How A 1970s Girl Was Inspired by a 1950s Woman

A friend of mine from high-school just shared this http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/09/youre-a-stay-at-home-mom-what-do-you-do-all-day/ on Facebook. I’ve seen it pop up over the last few days but for whatever reason, didn’t read it.

Until now.

First, I’d like to say to @MattWalshRadio: Congrats, dude – you’ve nailed it smack on the head, and I appreciate the fact that you appreciate what is really important. Ferris Beuler said “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” And personally, I think we all miss it, most of the time.

I was born in 1973. My parents divorced when I was around 5 years old (which was better for all of us, trust me), and in the 1970s that meant I lived full time with Mom. Now, she wasn’t a bad woman, but she wasn’t right, in the head, and as an adult I can now say that she truly did the best she could.

I remember watching “Leave it to Beaver” when I was a kid, and I remember that she would either recoil at it, or make snide comments, but I really respected June Cleaver. She had it going on. That household ran like a clock, and the whole family knew that they needed her to do what she did so that they could do what they did.

Mom went back to college maybe a year after the divorce. As a result, I basically grew up on university campuses and spent more time around her professors and classmates than my own peers, but that suited me better anyway. I grew up with all the opportunities ahead of me that she felt were important, opportunities that she had to fight for. A totally different world from the Cleaver family.

Mom was born in 1952. The expectation from her parents was that she should meet a nice guy, get married, raise children and take care of a household. Well, from first-hand experience, let me tell you, this was really not her thing. I never met her mom, my grandmother, but from what I know, she would have been super proud of her. My grandfather, well, let’s just say it took a bit longer for him to really understand WHY she would even think about something like archaeology and anthropology, but he did get there. Because he loved her.

So, there I was, along for the ride if you asked me, but she needed me to be a part of everything. I remember her asking me to quiz her before her undergrad and graduate exams. I remember going to her classes when I needed a break from my own school (because I was socially awkward and couldn’t relate to my own peer group, so trust me, I needed a break). I remember emulating her with my very own legal pad and flair tip pen. I remember her linguistics professor asking for me to come to class with her because I was young enough to be able to pronounce Tagrinian words that had a glottal stop because I was young enough, basically, that I didn’t realize “I Shouldn’t Be Able To.” As a result, now, I am a polyglot, speaking over five languages, and that is a skill I cherish about myself. And I am grateful to her for.

What didn’t I learn from her? How to cook, how to sew, how to balance a checkbook, how to clean, all of the “normal” things that her parents, my grandparents, felt it was most important to know. For a girl. All of the things that I knew June Cleaver knocked out of the park every day. All of the things I’m figuring out now, at 40.

Over the course of my 40 years walking this earth so far I have been blessed to be able to: design lighting for the stage (and an Irish pub in NYC, who knew); work as a corporate and IP paralegal; be part of a founding team for a children’s theatre that continues to rock the house to this day (long past my involvement); care for and handle alligators and snakes and vicious snapping turtles. I have been a development editor for “The Complete Idiot’s Guides,” and I have been a Production Manager for one of the biggest touring entertainment companies until the end of last year.

I have loved everything I have done in my life. And that’s the key. Everything I did before I did something else enhanced what I was able to bring to that something else. I am weird, I am beyond quirky, but I live by one major philosophy that I absorbed from both of my parents. I may not have lived every day with my Dad, but he is my best friend, and book-ended my Mother’s unique approach to parenting with this:

“I don’t care if you flip burgers at MacDonalds, as long as when you get up in the morning you are excited to go and do what you do.”

When I got that gig as Production Manager for that huge touring company, a lot of people made a fuss. “Ooh, you’re the only woman PM (at the time)” “You’re breaking down barriers.”

Glass ceilings, responsibility to my fellow women-folk, yada yada yada.

I was merely following the path ahead of me by doing what I loved to do.

In the process of doing that, I met the man that I love to love.

A few years ago, while we were both working on tour together, he needed to go home to take care of his Dad. He was conflicted at first about telling me, because he knew he needed to go home and do this, but he had this crazy thought that he would lose me if he did. I did my best to disavow him of that notion, and it must have worked, because here we are, a few years later, and we are together and figuring out how to do this whole thing, together. I don’t really know why he ever thought he would lose me, not for certain, but I guess it might be because I was my job. And I don’t regret that. He knew that for me, I am what I can do, and maybe he thought that I would choose what I was doing over him. Fair enough, because at that point, what I did consumed me.

I am what I can do. A powerful thought, but it can’t be everything.
A few months in to my still being away on tour, and his being at home, in Australia (which isn’t near to ANYTHING, by the way)…I really didn’t think I could make it. I hated being away from him. I hated knowing he was slowly saying goodbye to his only remaining parent, and I WASN’T THERE. I did my best to be there whenever possible, and that huge company we worked for supported us in ways I never would have imagined, but I really wanted to BE THERE. I wanted to do the simple things, like make soup, take out the garbage, get groceries, give a hug. Anything, any little thing. I wanted to be his June Cleaver.

