We have been bred to be “ladies” and being a proper lady means feeling guilty for things we should not; we need to stop apologizing. Do you do that? Feel the need to justify yourself for spending that hard earned cash, taking that vacation, spending some ‘me time’ away from the kids? Do you feel like other people pass judgement whether you choose to justify it or not?
Recently, I was reminiscing with my coworkers about our OB and Pediatric rotations. I had a 10 month old patient who had fallen down the stairs and had bilateral brain contusions. Her parents had not introduced any solid foods, not even rice cereal. The baby didn’t know what to do with solid foods. As a student, I was glad to spend a few hours coaxing this sweet angel into eating some rice cereal, a task for which the overworked hospital staff didn’t have time.
One of my classmates saw me feeding her (successfully!) and exclaimed, “Kate, I didn’t know you had a maternal bone in your body.” She meant it within the context that because I worked hard, made excellent grades and my priorities were to advance my career, that I couldn’t possibly be kind hearted and nurturing. Her words were suggestive that a woman focused on her career isn’t capable of being a good mother. It went beyond just snarky comments about work/life balance. Though she thought she was being clever, the comments were hurtful.
She was a single mother who had her first child as a teen. She lived different lifestyle than I did. I never thought anything of it when she showed up tired or with late homework. It’s tough enough to be a woman today. She should not have to apologize for her priorities, nor should I.
5 Things Women Should Stop Apologizing For:
1. Choosing to have children or not.
This is arguably the biggest personal decision a woman can make. It’s difficult to field the insidious post marriage question, ‘When are you having children?’ Why do people feel the need to ask this? Perfect strangers ask me if I am married and then proceed with a line of personal questions. We want to have children and are there still times I feel people judging me for not trying right away. What if I was trying and didn’t want to talk about it. Sometimes it’s a long and painful road. What if I didn’t want to have kids, that wouldn’t make me a terrible person or less of a woman.
2. Demanding equal pay.
Working in a mostly female dominated career, I don’t personally experience this one, but I empathize. Every woman has the right to earn her way to fair wages. Fair wages mean being compensated equally based on merit alone, having nothing to do with gender, appearance or perceived priorities. Women shouldn’t have to ask for the same compensation for doing the same job and we certainly shouldn’t fear doing so.
3. Fair treatment in the workplace.
I’ve been in the work force since I was 15 and I’ve encountered my share of harassment. My first job was in a restaurant. I was a short order cook and there was an older boy from my high school who sometimes worked the station next to me. There were only two stations, so we were left alone in the kitchen for most of the evening. He would pass the time by making harassing jokes and advances. I shared my discomfort with my supervisor, who laughed. He predicted that one day the two of us would break through the tension and end up dating. I was glad to let the job go at the end of the Summer.
My next job was selling athletic shoes and apparel, perfect for a 16-year-old athlete with an athleisure habit ahead of my time. One of my coworkers was a college-aged
man boy who enjoyed harassing the young female employees. After he held me down and licked my face, I decided I’d had enough and formally complained. I also convinced a few other coworkers to do the same. Nothing changed. I quit when he threatened to follow me home daily until I agreed to go out with him.
The following summer, I took a life-guarding gig. The CPR instructor took a liking to me, I felt it was pointless to blow the whistle. It only labeled me as ‘difficult.’ I did nothing. Unbeknownst to me, several other lifeguards spoke to management on my behalf. It was decided that particular instructor could no longer touch female lifeguards. The trend continued through college as my resume collected an assortment of odd jobs.
As an adult women, the trend has changed, but in some ways the treatment is worse because it holds greater consequence. Women everywhere deal with less blatant mistreatment like being passed over for raises or promotions, being subtly guilted into taking less time for maternity leave and the list goes on. Women have the right to expect fair treatment in the work place without discrimination for taking maternity leave, potentially having children or anything else related to possessing a uterus.
4. Having Ice Cream for dinner.
Life is too short to not do what you want. Most of the time we’re running around trying to balance everything, get everything done, make everyone happy and it’s important to throw out expectations and do what you want sometimes, whether it’s ice cream, wine, movie marathon, massage, girls night, all carbs all day. Whatever your indulgence, do it. Remember, a sane woman is a happier mother, harder worker and a better friend.
5. Commitment to work.
About 10 months after I finished nursing school, I realized that I simply could not work full-time, continue pre-medical studies and take care of my body. I have a painful disease that flares up even when I’m doing my best to give my body what it needs. I’ve tried everything including meds, procedures, surgeries, and over 400 physical therapy visits. I’ve lived with it for 30+ years, so I’m good at managing it. It’s the only life I’ve ever known.
I cut down to part-time and committed to working only weekends because in nursing, there’s more money in weekends. I earned the same paychecks as a nurse who worked full-time during the week. Not a bad decision considering the huge difference it made to my body. I would have enjoyed more than four weekends off a year, but I was a single lady making my own way in the world. Back then, I thought I being labeled a princess was demeaning.
After marrying my husband, I’m now reduced to someone’s wife, a “housewife.” It’s true that life is easier now that I have a partner to share the load. Together we are fortunate enough that I don’t have to resort to weekends only. The first year we dated, we only had four weekend dates and most of them were at our friends’ weddings, so it’s nice to have a healthy social life now. Still I get comments at work, “I’m only asking you to fill in two times a week because that seems to be all you want.” I refrain from explaining further and just say, “Thank you.”
Worse yet are the blunt questions about my husband’s income relative to my work schedule. If I were a man, they wouldn’t be surprised that I spend most of my “time off” running The Luxicon. They would assume that if I wasn’t working all the time that I was doing other important things with my time instead of shopping and brunching or whatever they think I do all day. It’s really nobody’s business what works for your life and your family. Don’t feel the need to apologize or explain yourself.
What makes you most proud to be a woman? Comment below.
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Happy International Women’s Day!