The Price of “Equality”
Let me start by saying that this is going to be a very raw post. I have no intention of making this politically correct or perfect. What I desire right now is the opportunity to express my thoughts. Whether you agree with them or understand them is not my concern. My intention in sharing is never to convince you to see things the way I see them, nor to have you convince me to see things the way you see them. To put it simply, my posts are cathartic. These aren’t the type of discussions I would attempt to have in person because most people are incapable of having conversations about controversial matters that don’t become emotionally charged.
I am a strong woman and if you know me, you know that’s not an egotistical statement, it’s just a fact. Starting at a young age, I found it necessary to work really hard to be heard, understood and taken seriously. Being the youngest, the only girl, physically small, and growing up in Santa Fe, NM where there is a real machismo (strong or aggressive masculine pride) attitude, I had my work cut out for me to be seen as “equal” to my male counterparts.
I remember watching most of the women in my family congregate in the kitchen while the men drank beer and watched football. They seemed to spend most of their days cooking, cleaning and tending to the children – seemingly not caring for themselves much. It was revolting to me. I saw them as weak and slightly pathetic. I did have one woman in my life painting a different picture, and that was my mother. Although she was part of the kitchen/children bound females club, she was also working full time and diligent with self care (exercise, eating right, etc.). I never stopped and thought how hard this must have been for her, but I know I had a different kind of respect for her. She was on the forefront of the new world, where gender equality was becoming king (or queen).
At the age of 12, I vowed that I would not be that traditional woman who I had grown to detest. In no way was I going to be bound to the kitchen nor revolving my life around men and kids. Nope. I was on the wave of feminism, all the way. I even saw men as the enemy in some ways. No need to go into details about that, let’s just say I had my share of subversion.
It was with that vow that my grit kicked into full gear. I became focused and determined to “succeed.” At age 12 that meant straight A’s, becoming a leader in sports /activities and finding a job, were I could out perform. Later it meant going to college , getting my MBA, participating in collegiate sports and burning the candle at both ends – in order to pay for my entire education myself and prove my point that I need not rely on anyone.
My career life was no different. Everything I’ve done, I’ve gone big. I’ve never taken any job lightly. From pharmaceutical sales – to a VP position – to owning my own business, they’ve all been recipient of that grit I developed so long ago. That fire that ignited in my belly back when I was 12, carried me through life to prove that I am a strong, independent woman who is very much as equal and important as my male counterpart. And I feel pretty good about what I’ve done so far. No one stopped me.
But now that I am nearing 45, I’m taking a hard look at what this quest for equality really means and the sacrifices that have come along with it.
For me, it was always about knowing that I could. Knowing that I was capable of doing what all the men were doing, knowing that I could have the same voice they have, knowing that I could have the same jobs they have, knowing that being a petite, Hispanic woman wasn’t going to hold me back from doing anything I wanted to do.
And I’m the first to say, that I could.
Did I meet challenges that my male counterparts may not have met? Sure. Did I seemingly have to try a little bit hard. Definitely. Did I find the process frustrating as hell? Absolutely. But society didn’t stop me. I realized every dream I had. I achieved every goal I set my eyes on. And any challenges I came upon because I’m female, or Hispanic, or petite – only made me stronger.
So now, I own 4 publications, have 2 children and find myself utterly exhausted every second of the day. All of these efforts towards equality have come with a price, and a steep one at that.
When my attention is divided, everything suffers. I’m a big fan of focus and believe multi-tasking is the first ingredient in the recipe for disaster. My particular make-up is of the “all or nothing” type. When I do something, I do it 100%. In no way can I approach my business in a half ass way. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. I’m incapable of any other way. Same goes for parenting.
But wait, how can I do parenting and running a business 100% effectively? 100% to the business and 100% to parenting = 200% (thank you, MBA) – and this one person isn’t capable of giving 200%. It’s simple math, really.
So, when I really break it down, both my career and my family slightly suffer. I’m not saying I’m bombing at either, but I am keenly aware that if I had singular focus on either, that area would skyrocket into new heights.
My son made a statement yesterday that shook me to the core: ““I get that there are very capable women to take the big jobs, but what happens at home? No one will ever love and care for the children like a Mother. I’m not sure all can cross both worlds well like you, Mom.”
Although I was ridiculously proud of him for making this insightful observation at the ripe age of 14, I had to wonder if he was voicing a gap in his own world. I truly hope he thinks I’m crossing both worlds well, but I have to wonder – why is his perspective so different than mine was at his age? If I peel back this statement, I realize that he is saying, “A mom needs to be a mom. Noone else can do it like she can.” This is a far cry from my 14 year old female perspective of “a female can do it all…career, mom, SUPERWOMAN.”
Funny how a 14 year old boy can really open your eyes.
So today I sit in a precarious spot. Now that I’ve proven that I can, now that I’ve proven that the perceived obstacles in society are not roadblocks to a woman’s success, is it all really worth it when my top priority is my family?
I look back now on those women I watched as a child and I see a different picture. I see incredible women who were giving every ounce of their being to their families and children. They may not have been hitting the gym at 5a everyday or working endless hours to make it in the world of business, but they were ensuring their families were well fed, taken care of and happy. They spent their days focused on their family and finding a little joy in between. Maybe it was watching soap operas, maybe it was eating a few too many sopapillas – who am I to judge. They seemed happy.
And the children they produced? They’re more than ok, they are terrific men and women. They are still married, focused on the family and now, happily retired. I have to wonder where the majority of the power women from this era will land in the golden years. It’s yet to be seen and I can only hope that I won’t be a casualty.
I look at the way things are going in this new world, where women are doing it all – education, career, family – and I see a breakdown. The joy is diminishing, the family is destructing, the children are becoming more detached. Is it all worth it?
If a man posted this, he would be annihilated. There is no more room in this new world for a man to speak freely about this apparent breakdown that is occurring, so I will.
With right comes responsibility. Since I fought so hard for equality, I find it necessary to speak this reality from the woman’s seat. Are we really doing right by all in insisting that we do it all? Who wins in this scenario?
We’ve proven our point, or at least I have. Now it’s time to decide if it was worth the cost. No one can ever mother like a mother and if that’s the most important job out there, why are fighting so hard to make it the backseat job? Perhaps that original plan of the children growing in our bellies had meaning. Perhaps the tracks have been completely derailed because we (myself included) failed to see the TRUE value of the woman from the onset.