But we had agreed that I would stick it out, because at one point he thought he might come back to work for a while, so we were very pragmatic about it. When his father, who was a beautiful man, did pass, I knew he was home for good. And I knew, I wanted to be there. So we talked about it, and we agreed on a timeline. The show I was managing had some complicated markets that required a lot of pre-planning that I was already in the midst of. I knew I wanted to deliver the show to those markets. Yes, in my role, I wanted those marks on my belt. I wanted those achievements. But he also didn’t want me to regret leaving. He knew I had to finish this too. It was tough, and again there were several times where I was so torn — I was committed to my team, but I wanted to be Home. And he wanted me home too, but he knew this was important to me. Home is where we are together, but that can only happen when we support eachother.

So we stayed the course, we stuck to the plan (with several pep talks from him to me), and we are now well on the other side.

I announced my departure almost a year prior to my actual resignation date to give my bosses and my team time to adjust, but also to give myself the time to leave things the best I could. I was leaving one family to create another, and I wanted to make sure I did it honourably.

Maybe because of my mother’s unique qualities, in the past, no one had ever asked me when I would get married or have kids. But when I announced to my friends and family that I was resigning from this position to move to Australia to be with my Love, well….

Suddenly, it all came out.

“But what are you going to do?” “When are you getting married?” “When will you have babies? (ok, I’m 40, we have two furry babies that I don’t need to worry about sending off to the prom from a walker, so we’re good there). And the kicker:

“HOW CAN YOU RESIGN THIS POSITION. YOU ARE THE ONLY WOMAN IN THIS POSITION IN THIS COMPANY. YOU ARE ONE OF THE FEW WOMEN AT THIS LEVEL IN THIS INDUSTRY. HOW CAN YOU GIVE THAT UP?!?!”

Ok, let’s all have a group reality check. First, I’m not too worried about the marriage thing, my Love just imported me to his home. Literally. He vouched for me and made declarations of his feelings to his own government and everything to make sure I could be here. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty huge to me. And as far as my position before? I earned everything I achieved, through blood, sweat and tears….NOT GENDER. So it really shouldn’t matter whether or not I decide to make a change. I do not believe that I am being arrogant when I say that I believe I was the right person for that position for the time I held it. And I am proud of what I achieved with my team. But I did NOT give anything up when I decided to resign. I listened to what my parents taught me in their various ways, and I knew that the core message was to follow my heart. And that’s what I have always done. And that’s what I am doing now.

So, now? I work from home. Oooooh. Bet that got a few people there. Let me tell you, even I thought I’d have a few luxurious mornings when I was counting the days until I would be Home. But the reality is, I didn’t just come home, to Australia, to the other side of the world from everything, to be self employed. I didn’t come here with the primary purpose of work at all (I just know I get bored easy and people seem to insist on exchanging money for goods so it’s kind of necessary) but no…I came home to be with my Love and to take care of US to the best of my ability. And I don’t sleep in, I’m up earlier than I was when I was on tour with a “Job” and I constantly feel like there are just not enough hours in the day.

I wake up in the morning and sure, I’m thinking about contracts and schedules and things for the work I’m currently doing now, but bigger than that is what do I need to do today for us? What am I making for dinner? What do our furry babies need to continue to grow into healthy, happy cats? What do I need to do to take care of our house, the house my Love grew up in?

My to do lists are usually like this:
Plan menu for the week
Get plants for back yard
Sow grass seeds on front lawn
Clean grout
Get cat food
Invoice for March
Create template for genealogy research questionnaire

So you see, the “work” that generates an income hits the bottom of the list as it comes to mind. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it, but to me the balance of this list is just fine.

I LOVE planning a meal for when my Love comes home from work and seeing him go for seconds.
I LOVE being able to be here to do silly things like get more of the muesli bars he likes to have for snacks at work.
I LOVE being here when he comes home.
I LOVE taking care of our home, together.
I LOVE the fact that we have regular TV shows that we watch together.
I LOVE being Home.

I still work for that huge company, as a sub-contractor. I’ve also re-started a prior endeavour of providing genealogy research. These are things I love doing. But I love being where I am more than that, and I love finding the best way I can to take care of US everyday more than anything else. My Love? He supports me, he knows I need to work, but he also says thank you for everything I do for US all the time. He seems to constantly find things for us to do together that I will love, he enjoys surprising me, he keeps me laughing, and nurtures my soul in ways that I would never have thought possible. He even puts up with me being a bit of a “Monica” and is adapting. With humour.

So did I give up something for this?

Not at all. I hit the benchmarks I needed to hit for my own professional development. Honestly, I got what I needed from the corporate entertainment world (now there’s an oxymoron) that I was a rare component of (apparently, being a woman, whatever). And I bring all of that to where I am now.

Which, I have to say, blows my mind every day.

June Cleaver, in a different generation, put in the Production Management position I recently resigned from, would have blown everyone away.

Go ahead, think about what it takes to run a household. What it takes to make sure everyone is eating healthy, and that the cupboards are stocked, and the house is clean. Really think about that. And go on, tell me it’s not work. I dare ya.

