I’m sure a vast majority would never call me the poster child for feminism and would say I have little right other than my gender to speak on the topic, myself included. I grew up thinking that I shouldn’t be bossy. I was rarely one to take the lead, unless I felt overtly passionate about a subject. Even now as an adult, a wife, and a mother, I find myself quiet on topics that I find I can let go when looking at the bigger picture. I pick and choose my battles. I think that’s just part of growing up, and you just hope at the end of the day you’re not on the winning side, but the one that is right morally.
It took having not just a daughter but also a son to really bring me into feminism. I have tried to raise my kids with eyes wide open to prejudice and inequality not just for themselves but those around them, and I’ll be honest, there were bias that I hadn’t even realized I turned a blind eye to before having kids. Never for a moment would I let them believe it was okay to see someone as less or even greater than themselves based on prejudice, even if that prejudice is gender.
All that being said, I’m also a “kept woman.” (That’s the nicer of terms I’ve been labelled staying at home while my husband works.) What I see as a partnership that has spanned almost a decade with my husband that now allows me to be a stay-at-home mother to our two kids, many see as me being bought and paid for. I could sit and list the tasks I try to complete on a daily basis, but the list of things I don’t seem to have time for is nearly twice as long. (Honestly, I shouldn’t even be blogging, which is why, if you look, you will see this part of my life is sorely neglected.)
Most of the time I just feel worn out. I feel like I have given a piece of myself up to be a mother and spouse. So much so that I sometimes find myself forgetting my own name. I’m just “Mama” or “Addy Osmani’s Wife.”
I’m not complaining. Those are my favorite titles in the world, I’d have to say. I am so proud of my husband and children. I am their biggest fan. I sit in the front row. I take pictures, and I lug around all their crap from event to event. I cook, I clean, I garden, and I chauffeur. I sit through doctor and dentist appointments. I worry about them all constantly, and I love them more than reason. Even though sometimes I feel overworked and underpaid, the benefits are so great that I couldn’t imagine a career in anything else.
When I am around his colleagues a lot of times people will ask if I code, and when I say that I do not, they are curious how we met, because I am an anomaly in his world, as he is in mine. We laugh when people ask if I’m in the tech industry. Not to make fun of the person asking or even me, but the idea is very silly to us both, because I am the least tech savvy person you may meet next to your own grandmother. I once attempted to delete System Windows32, but in my defense it was in add/remove programs, it said it was rarely used and taking up a lot of room. (true story) I mean, I have my good qualities. I can make you a pie from scratch or paint you a picture. I break things, and I make things. It evens out.
So, I walked around the event in search of swag to send to a childhood friend that is a huge fan of my husband and also had hopes of finding something child appropriate for the kinder. I stayed away from the fray, because not everyone has the patience to talk to a n00b. That’s when I found a sticker I had been searching for ever since my tablet died, and it refused to be removed.
BINGO! I could have squeed. I may have. I stopped worrying that people were looking at me, knowing I was a total fraud and had no idea what they were talking about, although I listened to each pitch and brought home my husband a bag full of literature to go through.
I was so happy and excited that I forgot being insecure around all these tech gurus, and I asked if I could have not one but two. I know, I know. Greedy, but a girl can never be too careful. (Am I really the only one that has bought a second pair of my favorite shoes, that hide in the closet, waiting for the next blowout?)
When the young woman scanned my badge, she looked at the company listed and asked what I did there, and I made the bad joke of being married to an employee.
I explained the mistake-
My husband works there and to get my badge printed, he typed in his company name while my hands were full. (The badge had printed, and I knew my fate was sealed. That I would be trying to correct people all day, so I tried to explain through fancy networking ribbons.)
She asked where I did work.
I sheepishly said that I was a stay-at-home mom.
“They have those in the tech industry?” She laughed hysterically at my expense. “Don’t tell any women in tech that, because they’ll find it offensive.” She chuckled a little more.
Her words cut me like a knife, and while an older male colleague of hers started in about ageism in the industry, my ears started buzzing. It felt like a punch in the gut, because it brought up all those doubts I had about myself over the years to give up working every day or taking care of my family as a full time job.
My self worth diminished in that moment, I turned away and soon left. Ironically I was on my way to listen to keynote talks about diversity, inclusion, and community. I actually felt like an outsider looking in as they went on, and my recent interactions stewed inside of me until I was slightly shaky from anxiety, but those with unseen illnesses like anxiety and depression (although that’s a whole other blog post entirely) will empathize with me all too deeply when I say that I can plaster a smile on and act like I don’t have a care in the world. It’s an exhausting affair, but I grew up on the phrase “fix your face.”
I still couldn’t believe a woman in any industry would treat another woman like that, but especially a woman in a field that is already facing its own battle with sexism. My daughter aspires to work in mathematics or business, and I kept thinking, what if she had heard that? What if either of my kids had heard it?
Would they think less of me as a mother? Less of a feminist? A woman? Less of a person?
Would they grow up and think less of those that dedicate their lives to raising families and greater of those that have careers?
I learned to type twenty five years ago. I was the only 2nd grader in summer school keyboarding class. I took it by mistake. My mom told me I could learn to play the keyboard, but I’m pretty determined, so they got me a big phone book to sit on, and I was at 35 wpm before I knew it. They said I was adorable, and I’d make a great secretary one day. As luck would have it, I got an electronic typewriter before I ever had access to my own “family” computer. Today I can type faster than the great Addy Osmani, but that’s about as far as my typing skills have taken me.
Today my daughter can not just learn to type, but she can learn to code and take robotics in the 7th grade! That blows my mind and makes my Grinch heart swell three sizes. That people look at my daughter and see the same potential as my son is amazing to me, because I didn’t grow up in that society. I hope that one day they grow up in a world that is blind to race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender.
At least that’s my dream. I think as a mom we all hope for a perfect world for our children.
I’m not naming this woman or the company she works for or even the event, because my goal is not to shame another woman. I feel there has been enough of that for one day, thank you. I merely want to point out to women in all industries and walks of life that we can stand together, or we can tear ourselves apart, but if we can’t treat each other with respect, how can we expect the rest of the world to respect us.
“I would tell her to walk a mile in my shoes.”
That’s the only response I could croak out to that young woman without crying like an idiot.
I feel so many women don’t even realize this country is more than 220 years old and women have been able to vote for less than 100 years, because we were seen as “less than.”
I implore any women reading this to just be kind to one another. Compliment each other. Inspire others. Support one another.
The world is tough enough on our gender without us being hard on each other.
P.S. Sorry for the insanely long post, but even though Twitter was little quiet on my tweet, but it lacked GIFs or hashtags of my usual tweets. When it posted to my facebook page , some people wanted an explanation beyond the 140 characters I was allowed on Twitter. So, for the TL;DR you can check out that tweet.