Food for Thought

Most women view purpose as synonymous with giving, taking care of others, teaching, or mentoring.  If, as women, we are not giving to others, we have no sense of purpose.  This reflects a very narrow definition of purpose, but one that has been inculcated in us since early childhood.  Most of us grew up with mothers and mothers are caregivers. You cannot raise a child without a tremendous amount of caregiving and sacrifice of one’s own needs and goals in service of parenting your children.

It is difficult for us to move into an expanded sense of what might provide us with a sense of purpose, but as we age, we inevitably must modify our expectations of ourselves. Retirement poses a particular challenge for women whose work has been a key element of their identity.  Often work has been the other role in which women have found a sense of purpose.

Creative expression in the form of art, music, building, and gardening also have purpose, though in a different form than teaching, caretaking, or volunteering for a charitable organization.  Sometimes purpose can take the simple form of being the kind of human being that we need more of in the world: people who are kind, caring, supportive, encouraging, and welcoming to others.  And the act of receiving, while not having an obvious relationship to purpose, does provide others who extend themselves an opportunity to feel a sense of purpose in their own lives.


Questions to Consider:

  • What does it mean to you to be a “human being” rather than a “human doing”?
  • Is there more to the idea of “purpose” than giving? What else might provide us with a sense of purpose?
  • Think about what you expected from your grandparents or other elders in your life. Did you expect them to be givers and caregivers until they died? What purpose did they have if they could no longer be givers?
  • Is there any purpose to simply being alive?
  • Where does receiving fit into the schema of purpose?

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