To everyone out there that works from home – in any capacity – I salute you. I’m just figuring it out now, and the learning curve is steep!

Oh, Rosie – Have We Forgotten What You Taught Us?

Ok – I’ve tried not to let this bother me all day. The fact that it is still powering at least one hamster wheel in my head tells me that there’s a reason it’s there….and it bothers me that it still bothers me. It’s a sad, and pitiful thing, but alas, not uncommon. Yet today, for whatever reason, it hit a button for sure.

So, what happened that has kept my hamster wheel humming for 9 hours, you ask?

It all started out so simply, really.

When I moved into my hotel I noticed that two of the four wall sconces in my living area had blown bulbs. Like a good doobie, I filled out my move in report and referenced the blown bulbs. Silly me, I thought that the Hotel would take the note and replace them. That was a month ago.

I’ve been busy, and there are other lamps in the room, so I haven’t revisited the issue.

So this morning, I go into the bathroom to brush my teeth , and two of the four lights in the bathroom ceiling have gone the way of the blown bulbs in the living area and now my bathroom, with no windows, has become quite cavelike.

Fair enough, lamps blow. The sky is not falling. And there’s a pretty simple solution. So on my way to work I stop by reception and mention the increasing number of blown lamps in my residence.

I barely finish my opening gambit and I am greeted with the following:

“Um, like, I’m a temp here and no one else is at the desk right now and the handyman isn’t right here and I’m a temp here and there’s no one around and could you wait until maybe late next week ‘cuz then I won’t be here and there will be people here who are normally here but I’m a temp here and there’s no one else here with me right now.”

Yup, no breaths were taken during that entire monologue, which clearly is part of the cause since that would be almost 5 minutes where this woman had no oxygen flowing to her brain. And how useless an expenditure of oxygen and my time that whole rant was. That’s 5 minutes of my life I will never get back and the ridiculous part of it is, it actually caused tears to well up.

Now, if you knew me, which most of you don’t, then you would know that the first thing that triggers tears from me is infuriation. I may be a woman and there may be plenty of stereotypes about how emotional we are, but what typically triggers tears for me is anger. Of course, that anger is always completely undermined by such an emotional display thanks to the aforementioned stereotypes. But I digress.

So here’s what angers me. HONESTLY????? Temp or not this woman was working in A HOTEL. Her mandate, shall we say, as an employee of said hotel, whether as a temporary or permanent employee, necessarily includes at least the following:

-Accepting packages;
-Answering the phone;
-Checking in arriving guests;
-Checking out departing guests; and
-Accepting maintenance requests and informing the maintenance staff.

THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

Honestly, common sense would have dictated the following response:

“Thank you for letting us know, let me take a note of this and I will see what we can do about this for you.”

She wouldn’t have even had to have made a promise. Customer service is about acknowledging the customer’s needs. I’m not even saying that you have to say the customer is always right (although in this case the customer IS right because my bathroom is pretty dark right now). Just acknowledge the service request.

SO, yeah, that annoyed me, because that was a flat out refusal to even attempt to try to rub at least two brain cells together to make a spark and figure out a way to address a simple situation which clearly falls within the parameters of the job that she was apparently hired to do, at least for today.

But what incited the anger and the resultant tears that summarily resulted in infuriating me even more? Here’s a woman who, instead of attempting to think her way through an apparently complex situation, decided to throw a litany of excuses at me so that I would likely feel bad for her and say “don’t worry about it, I’m so sorry if I overtaxed you, please, sit down, put your feet up and let me get you some tea.”

Why did that piss me off? Because as a woman, I too often find that this type of response is exactly what people expect from me first, before even knowing my name or my experience. This is a stereotype that I fight regularly (not constantly, but regularly enough) as a Production Manager in the entertainment industry. I could ignore it, but I do fight it, purely so that I can then just roll up my shirtsleeves, sweep the non-essential noise out of the way, and get to work. I don’t consider myself a feminist, as a matter of fact I covet the ability of some of my friends to have a home, and take care of a family. That is the biggest job out there, in my opinion. But until that happens for me, I take the job I do have seriously, and I expect to be taken seriously doing it until I prove otherwise, and I therefore do not appreciate it when a member of my same sex takes the easy way out and decides to go about work by playing the part of the feeble minded with the additional handicap of spring-loaded eyelashes thrown into the mix.

So what did I say to her?

I had plenty of vitriolic that welled up right along with the infuriating tears, but age has allowed some wisdom to seep through and realize before starting that I would not have achieved any sort of progress by that route, so instead, I said:

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll call the office later and find someone who can help me.”

She actually blinked at me a few times and said “Oh, thank you so much, you’ve really helped me.”

Let’s review for a moment, in this scenario I was the customer, and she was to provide customer service.

Honestly – Rosie, it is moments like this that I believe we, as women, have failed you, and what you taught us. So, I shall replace my infuriation with my brush with customer inservice today and spend a moment reflecting on other women, like Rosie the Riveter, who had it right.

And cheers to you, Rosie, for being willing to try.