|photo of Senator Wendy Davis, courtesy of rhrealitycheck.org|
And this year, the first in a long time, The Husband and I have been invited to a grown-ups only, absolutely no kids, at night-time, past children bedtime, dress-up Halloween party. It is rather monumental.
In past years we have let The Kid dictate our costumes. Last year I was Mother Gothel and The Husband was a "Ruffian" to her Rapunzel. The year before that I was a full on matching Sleeping Beauty (the dress was my mother's day present). The year before that we were Superman, Superwoman, and Supergirl. But now, faced with an adult party where The Kid wouldn't be around to lend clarifying-compliment to our costumes, we were adrift on deciding who to be. I blame The Husband.
I came up with several excellent ideas: Senator Wendy Davis and a backwater yokel male Texas legislator (who would, naturally, look like Col. Sanders); Veronica Corningstone and Ron Burgandy, Lena Dunham and her weirdo rockstar boyfriend. But for whatever reason, the husband pooped on all of them.
Finally yesterday I texted the husband that he was not to come home that night without a costume. Apparently he could tell I meant business because he took his lunch hour at a local halloween shop and texted me the following:
Willy Wonka? That lacked both timeliness and obvious irony which are requirements for a truly good Halloween costume! And moreover, what the hell could I dress up as to go with that?! The Husband offered that he could "just be a dandy" if that helped - and especially since he couldn't find the bow tie.
You'll be surprised to hear that didn't help.
I gave up. I'd just do something lame and get over it. Who has time to get wrapped up in these kinds of things anyway? (Secretly me, because these are the types of things that play on a continuous loop in the back of my head at all times during the day. I am an excellent self-disparaging multi-tasker).
Then last night, along with his "dandy" costume, the husband also brought home a copy of Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In.
|Photo courtesy of http://leanin.org/book/|
I picked it up after the kids went down and have barely been able to put it down since. Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and she should have titled her book Lean In to Katy's Soul, because that's what it feels like to read it. If you have ever questioned your roles as mother, executive, or modern-woman - or if you've ever been married to, son to, or employer of/employee to, one of those women, then this book is for you. She breaks down the systematic subjugation of women in power roles with precise ease and inspirational support. Sheryl is successful enough in life, both personally and professionally, for you to take her words seriously and self-depricating enough for you to want to shake her and say "Lady, if you can't believe in yourself and your authority, what hope is there for the rest of us?!" In short, I am smitten.
One of the most profound moments in the book for me came very early on when she talked about finding your seat at the table (this is literally chapter two so you won't have to read long to be affected, but keep reading beyond that to continue to be inspired). It points to how women are often the architects of their own glass ceiling. From the verbiage we use to describe ourselves and our accomplishments, to the roadblocks we put up to achieving success. We often decide not to pursue a path because we don't think we'd be good at it, or we don't have a background in it. We decide to sit on the outskirts of a meeting rather than at the table where the actual meeting is taking place. We instinctively disparage anyone who tries to compliment our work - don't they realize we're actually frauds?! We have known for YEARS that men earn 50% more in the workplace than we do as women, and yet we still take jobs that pay us less!
Now Sheryl wasn't indicting women here. She was very sweet about the whole thing and played the role of cheerleader rather than judge and jury. Which was good, because that continuous loop in the back of my head was judgement enough. And honestly, rightly so. As each word traveled into my brain, I could see how I had done, and continue to do, this very thing.
After having both of my children I have stumbled getting back into the work force. It was never my intention to actually leave the work force, but both times I was pregnant I lost my job, and since very few people look to hire someone who in the near future will need to take an 8-10 week paid break, I found myself post-partem unemployed. I was mommy-tracked.
I love spending time with my kids - I'm not a monster - but I know that being home full-time with them is not my dream. I want to be in the work force. The challenge arises, for any stay-at-home parent, when you are the primary care giver for your kids but you're also trying to work. This is not an achievable goal. Yes, people can have it all, but not if having it all means you think you can do two full-time jobs that have the same work hours. You are woman, not magician.
But how do you make finding, or doing, work a priority when you are caring for your kids? I do have a babysitter whom we love and trust, and friends and family more than willing to help when I have a meeting or a job interview, but I know that I could be more impactful if I could devote real time to looking.
I thought about the men I know who found themselves unemployed when they had kids. I remembered wondering at the time of their babies' birth if they would become stay at home dads while they looked for work, as I had done. And sitting on the couch last night, reading Sheryl's book, I knew the truth of things. They had not become stay at home dads because they didn't want to be stay at home dads. They hadn't made themselves that because they weren't juggling a mental vortex of cost, responsibility, nature vs. nurture, guilt and a 101 other items that would tell them they couldn't pursue their goals to the full extent because they should care for their babies. They had found the help they needed and went on about achieving personal success.
I had not.
So who's fault is that? I can't blame a male dominated business world for that. I can't say it's all so unfair because the game is rigged when I'm the one who rigged half the game to begin with. Fuck: I forgot to sit at the damn table!
So the first order of business was to write a "thank you blog" to Sheryl Sandberg (check). The next order of business is to get outside help with childcare, not because I've earned it, or want it, or need it. But because that is just the way it's going to be. I will not allow judgement of it to make me subjugate my own self - there will be plenty of that to go around according to chapters 3-11. The third order of business is to decide for myself what the hell I want to be for Halloween and not blame my lame ass costume on the choices someone else made for himself. If I want my costume lame so be it. If I want my costume (or future) fantastic, well that's on me too.
So I will be going as Senator Wendy Davis, real-life supehero. I'll bring my Dandy Husband along to the party, and then I will get a damn job.
Look Sheryl, I'm leaning in!