Happy Marching Ladies!

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.  Life’s a bitch.  You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”

-Maya Angelou

Truer words have never been spoken.  I think of my granddaughter and the world she is growing up in compared to my grandmother.  Things have definitely changed!  But as I fully acknowledge the incredible accomplishments of the millions of capable women out there, let’s face it, we still have a ways to go.

As I see it, our greatest hurdle left to overcome boils down to one thing:  GUILT.

Raising my children, I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mother. My job was my family. There are no regrets for giving up the dreams I wanted to pursue, I considered it a blessing to have even had the choice.  But there were times if I’m honest, that I do wonder… could I have had it all?  Marriage, happy children AND a full-filling career? Is that even possible?

I look at my own daughter who is a loving mother, devoted wife and a professional career woman.  I deeply admire her tenacity, personal strength, stamina and ability to “do it all” most days.  Yet, there are things that slip through the cracks in her life because of her personal ambition to do something more with her life.  She doesn’t have a hot dinner on the table every night like I was able to do, she’s not able to make every school function , she’s not homeroom mother, she doesn’t chair the PTA and her house isn’t always tidy. She also has a constant, electric current of guilt  because there are days she simply cannot keep up.  Guilt eats her up at times because it’s simply impossible to be Super Woman 24/7.

I have a unique perspective because I am also the woman behind a successful man.  My husband is the President of a company.  I have watched him work his way up the ladder of his career with blood, sweat and a lot of stressful, sleepless nights.  No one admires a person more than I do for my hard-working, dedicated husband.  But it’s a completely different world for my daughter. While I champion both, the climb is not the same.  Her innovative ideas are stolen from the management above her and preached as their own.  When the kids have a fever, it is “a given” that my daughter is called upon to stay home, not her husband.  Surely her boss must take this into consideration when spaces open up for promotion?  I imagine the back-door conversations go something like this:   “She’s insanely qualified, but she has kids as home soooo….how about Bob for the position instead?”

In my husbands world, this thought was never even a contemplation.  He was free to move up the ladder, no strings or family concerns attached.  That’s how it works.

So how do you choose between your child’s fever and attending the meeting to present your incredible ideas to get ahead?  The answer is chocked full with even more guilt.  And then, late into the night we berate ourselves for even mulling over the thought of choosing at all.

So ladies, we’ve made progress… our wages, while not equal are more fair.  We have more respect in society than ever before and our business opportunities are opening up in ways we could have only dreamed about fifty years ago.

But we need society and the workplace to change it’s way of thinking and to place the same standards on men.  When it’s status-quo that the pile of laundry sitting on the washroom floor is your job at the end of a ten hour day at the office, we need to talk.  When the teacher calls to say that little Susie is failing math and needs to have a conference meeting at the school it needs to less automatic that she only emails mom. When there’s a management position open that has your name on it, you should not have to consider how you’re going to take the job and be home in time to do homework with your children and make dinner.

Yes, of course we want to be there for our families!  But what I’m proposing is that with a more socially acceptable agenda including equally shared home duties, our opportunities and considerations could be more guilt-free as it is with men in the workplace, freeing us to unleash our true abilities!

Women are the most nurturing, loving, loyal, cunning, creative, innovative, thoughtful, intelligent, hard-working and dedicated spirits in the universe. (I could go on!)  We can do things no other species can.  I truly believe we can have it all.  Of course, this requires sacrifice.  But should we feel guilty about that?

Did Amelia Earhart let guilt hold her back when she left her husband to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane in 1928?

Did Edith Wharton who is the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for her novel, The Age of Innocence let guilt interfere with her writing?

Did Sandra Day O’Connor let guilt keep her from the time-consuming responsibilities of becoming the first woman on the Supreme Court in 1981?

The answer is no.  Here’s why:  It was because they understood before their times, that they could in fact,  have it all.  They paved the road along with so many other courageous, pioneer woman to show us that we can be wives, mothers, caretakers and daughters and live out our ambitions as well.  And not only can we do it, we can do it well.

Will some things slip through the cracks?  Absolutely.  But my daughters children love her just as much as my own children loved me, regardless if they had a home cooked meal or pizza take-out.  Love is love.  And women have the unique ability and energy to love their families and live out their dreams at the same time.

So march on Ladies!  But be smart.  March for the right agenda.  The wages will come.  Employers are now understanding our worth in the workplace.  Those milestones are moving in the right directions.  But I implore you to focus on something that is oftentimes overlooked and is a constant anchor with holding us back.  Now, we fight to fix what’s going on, on the inside… let’s fix the guilt issue so you can soar without any chains weighing you down.

Be strong!  Be courageous!  We can have it all and make a difference in the world.  We are each the the creators of our own destiny…the question is, what impact will you have in this chapter of our history?

Happy Women’s day to all of you lovely ladies out there making a difference!

As always, God bless you!

~Michele Mathews