Read Part 1 Here
So I’m totally sorry for leaving everyone hanging. Just… Life! Things are crazy. Bullets on Bunny soon with updates. I promise! Now, back to the regularly scheduled (but rather late!) post:
Up until January, I wasn’t technically a full-time employee at the company I work for. I was an outside contractor. Then some stuff happened, and everybody got on board with getting me hired.
Well – ok – not everybody. There was one person in upper management who was skeptical. But my boss made a compelling case. So I was hired. Understanding that I would work at home 3 days a week because hey – my hours are insane anyway. I work in Israel and most of my work is done facing the NY office. So I’m on EST time as it is.
Because I knew of this slight resistance in upper management, I was VERY determined to prove myself. Even more so because I only came into the office 2 days a week.
I bust my hump. I put in somewhere between 60-80 hours a week. A lot of that is late nights and weekends. On Saturdays, even when I’m out of the house, I check my inbox. Though my confidence in my position continues to grow, and I feel less insecure (by a little bit anyway), I still work my ass off.
I also do everything in my power to act as if I don’t have a child I need to tend to.
This is ridiculous. The company supports flexible hours so employees can be with their kids. My boss is a very involved father, and doesn’t hide it, despite the insane amount of hours he puts in (my guess is about double what I do). So why do I pretend that I don’t have a baby, or that having one doesn’t put certain constraints on my time?
(I am actually working on fixing that last one actively, but more on that later)
About a month into my full time status, my boss and my co-worker (a man, single) were at a meeting with a client. They came back from that meeting with a laundry list of things I needed to do. They then gave me NO CONTEXT about the meeting, and threw me in the water, expecting me to swim. I did ok – but there were a couple of awkward moments where I was talking to the client and realized I had NO CLUE what they were talking about.
In short – I should have been in on that meeting, but no one thought of inviting me.
I was PISSED.
But did I tell my boss or my co-worker?
There is a really great woman in my department. We get along really well. She’s been with the company forever. I went and vented to her instead.
“Get used to it hon. This is what men do here. They take. They don’t ask. They run without running it by you. They don’t see that it’s wrong, or inconsiderate. They don’t care that they’re stepping on anyones toes. They take the ball and run.”
She wasn’t bitter about it. She said it in a very matter-of-fact tone.
Yet, my attitude didn’t change.
To this day, when I have an idea or a suggestion – I find myself APOLOGIZING for it, in case I step on anyone’s toes, because I don’t want to offend anyone. When I think something should be my responsibility, I gently nudge. I hint. I hardly ask.
And I certainly never take it without asking.
And there’s the rub. And here’s my point, finally after about 1500 words of exposition.
I think it’s because I’m a woman. But I don’t think it’s because I’m oppressed, or feel oppressed.
It’s because, like my husband said, I work emotionally.
Don’t get pissed, ok? I know I’m feeding into gender stereotypes here. My Women’s Studies minor is protesting. My feminist college professor is yelling at the top of her lungs in my head (don’t worry – she’s not there full time, so it’s not a psychosis).
Maybe it’s not because I’m a woman. Maybe it’s because I’m an emotional person in general. But I honestly think that at least partially, I apologize, and respect other people’s territory, responsibilities, and boundaries, because I’m a woman.
And the problem isn’t with me. The problem is with men who don’t do that.
See – Sandberg, in her book, (and my friends, and myself sometimes) says that as women, we have to stop being afraid to take. We have to stop apologizing.
But I keep thinking – WHY am I apologizing? Is it because I think I don’t deserve it? Certainly, that’s part of it. But that’s my insecurity – in my case, completely separate from my gender identity, more a part of my “artist” identity.
But there’s more to it. I apologize because I’m sensitive to other people’s feelings. So why wouldn’t I WANT to apologize?
I was thinking to myself – if I were in my boss’s shoes, how would I have handled last week’s yelling incident?
I would have made one very simple modification. If the roles were reversed, after the mistake was fixed, I would have simply emailed back “thanks for the quick turnaround on this. “
That’s it. Because I would have been acutely aware of the fact that I had yelled previously. Because I would have known that the person on the other end may be feeling a bit insecure because of that yelling. So I would have taken 30 seconds to acknowledge that person’s work.
And that’s not me being afraid, or insecure.
That’s part of what makes me a woman. I am sensitive to these things, more than most (though not all – there are always exceptions) men.
Let’s face it: There are always feelings. There are always bruised egos, and mess-ups, and people feeling territorial. Whether it’s admitted or not. It may not be in the text, but it sure as hell is in the subtext.
My boss is a freaking genius. No seriously – the man is brilliant. He is also ridiculously insecure. INSANELY insecure. I’ve seen him deal with failure. I read people well. I’ve seen his heart sink. It hurts him no less than it hurts me. And my other male co-worker? He is all bravado. He would never show vulnerability. But he’s not a machine. I know that he feels it.
So what am I supposed to do? Ignore that I see these things? Ignore the fact that after I get yelled at, I need a pat on the back, or a little “thank you” to make me feel better?
Play the game?
Or change the game?
Which brings me back to the other end of the equation. The part where I wonder why I work so hard to hide the fact that I’m a mother.
That’s the flip side of this coin. That’s me playing the game. That’s me going along with the corporate culture. Even though I think that part is wrong too. Even though THE COMPANY ITSELF doesn’t give me any indication that I need to play this part of the game.
Right now I’ve decided to start small. I’m no longer (poorly) hiding the fact that I’m a mom. There are hours these days that are blacked out on my calendar. No conference calls or meetings. That is Bunny Time.
I sometimes have no choice but to make an exception, but when I do – I also have no choice but to say – “Hey, I’m home, and the baby is fussy, so I may have to step away for a moment.”
I still feel awkward and sometimes even guilty about these things. The other day I had no choice but to take a very long conference call in the evening, and Bunny didn’t feel like napping, even though she was overdue. And she actually decided to violently gag on a piece of bread in the middle of the call and proceed to scream at the top of her lungs.
Now that totally made me feel like mother of the year. Really. Great work with that work/life balance right there.
Did I feel bad about it? Yes – on all ends. But they knew. The baby was awake. It’s how it goes.
So I’m going against the grain. I’m REALLY taking a stab at embracing the mom side.
Which at my company. Is completely acceptable. So no stretch there beyond my own insecurity and need to prove myself.
But what about the other side? The part that’s not acceptable? The part where I need to grimace, and take without asking in order to get ahead? The part where it makes no sense to have feelings? Maybe it’s that part that kind of drags the “motherhood shame” down along with it?
I honestly just don’t know what to do about that.
There is so much more left to be said about this. About how I’m the one who is responsible for picking Bunny up from day care, and Shmerson stays late in the office, and how that may be the “norm” and a bit chauvinist, but I don’t really care that it is because I WANT to be the person picking her up.
About how I wonder whether I should do more taking, and how that would make me feel, and how I would be perceived.
About how acutely aware I am of the fact that Bunny will grow up one day, and I will be a role model to her.
And the guilt – oh, so much guilt. About ALL THE THINGS.
But I’ll leave all of that for another post (or 1000 of them).
For now, I’ll just continue to ponder what it truly means to be not only a working mother, but a working WOMAN.
I’ll be honest – I don’t know if I’ll ever actually reach a conclusion.