For most of my early life, female-ness was all I knew. My mom was single for a significant part of my growing up years, and I have two sisters. So until first grade or so, I was pretty sure the only difference between boys and girls came down to haircuts. Sometimes I took clues from first names too. But since the '80s celebrated a number of gender-neutral names like "Chris" and "Sam," most of the time, certainty came down on the side of the haircut.
This naiveté is laughable, of course. But as I've grown older, I've come to realize these formative years of living exclusively with and among other women has significantly shaped my own sense of identity and vocation as a woman. Most notably, it has given me a deep curiosity to understand the angst that punctuates so much of what it means to be a woman today. And, specifically, to try and better understand the confusion, striving, and uncertainty that seems to lie at the heart of so many of our modern choices, responsibilities, roles, and commitments.
A recent study by the Barna group highlights this sense of confusion and unrest among women. Not surprisingly, at first glance, women seem generally satisfied with their life and choices. More than three-quarters of women (76 percent) said they are either "satisfied" (50 percent) or "extremely satisfied" (26 percent) with their life. Yet while these numbers seem promising, almost every other indicator reveals a stark sense of dissatisfaction. Sixty-two percent of mothers with children at home, for example, say they are dissatisfied with the balance between their work life and their home life. Seven in ten say they are dissatisfied with the amount of stress they experience in their life, and six in ten do not feel they get enough rest. These numbers are slightly better among women who do not have children, yet nearly two-thirds (63 percent) still say their lives are too stressful.1