Archive for March, 2010

Raising Strong Daughters – Is It an Uphill Battle? (part 1)

YIN:

“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses.  Women for their strengths.” – Lois Wyse

A great quote if ever I’ve heard one.  My mom told me that when she had me, she wanted to raise a strong girl. But she thinks she did too good a job.  I take it as a compliment.  While I have my weaknesses, I don’t succumb to the notion that women are the weaker sex.  I have always believed that women can do most things that men can.  Okay so we can’t lift as much or run as fast, but we sure can drive a car like they do or use our minds just as well.  I was reading Ms. Magazine when I was 8 and remember getting upset with my mom when she cancelled her subscription. 

I really don’t remember having any problems with being a strong female until I entered the work world.  Suddenly instead of being encouraged to voice an opinion or coming up with ideas that didn’t mesh with everyone else’s, as I was in high school and college, I was being advised to keep my opinions to myself or to “go with the flow”.  Huh?  I’ve never been one to give an opinion that hurts someone’s feelings or denigrates their opinions. Nor do I shout out “No! that’s not the way to do that!”  But if someone asks me how I feel about something or if I’m involved in a group project and don’t agree with everything, I calmly stand up for my beliefs. 

I’ve been in the work world full time for about 14 years.  And in that 14 years only one manager has allowed me to be myself and told me that it’s okay to stand up for what I believe in.  With the many others I’ve had,  I have been told, or it has been insinuated, that to get ahead you have to keep your opinions to yourself if you don’t agree with the boss’.

For 2 years I was a manager of 6 to 8 employees at any given time.  I would never ask them to agree with everything I said.  What’s the purpose of that and how am I supposed to learn and grow if we all have the same opinions?  Instead all I asked was that they be respectful to me and to their fellow employees and I would do the same.  If we didn’t agree and I felt a compromise was suitable then that’s what we tried to achieve.  Sometimes things have to done a certain way and there is no compromise, especially if there are written company rules on it.  In those instances I explained why “X” had to be done. 

We had a new head manager start at my job this week who is coming from another part of my company.  For the past month since we’ve known she was coming here, not once has anyone ever said what her work ethics were like or that she is a “such and such” type of manager.  The two main things I’ve heard were “Oh I heard she’s a big bitch” and “She’s nicer to the men than she is to the women”.  These comments wouldn’t have gobsmacked me so much if the same people weren’t so upset that the former manager had left. The same former manager who was male.  The same former manager who was also sarcastic, cutting to the bone, ruthless and at times, hard as a rock.  Double standard anyone?

I’ve noticed in the past month that I am changing my attitude at work.  And I don’t think it’s necessarily for the better.  But I am starting not to say anything when someone asks what I think.  Sometimes my answer has become “It doesn’t matter to me – whatever everyone else wants to do”.  So why this sudden change?  Because I’m tired of being considered “mean” or “not a team player”.  I’ve begun to do what I hate most in people – I’ve begun to conform and be meek.

What makes me even angrier is that I’ve noticed plenty of men in my job who have their own opinions and voice them louder and sometimes ruder than I would ever consider doing.  They’ve even written nasty things in emails (which is a big no-no in my book).  And no one has ever said anything around me about how they don’t get along or that they are too opinionated.  That is scary to me.  Because now I have my own daughter who I want to respect others but at the same time not let people walk all over her.  I want her to feel good about having an opinion and ideas of her own that she can back up.  But I’m questioning if it’s worth teaching her those things if in 35 years she’s fighting the same battle that I’ve been fighting and possibly my own mother had to fight in the work world.  For her voice to be heard and her opinion respected.

(. . .  to be continued by Yang Mommy next week)

A Nod to Mommy Groups

A few years ago, in another lifetime and lifestyle, I guffawed at the idea of “mommy groups.” I mean, really, the label doesn’t even sound very exciting, does it? Who would want to sit around with a bunch of moms?  What, would they swap formula stories and talk about diaper rash? How boring (and gross)! You’d never find me at one unless I was dragged tooth and nail.

My, my, how things have changed. Why, as soon as I could escape the confines of my house for longer than one hour, I swaddled up my baby and went to various Mommy Meet-Ups. (www.meetup.com is a great site to find all kinds of clubs in your area, not just for parents).

I admit, at first I was rather desperate to meet other moms with children of the same age and to have actual conversations elevated above “goo goo, ga ga.” And yes, the conversations tended to revolve around whose baby ate what, how long they slept and what milestones they’ve hit.  Frankly, it was great to meet and talk with other moms going through the same trials and tribulations that I was. What a relief to know I wasn’t all alone! And once we got through the introductions and baby stats, it was actually quite interesting from a social-experiment-kind-of-way to watch moms try to out-do each other in relating their baby’s latest achievements. Creepy too, but to compare is part of the female nature.

Now that my girl’s a toddler, I’ve enrolled her in various “mommy and me” classes like art and dancing. Both to learn new things and to play with other little people.  She’s got to learn to share somewhere, right? But to be honest, the classes aren’t all just for her. They’re for me too. Rather like the majority of the toys I buy her are because I want to play with them.

The topics of conversation between toddler parents have changed somewhat ( from what vaccinations you have to who knows their ABCs and can count to 3).  There’s still the one-uptoddlership going on, as moms either glow with pride on their tot conquering the toilet to those who turn away because they haven’t treaded those dangerous waters yet. Fascinating to watch parents preen themselves with toddler milestones.  The whole potty-training thing often leads into mom cliques, just like in high school–the cans, the cants but trying and the haven’t even tried yets. But I digress.

What I really enjoy now is that since the kids are that bit older, we parents can actually converse about non-child-centric issues. Once we’ve strutted their stats first, of course. (I swear it would be easier if I just created a card ala a baseball card, with all my girl’s achievements, including age, likes and dislikes and her nap schedule. ) I mean, where else can you treat yourself to ice cream and pseudo-intellectual conversation while your child engages in fun activities under the tutelage of someone else?  Or dish about celebs & politics while spending quality time with your wee one? Mommy groups and classes rule.

So while non-parents may boo-hoo mommy groups and think they are duller than a grain of sand, to moms and dads alike, they are a lifeline.  There a place where people of like-lifestyles can get together and  just hang out, knowing everyone else is in the same boat. And they can be quite fun, too!

Besides, what new parent would want to sit in a room with a bunch of singles talking about the latest dance club and how many shots they downed Friday night?  How passe.