I was driving to the gym this morning and heard Christina Aguilera's song "Can't Hold Us Down". It's an older song and I hadn't heard it in awhile. But some of the lyrics stood out to me:
This is for my girls all around the world,
Who have come across a man that don't respect your worth.
Thinkin' all women should be seen not heard,
So what do we do girls, Should Out Loud!
For some reason, this made me think of Alicia Keys song, "Superwoman".
For all the mothers fighting
For better days to come
And all my women, all my women sitting here trying
To come home before the sun
And all my sisters
Coming together, say yes I will
Yes I can
I am sure there are hundreds of other songs that are talk about girl power and being women that roar. But I got to thinking about the plight of women. My last blog spoke about some of the strong women in my life and their ability to juggle so much. But it goes deeper than that. It speaks to the fundamental structure that women provide in society and in the household.
Let me share my story. I am back to work after taking six months off in 2011 to have my first child and deal with my cancer treatment. I just finished radiation less than a month ago and am still being treated with chemotherapy every three weeks. At home, I am not only dealing with an 8-month old that still doesn't sleep through the night, but 50% of the time, I have Gavin and Cohen at our house and deal with the routines of an eight and six year old. So yes, my husband works. And yes, he also has three children to take care of. I can clarify the differences though.
Valentine's Day is coming up. This means I will come up with fun and creative ways to celebrate with the kids and have a gift for each of them. It means I reached out to both of the boys' classroom moms and found out what I could bring and when party volunteering started. Then it's time for February birthdays - my mom's, Brian's, Brian's sister, and niece. I have shopping done for 50% of those people. I haven't wrapped any of the gifts yet. We have a birthday party for a friend's one year-old daughter this weekend. I went out and bought that gift; not wrapped yet. I had a business trip out of town last week. Instead of just packing and taking off the way Brian did for his business trip, I packed up, packed Evan up and drove him to my parents. I still got up with Evan at night and prepared for my meeting in the morning. Since it was my first meeting after being off, I wanted to make sure I was polished, professional and smart. I felt like I needed to prove myself - being a baby didn't make me lose it. Having cancer hasn't taken my drive away. I've got it all. Finished two days of meetings and went back to get Evan and bring him home. Unpacked both of us and started all of the laundry. Read Blackberry messages in between laundry. Have also decided it is very important to me to do something for other women in my circumstance - that means two meetings with different leaders from different breast cancer support non-profit groups. I haven't found exactly what I'm looking for so I'm dabbling with it all and considering starting a 501c3 on my own. On top of that, I felt like I wasn't contributing enough to the boys at school so signed myself up to be the Chairperson for Teacher Appreciation Week. Excellent.
Where does that leave me? Trying to re-establish my position at work. I have a new project I am working on for the Central Region (this territory covers Michigan, down south to Texas, west to New Mexico and east to Arkansas). It's a cumbersome project and a new role, but I like the challenge and am motivated to do well at it. Yet, this position isn't permanent and I need to keep one foot in the door in consumer banking in case I lose my temporary position. Therefore, I am working on staying relevant in the Michigan market and found myself speaking on a call this morning, volunteering to support my former peers in a space where we can perform stronger. Okay - established relevance. Established school presence. Working on gifts, wrapping and coordinating babysitters - establishing social life. Working on moving Evan's ill-fitting clothes down into the storage tote in the basement, while making sure he has weather appropriate clothes in all of the new sizes - establishing organization. Finished my last conference call today to run through Gavin's homework with him, worked on making dinner, worked on feeding Evan, worked on cleaning up dinner - establishing sanity during the evening rat race. Started out at the gym at 6:30 this morning since I set a goal for myself to run a race in May - establishing healthier lifestyle.
The thing is, I'm not that different from many other women I know. We tend to do the grocery shopping. We tend to wash the sheets and make the beds. We tend to do all gift buying and gift giving (although, Brian does make sure I have some nice gift receiving :) ) We tend to keep the social calendars, the work calendars, the medical calendars, the school calendars and the family calendars. We read the school e-mails, the personal e-mails and make sure we don't lose touch with the friends that moved away to Missouri or that we left behind in our last neighborhood. We send out Christmas cards, send letters to Grandma, make dates with our parents and double dates with our friends. It seems that most couples tend to socialize with the women's friends - the husbands come along. And that's awesome, since most men tend to get along with most men. We tend to know what is in each dresser drawer - because we fold the laundry, put the laundry away and keep the bedrooms organized. We make the doctor's appointments for kids, take them to the dentist, buy them their school supplies and make sure they have something nice to wear for Easter. We are peacemakers and tend to talk our husbands down from bad days at work (or bad days in general).
So what I've realized, is that it's not a battle of the sexes. It's just inequality among the sexes. I would love if it, if one day Brian said to me, "Remember, that it's John's birthday this weekend. I grabbed him a great set of wine glasses and the card is on the counter. Just sign your name. Oh, and I know you mentioned you needed new underwear so while I was out, I swung by Macy's and picked up a few pairs for you. I also thought I overheard you saying you ran out of your favorite lip gloss, so I grabbed that too." I would probably faint. I think I would faint if Brian even knew what my favorite lip gloss was. But I know what kind of shaving cream he likes, what his shampoo preference is, what kind of eye contact solution he prefers and what cologne he is wearing. I know which store he likes his dress-shirts to come from, how the dry cleaner should launder those dress shirts and ensure that the dry-cleaning is ready to go on Tuesdays and Fridays.
We are secretaries and micro-managers and Blackberry's and Intel Processors all at the same time. We are the nurturers, the shoulders to cry on and the inventory managers (from groceries to closets). When my mom was trying to put together a resume after being out of the workforce for 20 years, she was intimidated. All I thought was that as a hiring manager, I would love to have someone like her on my team. She is friendly, can multi-task, learns on the first try, adapts to change easily and is willing and ready to take on new things. These are things that women do every day. So, while I am continuing through my cancer treatment, trying to keep and flourish at my job at work, and raise my son to be a good man, I will also be working on Valentines and making red and white frosting for school this weekend. And I bet that 90% of you reading this will be doing the same thing.