Today at the unit meeting my colleague took his phone and took several pictures – hopefully only for his friends – to show the gender imbalance of our unit. He was the only man sitting there although I had to say that 3 more men were still awaited. It has become a stereotypical joke when we recruit new staff because we really do not want to see another woman. So while out there you hear the desperate cry for more women at certain job posts we live the opposite.
My doctor once said: “with women it is complicated.”
He smiled very gently and started to explain that pain is perceived and felt differently by women than men due to their hormonal cycle. Yes, we know we are annoying at least a few days a month even more than on the other days. Add to mother nature additional trouble and here you go – you deal with an unpredictable emotional snow ball that can hit you anytime. He said also very reassuringly that”it will pass, one day it will pass.” Me in terrible pain could not resist the black humour so I added: “Sure, one day everything will pass”- sugesting that not only menopause can be a solution. As I pronounced it we were both laughing and I told myself I loved my doctor. He understands my despair and willingness to overcome it and does not hesitate to joke with me on serious matters.
Here we go – being a woman is already complicated. Add to this role you were born to an additional role of being a mother. To be a mother is great. You have the exceptional privilege to carry another human being in your body. You have also exceptional privilege to endure enormous pain (unless you take epidural – then maybe the enormous pain comes later while recovering from assisted birth due to complications) in order to bring this new creature into the world. And now comes the best part: You breastfeed and you do your best even with your second or third child but there is always a friend or a mother in law who knows better. They know that you need to breastfeed less, more often, to pump your milk, to massage your breasts before or after or both, to put cabbage leaves in order to prevent mastitis. Oh yes and please, please do not stress about it, just be calm and do all what they say and gosh do not think!
The breastfeeding is over and I am sure you introduced solids with plenty of advice and you were criticized for giving the ready pots from the supermarket and also for not giving them and cooking like crazy home-made food. Potty training became an obsession because you were relaxed at first but then accused of being too spoiled by Pampers invention. Apparently by the time your child was three you happened to become a non consistent person who additionally is not strict enough. They will show you how to teach a child to pee in the pot. Since you are now desperate of lagging behind the standards you let the grandmother do her job. You have your satisfaction when your child runs naked and poops while walking in grandmas garden as if nothing happens. You even want to applaud him but then you just shrug your shoulders when grandma becomes hysteric shouting she had never seen a child like this and hand her over some Pampers.
Then comes eczema phase and although YOU are the ONE living the hell with your child that does not want to shower, wakes up at night because everything itches (and you with him), is irritated and shines like a red bulb in arms of Santa Clause at the Christmas performance in crèche still there are those who know better. They used this cream and it was a miracle. They avoided this food, the others did not avoid anything and they managed. You discover that you are fussy and because the allergology test were fine there is no problem. You know there is and you try to do your best not to care too much. You just cannot help it it is too personal.
You look for the job after several years at home. At the interview you need to explain that you were not doing nothing at home. Fortunately during the long years (that by the way cannot be rewound) you did some evening courses so it is not so odd. You get the job. You try not to stay at home too much when kids get ill. Of course your friend who stays at home makes the remark that you must be cold-blooded to let the child to go to school not completely recovered. You stay home for more than 2 days you get comments that you are pampering too much your kids and they will never become resilient. You change your dress code – finally enjoying dresses and skirts and you get remarks you are spending too much on clothing. You do not put make-up you overhear another colleague-a mother that you are not assuming your role as a woman. You talk with men colleagues you are sluttish, you do not talk with men colleagues you are a none or a woman who lives only for kids and a husband. You have one child – when comes the second? Do not dare to say never. You risk to be labelled as selfish and a careerist. You have two children and you are happy with that? Hang on apparently two is too much rivalry. Won´t you consider a third one? Please say something like, hmm yes, maybe, we will see. No is not an answer. Otherwise you are selfish as well. Do you have three children? Was it an accident? Have you REALLY planned to have three? Aren´t you disappointed that you have three girls? OMG having three boys that must be tough. You have 4 children?! Are you religious? You happen to be -then we are sure the fifth is on their way.
Are you a mother? I am. How have I managed so far? Well, it was tough at certain moments. Being judged, not understood, omitted in decisions, ridiculed etc. How could I cope? With my inner voice, with prayers sometimes, with tears the other times. With laughter most of the times. Also with shouting and standing to my point of view. I have two wonderful kids. One was breastfed until 8 months and I decided to finish it the other barely 6 months and she decided to stop. First potty trained at 3, second by her own initiative at 18 months. Solids cooked but also bought. Eczema treated by trial and mistake and a lot of patience. I love being at work but I love spending time with my kids. I do not want to have a third one even though those tiny little feet make me sentimental. I love wearing dresses but you could see me in jeans and boots at work. I do put make up because I am not so pale afterwards but I can go out without it and I do not care. I speak with male colleagues because I appreciate another point of view but I am mostly friends with girls. I am who I am.
It takes time to acquire the security of taking own decisions. It takes time to being able to detach yourself from the opinion of others. It takes time to allow your own intuition and feelings to be your guides. We are all afraid of judgements and the fact that we might not be “enough”. However, at the end of the day or days, of our time here, or the last “judgement day” I am sure there will be no friends or acquaintances there, nor your parents or in-laws. Maybe even the God almighty will not be judging you but welcoming you with the smile of my doctor: “My dear WOMAN and MOTHER – it was complicated. It passed and now off you go and do your best. I will be watching you but not judging you. And yes it will be complicated – AGAIN.”
Gender imbalance in our unit made me think about women and how much more we need to believe in ourselves. We need to stop sabotaging ourselves by trying to please relatives, colleagues or bosses. If we embrace our true nature doing our best will always be enough. No proofs and justifications. Simply freedom.