Hang In There, Baby
I remember hearing this saying for the first time in the 70s. I also remember all the hype about the Women’s Lib movement in the news and other media. It gave me my first awareness that all was not peaches & cream in the land of females. I quickly learned that women were tired of being pushed around and treated like second-class citizens. They were very vocal about the rights of women being overlooked or ignored. Women everywhere were tired of the status quo. They wanted more out of their lives than the generation before them had experienced. They were not content with subscribing to the roles played out on TV shows like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show or The Honeymooners. Women wanted to get out into the workforce and have careers of their own. They wanted to carve out their own identity and make their mark on this world. They wanted equal rights, equal opportunity and equal pay that many men just take for granted. They wanted to be protected from sexual harassment and discrimination. They wanted the chance to pursue and fulfill their dreams and career ambitions. They wanted to be leaders not only in the home, but also in the world at large.
What actually happened was that women worked harder than ever each and every day of their lives. Most women are still expected to shoulder the majority of housework and child-rearing while juggling their own career or other personal goals. They are expected to keep a tidy house, cook meals, and raise kids; all while putting in a full day in the workplace. In addition to the previous mentioned responsibilities women have; many are also taking care of elderly relatives in some form or another. And I know I’m not the only one who values the relationships we have with our loved ones. We know how important it is to cultivate and maintain healthy, positive relationships that will produce happy, well-adjusted people for generations to come.
I have been taking Criminal Psychology & Behaviour courses for the last 4 years in order to pursue a new career. Due to some injuries and health problems I am no longer able to do the physical tasks required in many of the fields I’ve worked in. It took me many years to accept my limitations and believe that I could still find meaningful employment. But what really shocked me was other peoples’ perceptions of what my days are like. Unfortunately, I’ve had to correct and educate friends and family about the importance of my time. This isn’t the 50s and I’m not your average housewife. I don’t watch soap operas or game shows. In fact, I don’t even turn the TV on during the day. I don’t lounge around the house with my hair in curlers waiting for my man to come home so I can wait on him hand and foot. My courses are intense and require lots of uninterrupted time and attention. My average grade is 94%. I don’t say that to brag; although I’m surprisingly pleased.
The point I’m trying to make is that I study and work very hard on every assignment I’m given. I take my studies very seriously and hope that one day I will be able to help others with the knowledge I’ve learned. Between my life experiences and lifelong interest in human psychology & behaviour, I believe I have finally found myself on the right path to the next part of my life journey. So when people assume I’m not doing anything all day long because I don’t punch a time clock, I am insulted and offended by their presumptions. I am annoyed when someone calls and expects me to give an accounting of my days to justify my reasons for declining to do them a favour. I find it astonishing that anyone could actually think that because I currently work from home that I’m not doing anything or that I should just drop whatever I’m doing and do their bidding. Nobody would ever call my husband and expect him to account for his time. Nobody would ever assume that he wasn’t busy or that he should be out doing everything for everyone else on his days off. Nobody would ever call him at the end of his work day and expect him to run errands for them. Instead, he is respected for his dedication to his career. He is admired and rewarded for his achievements. And I am very happy for him and proud of his accomplishments. We are partners and we support each other through the many changes life continues to bring us.
I still take great pride in creating a warm loving sanctuary for me and my family. I love preparing and cooking nutritious, delicious meals. I thoroughly enjoy my painting & decorating projects. I love the smell of a fresh clean house. I start every day by doing a load of laundry. I plan our social events and family gatherings. I work hard maintaining the gardens that surround our house and I love the serenity I get from doing so. I babysit my grand babies and help care for my elderly uncle. I enjoy my volunteer work with the YW. But, all of these things require a lot of my time and attention. There is no magic wand I can wave and poof…all of my dreams and wishes come true. Instead, it all requires hard work and dedication. My time is the most precious gift I can offer anyone. It is spread so thinly sometimes that I don’t think I’ll accomplish my goals. So when I choose to do something for someone I expect them to respect my time and not make assumptions about what they perceive my life to be. I am never bored or lacking in things to do. Sacrificing my precious time to help someone out is time that could be used to further help me achieve my personal goals. When I find myself being pulled in too many different directions I feel the need to step back and re-evaluate things. If I feel that my time is being taken for granted I become resentful and less willing to help others who are being selfish or demanding. I definitely don’t respond well to “guilt trips” from people who try to manipulate me. Especially from people who say they love me.
When I look back over my life and review the expectations weighing heavily on most women who work and have a family I can’t help but feel that women usually get the short end of the stick. What I’m trying to say is that women are still being overworked and underpaid. When we enter the workforce our workloads double. In addition to the pressures and stresses at work, most of us still carry the majority of the workload at home. We are expected to be everything to everyone. We are expected to have perfect homes while bringing home the bacon. We are encouraged to pursue a career as long as it doesn’t interfere with our family duties. Women have fought hard to advance the women’s movement and yet things haven’t changed enough. We are still expected to put others and their needs ahead of ourselves. It’s ok to return to school in order to better ourselves as long as we are still available to everyone. That is the message I hear when women are criticized or judged for the choices they make that make them less available to everyone. We are still judged by how clean our house is, regardless of how many hours we put into our careers or education. The Women’s Liberation movement was started because so many women were tired of living the mundane life of a stereotypical housewife. It was supposed to free us up to be able to pursue our dreams and goals. Mostly though, it just added to our already-heavy workload. In the workplace we are expected to be multi-tasking robots that don’t dare call in sick or leave early to care for an ill child or elderly relative. The movement was created with the most noble of intentions. However, that was over 45 years ago and I’m sad to say that we really haven’t come all that far in our quest to achieve those goals. We are still trying to achieve a healthy balance in our work/home lives but most women I know are still exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve never worn a poodle skirt, I’m not sedated from valium and I’ll never be Mrs. Cleaver. This isn’t the 50s anymore and I’m never crawling into that box that just doesn’t fit me.