“I never wanted any of my women to work outside the home.”
The words hit me like a ton of bricks.
This man, this father of an acquaintance, had single handedly knocked down the clear choice that I made to be a working mother so many years ago. He knocked it down with that one phrase.
It wasn’t just the words. Or the tone. It was the context.
It all started innocently enough.
Well Meaning Family Member of Said Acquaintance: “Oh, your little boy is precious and so smart! You must be working overtime teaching him!”
Me: (proud smile) Well thank you! I can’t take all the credit. His daycare does an amazing job of teaching him all sorts of things!
Nosey Father of Said Acquaintance: Oh. (silence and disapproving look) He’s in daycare? Really? You actually do that?
Me: (starting to get my feather’s ruffled) Well, I have to work, so I’m glad there’s this wonderful place where they love him to bits.
Nosey and Quite Rude Father of Said Acquaintance: “I never wanted any of my women to work outside the home.”
Me: (silence and hormonally welling up with tears).
Here’s what I wish I would have said and did:
“Well good for you. I didn’t realize that this was the early 1900’s before the women’s suffrage movement and your ‘women’ were your property. I do important work where I help people every day. I love what I do and I’m changing the world. And, by the way, even if I didn’t work outside of the home, how is any of this any of your darn business. And what, my good sir, do you do all day? Other than going around making post-breastfeeding mothers feel like dog poop? I’m showing my son that a woman’s possibilities are expansive and only she defines her boundaries. Thanks so much for your opinion. My own father has a choice phrase about opinions that I won’t share here” (mic drop and then I set everything on fire like that scene from Waiting to Exhale-you know the one).
That’s what I wish I would have said and did. Instead, I’m ashamed to say that this was what I said and did:
“Well, I like my job and it’s flexible so I can still spend time with my baby.”
Then I picked up my 2 year old, massive toddler bag and ran out of there without telling anyone goodbye.
I’m not ashamed because of what was said to me. There are a ton of sexist big mouth idiots in every family.
I’m ashamed because even though I consider myself a feminist and I know the importance of speaking your truth, I was silent. All of the sudden, all of my conscious learning about the worth of a woman went out the window and I let some backwards moron define what a mother SHOULD be. I let all of the teachings of society that say a woman’s place is in the home and the choice for daycare is selfish, sink into my head.
I should know better!
That episode illustrated for me that no matter how much progress we have made as women, there is still work to be done. There is still personal evolution to be had. We have to talk about it, read about it, watch it on TV, listening to it on podcasts, view feminist art, listen to feminist music! If I had done the work and learning then that I have done today, then, I may have responded in a way that would have taught that father something and would have made me feel better.
Below, you can find feminist writings, art and other modes of learning. I hope they’re helpful in your own personal revolution and possibly telling off an ignorant chauvinist!
We Should All Be Feminists from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Short book, an essay really that breaks the idea of Feminism down into a super clear concept.
2 Dope Queens – This started as a podcast with Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson and is now an HBO series. The ideas are cutting edge and are understood with incredible humor.
The Golden Girls– The original squad. These women knew how to express themselves and get the world to hear them! Not to mention Cheesecake. There is never a day when I would say no to Cheesecake.
Freida Kahlo– This prolific artist tackled topics like fitting into the wife role, miscarriage and childbirth with such frankness that it is sometimes jarring and stirring.
Ani DIfranco – For many of us 80s and 90s kids, Ani Difranco was who introduced us to ideas of feminism, civil rights, and social justice. I love love love her and would travel to see her anywhere! Ani Difranco was even my little boy’s first concert! I saw her when I was a little over a month pregnant! (She has some explicit lyrics-be advised for tender ears!)