the expectations from modern women increase as well. But when does it stop? When do we realize that we’ve reached the end of our tether and some expectations are just not realistic?

We’re still struggling to get the recognition we deserve  

I think the success of women is celebrated a lot more now than before. However, we still need to talk louder, work harder and longer, to get the same level of acknowledgment. I know that if I ever let something slip, people will blame me for playing the “woman card.” However, if a man slips up, he’s just having a bad day. We continuously need to hold ourselves together, never let the mask slip and keep going because letting one juggling ball drop means it all falls apart. After all, a modern woman needs to have it together right?

I’m happy at the pace women are moving. I love seeing my peers succeed, excel, reach high-level posts. But I also see expectations from us rise and the roles multiply, as we struggle to keep up. We’re expected to be role models for our kids, always-indulgent partners, level-headed workaholics, passionate hobbyists and above all excellent multitaskers. But is this realistic? Will modern women ever be allowed the same level of leniency that men are? I hope so, because somedays I’m barely holding my head above the water, but I’m smiling because no one likes a whiner.

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  • Sarah Khan

    Sarah B Khan is a published short story writer based out of Dubai. She has written for publications such as HuffPost, Prohze and Desi Writers Lounge to name a few. Sarah has worked in Advertising for over 13 years and enjoys flexing her creative muscles both when writing for clients and crafting compelling fiction. She has a BA from the University of South Florida in Mass Comm and Creative Writing.