This two-part project explores the tension that many twenty-first century women experience between work and motherhood. My essay demonstrates this tension through Simone de Beauvoir’s conceptions of transcendence and immanence described in The Second Sex and through contemporary debates in popular media–specifically Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter. I provide historical context and an overview of twenty first century societal norms and politics as they pertain to women, work, and motherhood. I conclude that women who are mothers feel a tension between career and motherhood because society views them as “naturally” mothers. At the same time, society values action and progress. In trying to conform to these two societal beliefs, women are torn. My novella, “A Life in Two Parts,” complements the essay, exploring the lived experience of a single mother seeking fulfillment amidst her life of non-productive work.
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