I am a working woman.
Not only am I a working woman, but I am a working mom. This is an era of women who not only are expected to be professional (if working outside the home) but expected to be a supermom also. Just pull up any Pinterest board and one can see a host of fabulous crafty images and homemade vegan lunches in sustainable, environment-friendly lunch boxes.
We are expected to be involved at school, get our kids to bed early with a morality-boosting book, clean our houses with green, homemade products, be to work on time and dressed impeccably, while maintaing a positive attitude full of self-affirmations. We are expected to exercise and be fit. We are expected to find time for spirituality and ourselves so that we don’t have a complete nervous-breakdown in the grocery store. We are expected to not be superficial (plastic surgery is bad) and maintain a wholesome lifestyle. (breastfeed your baby, home cook every meal, don’t buy GMOs) Most of all, we are expected to not take things personally.
God forbid we become a little emotional—ever.
I thought about this as I was having a conversation with a friend recently. We were talking about our expectations in our careers and steps we should or should not take to further them along. I had been feeling this nagging sensation lately about some new opportunities that were available and what choices I should make while experiencing a lot of insecurities about all of it. I thought about sharing these fears with her but this thought brought a whole different fear to light.
I didn’t want to appear insecure. I didn’t want to seem sensitive and well, girly.
While I am sure men get insecure, they seem to handle this sensation differently. They work harder and stay later. They attempt to bond with other co-workers. They usually do not cry.
I am not suggesting that women can’t handle competition in the workplace.
I could write a book on successful women that have faced many other women and men in their journey and have come out on top. What I know is that when I feel like I am not good enough, I want to hole up in my bedroom and say “I quit.” I know that when I get criticized about my work, I cry. Except as women who experience this, we can never admit it. (Although I just did)
Being a woman in a professional setting can be challenging as it is and when the responsibilities of being a mom are added onto this, the bar is set even higher.
In a prior place of employment I was told I could not use my child’s illness as an excuse to not come to work. I was harassed by a female boss that I took breaks to pump after the birth of my child, even though other employees took regular smoking breaks. I was told at an employee evaluation that I should wear make-up more often and that I looked tired. This was after returning from maternity leave.
Many people would tell me that I should have quit and stayed home if I couldn’t handle this. As a matter of fact, people did tell me that. I argued that it was important for me to stay in my career, but the truth was that I did want to quit. I couldn’t stand getting up early and taking my newborn baby to daycare so that I could be verbally abused by my employer during the day. Yet I kept going back because I didn’t want to appear weak. I didn’t want to give in. Also, I couldn’t afford to quit.
At what point do we give each other a break? At what point do we pull the blinders off and truly allow ourselves to be personal at work?
In a perfect world I could voice my concerns openly and admit my insecurity. I could stay home until my children were in school and work part-time while still maintaing a professional image from my peers. I could feel safe in the knowledge that a weak moment does not equal a blow to my career and reputation. But this is not a perfect world.
So in my rebellion I am writing this to say that yes I am incredibly sensitive. And for the women that seem to float through life without a hair out of place and go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize while cooking amazing nutritious meals and serving them on bamboo, hand-crafted tables, I applaud and envy you. Seriously.
But for me, I’m going to submit this post, get my butt to work and will probably order a pizza later. I will be a little harried, and possibly a few minutes late. I will appear cool about the whole thing and mention how bad the traffic is and I will probably stay a little late to make up for this.
I will do my best to not be too girly and sensitive about the whole thing.
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Ed: Sara Crolick