Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random Thought

This afternoon, I attended a luncheon to honor our local YWCA's Women of Achievement. It was a lovely event, and absolutely inspiring that these women have managed to climb the corporate ladder and continue to give back so much to their communities.

Part of the festivities included short videos about each of the eight women. They talked about their careers, their employers, their worldviews, and their communities. Of course, they also talked about their families. 6 of the 8 women had children. One woman had a 4-year-old and a set of 2-year-old twins. When they showed the picture, the entire room (2000 people strong) started murmuring in astonishment. "Wow! She must be busy!" and "That's a lot of kids!" and "That's a lot of daycare money!" and "How in the world does she do it?!"

Being a working mother (albeit, not at the top of the corporate food chain, and only one child), I understand the struggles that they face. But as I sat there, I was suddenly very bothered by the fact that people were acting as though they were SHOCKED that successful women might also be successful mothers.

If it were an awards ceremony for MEN, do you think the revelation that they were also fathers would have been nearly as surprising? Do you think it would have set off chatter and awe and "How can they possibly do it all?" I feel like working moms are either expected to be Superwomen at everything or forced to choose between being a good mother and a good employee, while working fathers (or, "men," as we usually call them) are afforded a pass. There's no "I don't know how you do it!" for me when my husband has to travel out of town for business, but when I'm a plane ride away the Mr. Mom jokes and the sympathy come out in full force. I'm a horrible wife and mother, trotting off for a few days to work out of state. Oh noes! How will they ever manage????

One of the women also discussed how she convinced her employer not to kick her off the corporate ladder. Why is it even a question of "convincing" them? Why can't it just be a given that women don't have to be "kicked off" the ladder when they get pregnant? It struck me as sad, because we like to think that we've come so far in terms of gender equality and equal treatment. Sometimes I think we haven't come nearly as far as we pretend we have. Looking at the work-family rights afforded to parents in this country is enough to show that we have some effed up priorities.

Just felt like spewing some sociological discourse. It's been a while :)


  1. Good point but compared to the 50's - you have come a long way baby.  But coming a long way or not isn't the important part because things are not equal in this area.  I don't pretend to be a great homemaker and the even the term Mr. Mom is probably wrong.  I don't like to cook at all.  But I'm sure not going to expect someone to cook for me.  Mrs. Dad - where's that term.
    I don't believe there is any simple easy answer and I know myself that men and women are different but that difference should not be used as an excuse to force things in one favor.  That difference should be enjoyed.

  2.  We have been having discussions about this topic at home a lot...

  3. Excellent post!! You know if it were a men's conference, when those family pictures came up, there would be smiles and nods - "Aww - he's successful and a family man. The total package! Do you know if his wife works or does she stay at home?"  That last is a question I hear around my workplace on a regular basis, but yet, I don't think I've ever heard "Does her husband work or is he a stay at home dad?" 

  4.  Oh yes, we've definitely come a very long way. I'm lucky enough to have a husband who enjoys cooking, because I'm pretty lousy at it.

    "Mrs. Dad." Interesting term. I'll have to talk to my two friends with stay-at-home dad situations to see what they think.

  5.  That sounds ominous ;)

    As a woman in a typically male-dominated field, do you see this a lot?

  6.  Exactly! I know two women who have stay-at-home husbands, and you would think it's the weirdest thing ever the way people react to them.

  7. Your husband does the cooking but you claim to be in favor of equality? Are you incapable of learning to cook  like he did? 

    Speaking of your desire to have both sexes treated the same, I hope you are telling your stay at home dad friends the same thing we have been telling stay at home moms for the past 50 years: that they should not be at home, that they should be independent and self sufficient and equal, have their own careers and not be dependent on their spouses, and the only way to be a happy, respected, fulfilled person is by having your own career. That's what we have been telling women since Betty Friedan, and since you object so strongly to treating men and women differently, I'm sure you will be sure to give that same message to the stay at home dads, right? Yeah, right.

  8. No, I'm not incapable of learning to cook. I just don't enjoy it. It's a hobby of his, and he loves reading about food science and trying new techniques. It's the engineering background.

    No, I don't tell my stay-at-home dad friends that they should be out working. Nor do I tell that to my stay-at-home mom friends. I think you have a very warped view of the feminist movement and what I was trying to say. I'm not of the camp who believes that no one should stay at home. I'm not saying that a family who chooses to embody traditional gender roles or a woman who chooses to be a stay at home wife or parent is "wrong," in any way. I certainly don't believe that a career is the only path to personal fulfillment. Just that it's something that I enjoy. And it's a good thing that I enjoy it, since we depend on my salary and I carry the benefits.

    The feminist movement, first and foremost, was about choice. It was about giving women the OPTION to stay at home or make their way in the workforce. About making sure that an individual can choose to follow any path that they desire, regardless of their gender. If a woman decides that the best place for her is at home, then so be it. Good for her. But the fact that it's a CHOICE, the fact that she CHOSE that option out of a set of many others, that's what really matters.

  9. I do see it at work. Our company is very flexible and works with people so they can find the right work-life balance. But of all the people I see who work part time, they're all women. Men could do it, but I haven't seen it. It's interesting. We also have a women's network where we discuss these things and there definitely isn't a mens network for similar discussions...



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