I was at a meeting for a volunteer organization last month when I met a woman we’ll call Kristen. She was assigned to my small group and she was new to the area. Kristen was outgoing but loud, and it was obvious she was trying to make friends, which nobody could blame her. We went around the circle and briefly introduced ourselves so Kristen could get acquainted.
I went last.
“I’m Jen. I’m married with two young daughters and I live in Tampa. I work part time as an attorney and part time as a blogger. I joined this organization to meet like-minded women and give back to the community.”
Kristen looked at me and scoffed. Then she snorted.
“If my husband made me work, I’d laugh in his face. Especially if I had kids.”
She said those words.
To me and in front of the other people.
I looked around, astonished. It was one of those times when I thought I heard her correctly, but what she said was so shocking that I doubted myself.
My mouth was wide open when the organizer directed our attention to someone standing at the podium.
I brushed off Kristen’s comment because I didn’t want to get upset over the opinion of a stranger, but her sentiments about working was alarming and insulting.
Did she think I worked because I had to? Because someone else was making me do it? That I’d rather be home washing my family’s dirty clothes? (Which I already do on the weekends.) Or spending my days watching soap operas, getting pedicures, and lounging by the pool? (That would actually be nice in moderation.)
According to the Department of Labor, 47% of U.S. workers are women. Given that large number, why was Kristen so surprised?
The more important question is why do we live in a world where it is assumed that women work because they have to and not because they want to? Why is it assumed that a woman works because her family would otherwise be in financial distress? Why is it assumed that if a woman works, she is choosing a career over her family? As if us ladies didn’t already have enough to feel guilty about.
Breast feeding. Eating carbs. Wearing a one-piece swimsuit. Not having a thigh gap. Being able to master a Crock Pot. Having a messy house. Not having perfect skin. Vaccinations. Not being caught up on The Real Housewives. Heck, not looking like a Real Housewife.
I’ve got a little confession that I’m proud to admit.
I like working.
I like the routine that going to work provides.
I like earning money and contributing to the family pot.
I like not feeling guilty when I splurge on something for myself.
I like routinely engaging with other adults and having mature conversations.
I like putting my degree to use.
I like critical thinking and problem solving.
I like being challenged with goals and deadlines.
I like regularly blow drying my hair, putting on makeup, and dressing up.
I like going to conferences and making connections with other people across the country.
I like that my daughters see that their mother can braid hair, snuggle, sew a button, and sing the entire soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast after school and on the weekends and still pull out a can of whoop-ass in the courtroom on a Monday.
(Although they probably won’t like me informally deposing them once they’re teenagers.)
And truth be told, sitting at my desk in silence with a cup of hot tea and the door closed at work provides a welcome respite from the chaos associated with raising young children.
Even if I won Powerball, I’d still work. Yeah, I said it.
What’s more is that even non-traditional desk jobs still constitute work. Ladies who do network sales a couple hours a week from their home computers work. Women who spend their time volunteering for organizations and aren’t getting paid work. Gals who are behind the scenes helping their significant others promote their small businesses work. It’s not just about sitting at a desk or getting a paycheck.
We need to give ourselves permission to openly acknowledge that we enjoy working.
It’s not shameful and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad [fill in your own blank: mom/ wife/ friend/ daughter/ sibling/ friend].
It makes you YOU.
You are honoring your authentic self when you spend your time pursuing your passions. This is true whether you’re staying at home with kids, staying at home without kids, just plain staying at home, and whether you are working.
If you like to work, then say it loud and say it proud. Screw the Kristens of the world. If you work in a place where you don’t enjoy the work, then find another job because life is short. If you are able to stay at home and that’s what you want to do, then good for you.