Saturday, January 28, 2012

Love Me Some Strong Women

This week, I had the chance to reconnect with some great women - old friends, women I work with, great doctors and family.  And I realized, I love strong women.  I love to see all that women are capable of and the many hats they wear during the day.  I love the perseverance, the determination, the dedication and the sacrifice that women make on a daily basis - most of the time without blinking an eye.

Of course, there are the women in my life.  I watched my mom quit her job and put her Fenton life on hold to come over and help my family and me this year.  I have seen my sister buy her own condo, finance her own life, take care of leasing a new car and make career moves all on her own. I hear about Brian's sister, Tricia, who is raising three children under four on her own, while her husband puts in incredible hours at work.  She has a great foundation from Cindy, who also used to juggle three little kids and a teaching career at the same time.  I see my girlfriends doing the same thing; when Lacey isn't working as a nurse, she is at home with Ella and Bennett all day.  Oh by the way, she is training for the 25K in May and a marathon in October.  Katie is busy on her new role as a stepmom, learning how to balance work and the schedule of two teenagers - a challenging stage of life for any parent.  My friend Courtney is making career changes, working on selling her home and getting ready for her own family planning.  Meanwhile, my dear friend Lisa has juggled work, several new changes at work, and coping with little Mattie's heart condition.  After three prolonged visits to the hospital and two ambulance rides in one year, Lisa pretty much answers her work Blackberry to hang up and deal with Mattie's medication.  I just talked to my bravest friend Gwen, who left her job and live-in boyfriend in Cleveland to follow her passion and career to Chicago.  They are a long-distance family right now but Gwen felt it was time for her to put her potential to the test.  And then my friend Meghan, who was pregnant with me, is juggling three girls the same ages as our three boys, working on blending a new family together and staying on top at work, enough to earn her a reward trip to Arizona in February.

I have had some very trying decisions to make this year and much of my consultations have occurred with strong women.  I regularly call two women who have had drastic impacts on my career - one at Fifth Third and one at Bank of America.  I love that I worked for both of these women and they inspire me to do better and be smarter.  I continue to meet with them and lunch with them.  My feelings for them have grown from that of mentor to that of friend.  And I truly love them.

My OB-GYN called me over Christmas to say hello.  Not only did she guide me through my cancer diagnosis and pregnancy, but before any examine would start, she would ask me how I was doing and hug me through my tears.  My nurse, Bekki, has become my friend.  She takes care of my physical ailments and questions but I have said to her many times, "What would you do if you were me?" and I trust her response.

Where does this ability to multi-task come from?  Why do women take on the stress of the family, the career, the finances, and the marriage, all while trying to be beautiful and glamorous and desirable?  I look back at my Grandma.  She was born in the U.P. and her dad died when she was 2.  She was raised by a single mom who made ends meet.  When my Grandma was old enough, she left for Chicago to go to nursing school.  Can you imagine being in the 1940s and pioneering your own way in the big city to make a career for yourself?  From there, she went to Colorado and got a job in the hospital, where she met my Grandpa.  But what I learned is how STRONG she was.  I don't really know if I have the gumption to take off and move across the country on my own to start school and a new career.  I know I'm proud to come from a lineage that did this though!

As our culture continues to modernize, women continue to make adjustments regarding what is the norm.  It is the norm to get up and workout before we take care of kids, get them ready for school, shuffle them out the door to begin our own work day.  It is the norm to be equal in pay to our spouses, carry our own benefits and have our own retirement accounts and investments.  It is the norm to juggle our afternoons around so we can have a prepared dinner in mind and start the rat race of homework, packing lunches, bath times, reading, sports routines and bed before we have a chance to sit down and breathe.  It is the norm to wonder if we are investing enough time in our marriage since we are barely investing enough time in ourselves.

So at the end of the day, I love strong women.  I love seeing all that they are capable of and all that we aspire to be.  A lot of times, it's a thankless job but it's a rewarding job.  We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders and sometimes when it feels really heavy, we stop and cry.  But for all of the strong women out there, we know we get back up and go at it again the next day.  And we make sure, the way that our moms lead the path of us, that we are leading the path for our daughters (and teaching our sons how to love and support the strong women in their lives).

But the best thing about strong women?  Is the support we get from other strong women.  When the chips are down, I can call my neighbor and say, "I need help".  When the days are overwhelming, I can talk to another strong women; and even if she is going through her own trials and tribulations, she is there for me.  Strong women need to be each other's best advocates, since we are allies and understand one another.  So, strong women, rejoice!  Reward!  Reunite!  And continue to respond to other's, since we are making it through life, one day stronger at a time.

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