So here’s the thing. We are still figuring out this parenting thing. This partnership thing. Sometimes it’s puppies and rainbows and I am proud of how we partner and parent and do all the good things. And sometimes it doesn’t quite work the way we’d hoped. Sometimes we have very challenging days. And International Women’s Day was one of them.
Yep. International Women’s Day is pretty much a second birthday to me. I love that I see so many friends posting about feminist issues, that Gloria Steinem and bell hooks are quoted at length, that Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman is posted, read, and loved. And this year I spent a good chunk of the day pretty angry, pretty frustrated, and feeling like a failed feminist, mother, and partner.
And I’m not writing for reassurance or accolades, but these feelings underline a conversation that has to be had. Has to be continued, actually, as I am for sure not the only person to be challenged by this.
I paused a few things in my life when I had kids. For a while I continued with non profit work, but ended up burnt out. So I moved to a job in which every day I just moved through the motions. I paused my career path. Some passions went on hold. I paused. I paused and I became unhappy with those things and did not like who I saw in the mirror. My convictions felt shallow, my work left me unfulfilled. My children are wonderful creatures, and I have a fantastic partner, but I am not myself if I work only for the paycheque. I missed who I once was. With some determination and a lot of patience and work, I found myself back in a gig that felt right.
That being said, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t mesh entirely with my family life. In fact, it’s mostly because I now work weekends.
I’ve actually been working a lot of weekends. Saturdays, to be exact. In addition to Monday through Fridays. I work with good people and with a supportive team. But there are Saturdays. That’s just part of the gig.
Saturdays leave me to miss out on kid time. Now that my eldest is in school, it’s not as easy as taking a day off to hang out with them. I also pay handsomely for daycare for our youngest, something I want to take advantage of. So on those Saturdays, I’m often just missing out.
They also leave my partner to solo parent for the day. My wonderful creatures are challenging ones. Those days are long. Whether it’s him alone or me alone, they are long and tiring and long. We agree that we both parent best when we’re together.
So on Saturday I got home from a 12 hour day at work. It was a tiring day. I had missed bedtime, though I had promised the kids I would be home. I was significantly later than I expected. I felt overwhelmingly guilty. And my partner was mad, so I became angry and resentful. We had a whopper of an argument and didn’t speak until Sunday afternoon. International Women’s Day. Birthday number two.
Our argument is over. We have so few, really. This isn’t about that. It’s about the leaning.
I lean and lean and lean and am constantly challenged by the idea of who I am, and feeling guilty by who I’m not and what I have yet to accomplish. I feel so guilty. I feel guilty for wanting to be at home, for wanting to be at work, often feeling like I am making the wrong choice more often than not. I’ve been working my tail off to reestablish myself as someone with a career path rather than just a job. I’m nearly there, but nowhere near done. So I guess I just keep on leaning in, right? Just come to the boardroom table and get your partner to the kitchen table and you’ll see – everything will be just fine. Except I’m in the boardroom and my partner is in the kitchen and that doesn’t solve it all, people. That isn’t the full solution.
The thing is – I’m tired of leaning. I’m tired of pandering to patriarchal workplace ideals. Of getting myself to the table in the workplace. Of being a team player and doing what needs to be done to find success. Sure, I’m a team player, but am I not really just pinch hitting at work? Or is that when I’m at home? I guess I have a few teams to think about. I’m particularly tired of fighting to maintain a “good mommy” image. I overwhelmingly love my girls, but they are not my whole life. They never will be. That has to be okay. I’m working to remind myself that I am Andrea first, and everything else second, and that that is just fine and dandy.
The issue is underlined by the fact that we are doing quite well. Financially, emotionally, otherwise. My partner and I are incredibly privileged to have the financial stability, space, voice and platform to advocate for these things. What about the women who don’t? What about those folks – why do we keep telling them to lean in? If it doesn’t even work for us (financially stable, white, hetero, able bodied, healthy couple with 2 kids and a cat) why in the hell should it work for everyone else?
So – in recognition of my missed International Women’s Day, I’d like to say it’s okay if you are tired of leaning, because I’m tired of leaning too. Maybe we need to talk about resilience. Resilience is “Perhaps we need to make change and cultivate resilience for all those times that leaning hasn’t worked. And, perhaps we need to start standing up straighter,speaking louder and re-imagining what it looks like to be a feminist, have a career, be a parent and a partner instead.