Monday, October 16, 2017

Me Too.

*I usually don’t get “political” on here because, well, that’s no fun! But I’m making this one exception. Our regularly scheduled program will be back in the next post!*

That time about a month ago when I got asked by a client if I let my husband dominate at home. And then nearly everyone I re-told that story to asked “Well, how old is that guy?” in order to assure me that if he’d been younger, he wouldn’t have said that out loud because he’d know better.

Or the time a different client started making vibrator jokes while I was talking with him at a professional conference about a potential project together. Of course, I had it coming since my phone vibrated while we were speaking and so, of course, the next logical discussion from one professional to another is to start talking about vibrators.

Or the time I got propositioned by an executive several levels above me at my previous job in front of a number of other employees at a holiday party. He wanted to know where I lived and what train we could take back to my apartment. He was married with children and this was the first and only conversation I ever had with him…until the next morning when I had the uncomfortable experience of being in the company elevator alone with him when he bluntly told me that last night was “no big deal, right?” And he should know, since he had been party to a worst-kept-secret affair with one of his employees the previous year that was eventually ended and saw the female employee in the equation moved out of his department and into another one so as not to “make waves.”

The “me too” phenomenon is going rampant on Facebook right now, but let’s get real, it’ll end in a few days and nothing will have changed. Why? Because, um…..did you read those stories? I’m one person. Those are three of, like, literally dozens, if not more. And I’m one of the “lucky” ones! I’ve never been groped or assaulted, I’ve never lost a job or had my reputation questioned because of any of it. I’ve felt embarrassed, I’ve felt mild anger, I’ve felt…confused. But that’s it. AND THAT’S A GOOD OUTCOME, you guys.

That’s what’s going on here. My stories about vibrators and domination and being propositioned by someone who could end my career ARE THE GOOD STORIES. And this is here in the United States, a country that is heads and shoulders above hundreds in our strive for equality and in actual equality. And for that, I am grateful. But again – that’s what’s going on here. I’m grateful that I’m not in a country that doesn’t allow me to drive. I’m grateful that I’m not in a country where I’m forced into marriage during puberty. I’m grateful that I’m not in a country that doesn’t allow me to walk outside without a male chaperon. I’m grateful.

I have not one man in my life who I think has ever or would ever do anything remotely similar to those stories above, let alone assault a woman. I do not think that men are evil or bad or just will never learn. I’m surrounded by some of the best examples of true men that any person could hope for, both in my personal and professional life, and my daughters are being raised by the kindest, most respectful man I’ve ever met.

At the same time, men – CB included - have no idea what a day in the life of a “privileged” woman is like. Re-read my little anecdotes again. Those are NON-stories. They didn’t even register beyond discomfort or embarrassment or just shrugging it off as some old guy who doesn’t know better, some young guy who’s gross, or some powerful guy who does this all the time.

“Me too” won’t change anything until we change. I never once said anything to any of those men, or the others who have said gross and inappropriate things to me over the years for a multitude of reasons. But mainly? I didn’t want to make things worse. I didn’t want to offend them, God forbid,  and I certainly didn't want to be seen as difficult.

Can you imagine? Now that would be awful. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

From One Mom to Another: Please Stop.

Today I got asked by a stranger in my work elevator if I “regret” that I have to come to work every day and leave my kids “alone.” So I laughed and said “well, they’re not alone, they’re with their friends and caretakers at daycare.” And she bristled. Like, I physically saw her recoil. “Daycare is no substitute for their mother!”

Thankfully for her, the elevator got to my floor before I could slap her.

Which is on the heels of an off-hand comment in the gym locker room last week by a new-ish mom (she had her first daughter just before I had my second) who proudly told me that she resigned from her job a few weeks ago after realizing that she “just couldn’t do that to my baby girl.” When I legitimately was curious what she meant and said as much, she replied “let her be raised by someone who’s not me.” She then went on to tell me how much kids benefit from having their mom at home while I tried to blow dry my dry hair so I didn’t have to listen to her rationale for why she’s better than me. To be fair, she didn’t say she was better than me, she just implied it in the following ways:

“You’ve never wondered what kind of long-term impact this is going to have on your kids?”
“Doesn’t it break your heart to leave them every day?”
“Her well-being is more important than any corporate ladder…for me. But everyone’s different.”

And to help round out your total vision of my last few weeks (or two years) the following things have also been said to me about my parenting:

“How do you juggle it all? It seems like your career is thriving, so….do you get enough time with your kids?”
“I’m so impressed that you can leave your kids every day. I could never do that.”
“Have you missed important milestones yet? That’ll be so hard.”

And ladies? Every single remark was made by a woman: mom-on-mom crime!

Sidebar: I asked my husband this morning if he’d ever gotten asked if he’s considered quitting his job because of the kids or regrets leaving them every day. He said no. He has people sympathize that leaving them every morning is hard, but that’s as far as it goes.

So this is what I have to say:

Stop it. Stop with the Mommy Wars. Stop with the comparing your life to others to make you feel superior or ease whatever guilt you might be feeling. I get it. It’s hard. It’s hard to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s hard to be a full-time-working mom, it’s hard to be a fricken MOM. It’s hard. But I really don’t want to have a rap sheet for assault because my mom-guilt would increase exponentially if I have to explain it to my kids while trying to teach them that hitting is wrong.

I mean, yes, I’m pretty sure I missed the first time my oldest learned to crawl and, hell, probably when she took her first steps. Don’t get me wrong, the nice ladies at daycare were gentle enough with my ego to not tell me that they witnessed these things first, but I’m not new here, it probably happened. And that’s ok. Because they’re used to second-best, after all: I didn’t breastfeed them (“I feel so sorry for you that you don’t get to feel that bond…”), fed them formula (“I mean, I’m sure it’ll be fine, though obviously breast milk is best…”), didn’t make my own baby food (“…I just didn’t want them consuming all of those preservatives…”), and I let them eat macaroni and cheese (with preservatives!) and watch cartoons (“…I’d just rather they get outside or read a book. We got rid of cable altogether.”)

So please, just stop. Stop it. Stop with the mom-on-mom crime of one-upping and condescending and thinly masked attempts at shaming. Please stop. Put down your weapons, raise that white flag, and just say what we all want to say: “Goddamn I’m so tired. Am I doing it right? Will my kids be ok? It’s hard, isn’t it?” And the non-hugger in me will lay down my shield, drop my giant mom-purse, and full-on hug you. Because goddamn I’m tired. It’s hard, isn’t it?