It’s been one week since I stopped working. My last day in the office, last Monday, was hectic. Long lunch with colleagues, but working until the very last minute, trying to wrap up and tie loose ends. I don’t like leaving unfinished business behind but there is just so much I can do too.
The first week has been quite weird. I’m still trying to figure out what to do. I wanted a break from it all, I needed some rest, I needed not to be an employee, a wife and a mother for a few days, but my mind and body are so set on auto-pilot, so conditioned to run as a machine that the much needed rest is not happening. I’ve been washing, cleaning, tidying up, trying to make up for not being “productive” and “earning a living”.
It’s funny how in my head doing all the house chores is not considered – to me – as being productive or working, when it is actually a proper job. It’s probably because I was already doing these things before, just that this time I can finish everything during the week and spare my weekends for the family. I can’t help but ask myself how I managed to do everything while I was still working full time and actually answers my on going question on why the heck I’m always so exhausted and in such a bad mood.
I must say that there is no pressure from anyone other than myself at the moment, so I’m hoping that with time, I’ll learn to take it easy and try not to kill myself with things that are not that important.
Today is also the International Women’s Day and I received a few congratulations for it. I suppose it is good to have an international day to remind us that there is still a long way to go for women everywhere, but this is an every day battle and cannot be limited to a single date. It is a long and winding road, sometimes for each step forward there are three backwards. We conquered so much in the past years but there is still so much work to be done.
I have two daughters and I so wished I didn’t have to teach them, show them that they are as good as anyone, that they deserve respect, that they shouldn’t feel like they cannot achieve certain things because of their gender. I wish I didn’t have to tell them to cross their legs, to wear shorts under their skirts, because despite being 5 and 2, there are a bunch of sick perverts out there that are turned on by little girls and although they are the wrong ones, the ones that should be locked in a cell, society will blame the girls for not behaving themselves.
It is an every day battle and it starts at home. Both husband and I were raised in a sexist society, but we are educated adults, we understand now a lot of things that our parents and grandparents didn’t have a clue, we have access to information and we have the capacity of changing – ourselves – and influencing – our children – and fighting – against those who do not respect women (and human beings in general). Some silly examples that we face at home go from “make up is for girls only” (“no, men can wear make up, if they want to, and women don’t need to wear it if they don’t want to”) to “pink is a girls’ colour” (“no, it’s not, it’s perfectly fine to NOT like pink if you are a girl, or like pink if you are a boy, and blue is an amazing colour, as is orange, black, and any other colour that makes you happy”), to more serious ones like telling them they should always tell us/the teacher if something or someone is making them uncomfortable (the school uses the term “butterflies in the tummy” to explain that strange feeling of fear that kids my experience without knowing exactly what it is). Part of our disagreement in our house is on career. Husband wants them to be doctors or engineers, be able to earn enough not to depend on anyone; I want them to be happy with whatever path they choose. I do think, though, that we have to encourage them for more adventurous paths – it is not expected that young girls show interest in politics, engineering, coding, etc., when this is mostly down to the fact that we raise our girls surrounded by dolls and our boys with Lego and science kits. So we both agree that we should give them the opportunity to learn everything, make it a fun experience, avoid any negative remarks and let them figure out for themselves what they like and want to develop. Education is one of the most important things that we can offer them and giving them the same opportunities as any other kid – boy or girl – will be the best influence in their careers we can hope for.
We learned from Laura’s teacher that she is a “natural leader”. I read that one big mistake that parents (grandparents, family, etc) can make is calling a kid with strong leadership a “bossy” child, especially when it’s a girl. A leader has ideas, has charisma, has vision. I’m not saying that my 5 years old has all these qualities (I think she has, though), but I also don’t want to reduce her to an annoying kid telling others what to do. And I won’t reduce her very good friends to a bunch of sheepish kids that just follow her where she takes them without thinking for themselves. I do hope that we can encourage her to be adventurous, creative, vocal and kind and respectful towards others, as well as not being shy to express herself and show leadership if this is where she sees herself.
I have chosen to become a stay at home mother to be with them during this early age, to be there for them and to learn from them. To be able to see any signs, good or bad, that I can act upon. I don’t want them to think that this is a burden or a lack of choice or, worse, something that only women should do. It was a choice, an opportunity, which unfortunately not everyone can have. They’ve seen me working full time and they will see me working again. I do think it is important for them to see both their parents working, helping at home and raising them – this is a partnership and as a wider message, it’s about working together for a greater good.
International Women’s Day is not about congratulating women on Facebook and sending flowers to the woman of your life. It is about equal opportunities and respect to your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, you neighbour, your cleaner, your nanny, your teacher, your colleague. It’s about making this damn twisted world a slightly better and safer place for us all. So simple in theory…