Sunday, March 10, 2013

International women's day

I am not sure if this will get me into trouble or not.

The other day was women's day and the local newspaper here did a big spread on a local woman called Fiona Wood. She has been Australian of the year and is a high profile woman. She runs a successful medical practice and business that develops new products like spray on skin for burns victims. She specializes in burns and was at the forefront when all the burns victims from the Bali bombing arrived in Australia. She is also the mother of five children.

Family on bike
With a young family it is often like this. 

The newspaper had a photograph of her hard at work and another photograph where she was surrounded by her five smiling children. The article was how she claimed she had been able to maintain a busy high powered work life and have five children where she could also meet their psychological needs over the years. She was putting herself out there as a woman who did this and being a model for all other women who wanted to do the same. 

In my view she does not help women in general and indeed perpetuates the problem. Most days I work I counsel women and their children. A common theme of what these mother’s present is guilt about what they have and have not done with their children along with their desire to fulfill their own work life aspirations. This can cause a great deal of angst for some women.

Fiona Wood claims she has been able to do both successfully and puts here self out there in public for other women to see. That is a big claim to make, that may or may not be true. I have had two children of my own and I know how much time it takes. I can recall making the decision when they were both very young that I would put the development of my career on hold as it would simply take me away from the children too much. I did not see how it was possible to have a very active career and be around the children enough to meet their psychological needs in relationship to a father. And I only had two children and I was the guy (not the mother)!

Knocked up nun

So the claims Fiona Wood makes are either not true or if they are true then she has very exceptional abilities at organization and being able to meet children’s psychological needs in a way which the vast majority of other people can not do, including me. Which ever one it is I do know that many of the mother’s I counsel are going to read the newspaper article and realize they cannot do what Fiona Wood claims she can. They are then going to feel guilt, bad about themselves, they can not do what others can do, they must not be trying hard enough, and so forth. Basically it is going to make them psychologically worse off.

It is well known the damage supermodels can do to the psyche of women. They are put out there in magazines with bodies that the vast majority of women can never have because they are not built that way.

Fiona Wood is the same. She is a kind of supermodel working mother that other women can aspire to. In my view the average woman can not ever achieve what Fiona Wood claims she and thus we have the same damage caused to the women’s psyche as the bodies of supermodels do. They are left feeling not as good as, or yet again a failure.



  1. Interesting one Tony. Having looked her up on the internet I came accross a page that explored a typical day for her. So the question for me is 'is she is able to generate more physical, mental and emotional energy than anybody else?', if so then perhaps she really is superhuman but somehow I doubt it. Something indeed seems wrong about this picture. Juggling five children, a husband, a career and of course her own needs would involve choices along the way that would mean focussing energy in one area at the sacrifice of the others. Looking at the vast amount of time she spent on her career, coupled with its obvious success, I have to agree with you Tony. I too see many mothers who struggle on a day to day basis, and also mums that feel quite successful in juggling work with home life, however these are not mums that run companies and are 'top of their game' and as the school day does not extend over 12 hours, I would imagine working long hours would have many implications in the energy focused on he 'family' aspect, to the detriment of psychological health. Adapting is inevitable for her children, strokes given for their 'understanding of mums busy schedule' so on the surface all is well. Perhaps they get most of their needs met by dad? Still, script is script... I see a not good enough message, modelling of putting own needs on hold for another', and for a successful career, and a stroke system based on doing and achieving. No Tony I do not think this is good modelling for other mums, and on a day that celebrates what I believe is 'love' in its many forms between mums and their children (blood related or otherwise), minimises what this celebration is about. Of course, like the other singled out days if the year like valentines day, there is the argument that the real point of the day is to feed into a consumerism society, and the real celebration is on a day to day basis.

  2. It may be that she doesn't sleep much. Some people seem to only need 4 hrs a night. Many a pollie gets by on little sleep I'm told.

    Holding up super-achievers as possible role models leads to depression and lots of bad feelings from what I can tell.

  3. I think we agree here Evan about the possible negative effects of having super achiever role models

  4. Hi Dena, Thanx for your thoughts. I think you have summed it up quite well especially about having to prioritise somewhere along the line. I certainly had to do that when I had my two young children. I could not 'do it all' Tony

  5. Good role models are ones we can relate to in some way and thereby seem real to us, thereby representing a behaviour or characteristic that is attainable. I like role models that are also human and sometimes "fail". I think it is easy to forget the times when we ourselves are role models. I am a role model I guess at work. Little ole me eh.
    Kahless xx.

  6. Hello Kahless, I can see why you would be a role model for some at work you have that kind of quality about you. Even though I have never met you although I have seen a photograph of you with a kangaroo.

    But I have also seen photographs of you with your siblings and you were mostly front and center which is probably as role model kind of thing.


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