Thursday, February 22, 2007

Catch-22

So, it's been a while since I've gone off on one of my feminist tirades. The last one was around our miscarriage last April. As I was going through it, I was trying to do research to learn more about what I might experience. And, I was amazed at how little real research there was out there. Even on major medical websites, etc. They lumped all miscarriage together, as if they're all the same. As if losing your baby at 19 weeks is the same (physically) as losing your baby at 5. It just made me so angry. Here is something that happens to--stats vary--a third or more of all pregnancies, and I couldn't find much outside of personal narratives about what I could expect. (And, I'm so grateful for those personal narratives, but so many of them were so scary that I was really hoping to read them alongside some medical stats, info, etc.) It just made me angry that women around the world were left to deal with this--often silently, and mostly on their own.

My latest feminist tirade is about the guilt I feel over trying to have a baby and thinking about taking a promotion at work. I was talking to my brother last night, and he basically said, "that sounds great, I would jump on it if I were you, etc. But, if you're thinking of having kids in the next two years, you probably have to put that on hold." He wasn't trying to be sexist, he was trying to be realistic. He said, "I'm sure by taking this, your bosses are assuming that you're not planning to have kids immediately."

Now, I'm not mad at my brother. He wasn't afraid to say what I and many others around me have been dancing around. That many women really do need to choose between career and family at some point. That sometimes it's damn near impossible to balance the two. And, that it might not be realistic for me to think I can "have it all" right now.

And that makes me furious. Last year, another colleague took the same job that I'm thinking of taking. His wife was pregnant, and he had a baby the first year in the job. And nobody blinked an eye. In fact, everybody celebrated what a family man he was, and how great it was that he was trying to work out a balance with the kids.

And, that just seems so unfair. I just DO NOT believe that the 6 weeks of maternity leave is the only reason for the double standard. Because, even if I were able to plan my pregnancy (ha, ha) to take maternity leave at a "convenient" time, I do feel a tremendous amount of pressure. I mean, obviously they won't (they can't) say anything. If I get pregnant, they'll just have to deal with it. But, I'm under no delusions that I won't have the disapproving looks.

And, what's worse, I think as a woman you get it from both sides. As many people as there are at work who aren't psyched about a woman trying to take a high-powered job while having small children, there are an equal number who think that women who deign to work outside the home that many hours a day aren't doing right by their kids.

It really feels like a catch-22. One that men simply do not have to deal with. With a wife and kids, a man turns from toxic bachelor to "family man" who gets the keys to the executive washroom. A woman becomes suspect. I'm 31, and have been married for 3 years. And, people I work with aren't even subtle about trying to figure out what our deal with kids is and what I am going to do about it. (No one wonders aloud about what hubby will do.) In fact, 31, schmirty-one, in my interview for my very first job out of college a decade ago, my employer asked me: "Do you have a boyfriend? Because I've lost too many young women to marriage and kids." !!!

I mean, I know we've come a long way, but I really feel like we've got a long way to go. Before I was born, Gloria Steinem once said something along the lines of, we know we'll have reached gender equality when men are asked how they are going to balance career with parenthood. To true...

2 comments:

theoneliner said...

sing on sister. there is sooo a double standard. men=oh your wife is pg? AWESOME. and then they pat him on the back. woman at work pg=oh.
its awful and how hard would it be to offer decent childcare...studies show that employers would benefit.
so much about life is unfair. blech.

Anns said...

It's so sad that though so many laws have been passed to "protect" the working mother that we'll probably never really be able to get past the wondering looks and glares regarding our lack of (or impending) motherhood.

I work in HR and have seen this play out in a variety of ways all too many times. From the "Big Boss" power hungry woman who frowns on the woman going on mat leave (and then "phases out" her position), to the early-30's woman, turning down that great opportunity because she knows her baby days are just around the corner.

It's just sooo sad.
But, just know that the power hungry woman mentioned above, is now divorced with 2 children that can't stand her.. so you do what's right for you and forget those who stare and glare at you - take that job AND have your baby... to hell w/ the double standard.