What Women Need for a Happy Life

Access to 3 “Spheres,” Says Professor

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ROME, MAY 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Women need the ability to join in three spheres — family, work and society — in order to be fulfilled, a speaker told a conference on feminism.

“What constitutes a happy and fulfilled life?” professor Janne Haaland Matlary asked in her address to the congress on “Women and Cultures from the Perspective of a New Feminism.”

“A happy life for a woman in Western society affects three spheres: the family, work and society,” said Matlary, a mother of four, who was Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister from 1997 to 2000.

“A happy and fulfilled life for a woman consists in having the possibility to share her time in these three spheres and in being able to participate in the three,” she said. “But we must realize that the three do not have the same importance.”

The Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum sponsored the two-day congress which ended today.

“It is natural that women should dedicate more time to raise their children when they are little, just as it is natural that they should decide to go to work outside the home when the children are grown up,” the political scientist from the University of Oslo added. “This can also be valid for men.”

Matlary explained that “to be a father or mother is a very profound experience from the existential point of view. It is not simply a role. Women are privileged to be the ones who transmit life, which is the way human beings come closer to creation.

“This participation in creation — ´for nine months within you,´ and then, for the rest of life, ´outside you´ — makes you never cease being a mother; hence, it is of fundamental importance for a woman.”

She continued: “The desire to have children is psychological and biological, but it plays a fundamental part when it comes to transforming us into mature women. If we delay maternity for a long time, or have only one child, we deny ourselves something that is our duty and is natural.”

“As an only child,” Matlary observed, “I know the loneliness and the very unnatural character of this condition. One becomes a little adult too soon. It is good both for the child to have siblings as well as for the mother to have more children. This was obvious for past generations, but is not so for ours.”

The Norwegian professor added: “We must be able to fulfill ourselves as mothers in order to be able to participate in the other two spheres [work and social life].

“Therefore, it is necessary to have a good family life in which the conditions for maternity are guaranteed. This depends both on the husband as well as social policies, and today is a challenge of the first order for Western women.”

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