It began when Melisa came into our room at the day job and said: "Boy, remember when we were young and didn't have any cares and could just hop on an airplane and fly off? And now we have husbands and responsibilities and houses that always need fixing."
Melisa once had a dream job working at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Now she argues with customers who did not think to read the contract and are surprised to discover that they signed a three-year lease.
Myself? I never was that young and carefree person.
Probably it was something ingrained in me early (thanks, Mom and Dad) or perhaps it is just my nature (ditto). I was an over-achiever in school through studying long hours by choice and the habits carried through when I joined the work-force.
Or perhaps it was coming of age in the 1960's and early 70's when women were entering the workforce in greater numbers and striving for equality. I have always felt that I had to work both harder and smarter than a man in the same position. Being a girl-good-at-math (just imagine how smart I'd be if I had been born a boy?) whose main accomplishment in life has been writing software, a male-dominated profession, I am sure affected my attitude and drive.
This last week we watched Makers - Women who Make America - on PBS. It was difficult to watch, bringing back so many old memories and hurts:
- The supervisor in the accounting department at the IRS in Fresno who promoted a same-age but less-capable male because "he had a wife to support." Yes, that was the reason he actually stated.
- Overhearing my (much adored) grandfather telling my parents that it was a waste of time to send a woman to college because she would "just get married and have babies."
- Tom's Dad stating to us that "all of society's problems are caused by women who work" after the first and only time they babysat for us when the kids were 8 and 5.
- Even when I started at my current job (1993), the tech area was decorated with calendars showing inappropriately-clad, or unclad, young women.
- One of the first phrases we learned in Spanish class in Seventh grade was "La mujer en casa, el hombre en la plaza" and nobody found that sexist.
That was just a sample of what it was like for those of us who broke trail for you who came later.
I worked in the computer department at the IRS when Mandy was born. I had seven weeks of accumulated sick and vacation leave. About two weeks I took before (she was due July 20th, induced August 5th), leaving five weeks after. No allowances were made for nursing mothers. I tried to hand-pump in a restroom stall during my 15 minute breaks with little success.
And not only was I working full time, I was also still attending CSUF. Thanks to my mom for the time she spent babysitting.
Admittedly I had it somewhat easier with Jamie. Tom got a new job in Fallbrook when I was just short of seven months pregnant. I quit my programming job in Reedley (another story its own right) and we moved. While I started working at the same company he was with almost immediately, as bookkeeper and then writing the code for the software we still exist on today, it gave me the flexibility I had lacked the first time around.
Sometimes I feel that younger women are throwing away the rights that we fought tooth-and-nail for.
I have been watching Mad Men on Netflix, another series I had originally missed. It shows the life I honestly never wanted: the stay-at-home bored-to-neurosis wife. The couples with always a drink in one hand, a cigarette dangling from the other, lives and duties divided.
I remember those days, girls. You don't want to live there.
Is the pendulum swinging because our daughters have hostility due to the hours we spent working, leaving them in daycare? Then will the following generation resent the things they did without so that their moms could stay home? Will they have to fight again for rights lost in a backwards slide?
And why is it still expected that it will be the woman who gives up her own goals to raise the children while the man holds down the "real job"?
Maybe I'm a touch bitter about being on the wrong side of the equation. As a young woman I had to work harder than a man to prove that I could. And now I have to work harder to pick up the slack for those whose first priority is to be wife and mom.
Truth: after working so hard for so long, I am ready for a break. I want that youth and freedom that I never allowed myself to have, where we can take off and travel, I can read as many books as I want, or just sit in the sun and do nothing.
Oh how loverly sitting abso-blooming-lutely still
(and maybe rewatching old musicals to my heart's content).