Three years ago, I found myself at an impasse with my husband. The argument in question? Who would pick up the children from school.
My point: I will lose the opportunity to meet with a major client if I don’t complete this presentation now, which could cost us thousands of dollars. I was the one packing the kids’ lunches, gathering the backpacks, and rushing them out the door that morning. I was also the one who used my five-minute breaks to schedule a dentist appointment for my youngest daughter and to email the choir director about my autistic daughter’s nerves.
Scott’s Take: Traffic would be crazy if he left his physical therapy office now to pick them up. This would be a huge inconvenience.
I picked up the children. I was angry but stewed in silence. And I felt the lack of respect and the mental burden weighing heavily on my shoulders.
My husband is no exception. I’m not a pushover. I’m a Stanford-trained veteran physician and have written three books on work-life integration for moms. When we were arguing that day, we were both reading Fair play and we knew exactly how to treat our marriage like a business partnership – at least in theory. I knew all the strategies and practical suggestions available for dismantling gender discrimination, personally and professionally, and yet it still existed in my home – and in my workplace as well.
The more I spoke with other experts in my field, the more I saw that I was not alone that day. There is a difference between understanding strategies and implementing them. And it turns out that most of us want fairness more than anything, but we can’t seem to get it to save our lives. Our salary is still lower than that of our male counterparts. We left in droves during the COVID pandemic to meet our family’s child care needs. Our loyalty to companies is called into question when we advocate remote work and flexible hours. Our partners always expect us to be on pick-up service, even if it doesn’t make practical sense.
Why don’t we have more equity? Why do we constantly feel like failures – exhausted by our professional and personal demands, to the limit, with nothing left to give – even when we feel like we never give enough? What more can we do? Ironically, perhaps it starts with allowing us to do less.
Believe me, I’m all for addressing the structural issues that hold working mothers back, like educating men about the mental burden women carry, developing more supportive work policies, and teaching practical strategies to motherhood. way of women. Fair play. However, when we limit our efforts to this systemic approach, we miss an important and fundamental step for the women who live there. We can teach career-driven women work-life integration strategies until we’re blue in the face, but telling mothers more and more ways to improve their lives with procedures isn’t the way to do it. complete answer.
Gen X women were raised to do two things simultaneously: operate within traditional gender roles and be independent, career-focused businesswomen. These women still take on most of the household chores while turning to daily work. We were literally raised to do everything. We are programmed to overfunction. This is why planning rest seems laughable. Taking care of our own needs if it bothers someone else? So selfish.
That’s why I found myself years ago saying, “I’ll just go pick them up,” instead of working out a more equitable school pickup plan with my own husband. My deeply held belief that his time mattered more than mine is what held me back – not a lack of knowledge or a lack of tools in my parenting or partnership toolbox.
It’s no wonder we’re not solving the job and property value issues women face quickly enough. It is not only because we have work to do at the systemic or strategic level, but it is also because we have not addressed a fundamental question: the Why behind the way these women operate. If we truly want to make great strides in empowering career-focused women, we must first show them how to see themselves for who they are: worthy of as much purpose, alignment, and free time as the men who work and parent alongside them. We need to show working mothers that their own priorities and peace matter more than any to-do list.
This back-to-school conversation would be very different if my husband and I were having it today – not because I’ve learned more over the years about divide and conquer, but because I have learned a lot more about myself. When working women understand how they have been conditioned from birth to overfunction and when they build an unshakable foundation based on respecting themselves and protecting their own peace, that is when they take their power. That’s when we become the professionals, parents, and people we were meant to be, no matter the circumstances. And that’s when women finally get the respect they deserve.
Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, is the author of Do It All: Stop Overfunctioning and Become the Mother and Person You’re Meant to Be.
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