Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Wondering on Wednesday: Woman to Woman

“Is everything OK?” She asked, “I haven’t seen you at the gym lately.”

“I’ve been terribly lazy,” I said. “Plus, I really need to start going earlier in the morning. If I wait to work out until after I drop Aaron at preschool, it’s 10:30 before I get back into my office, and I feel like half the day is gone.”

“Oh.” she paused. Her tone of voice noticeably changing. “Where’s your office?”

“I have an office in my home.”

“So. You work?”

“Yes,” I hesitate picking up on her new, all-of-a-sudden hostile tone and body language. “I’m self employed and run a marketing communications company,” I explained.

“Oh,” she said again, crossing her arms in self defense and obvious discomfort. “I guess I just thought you were one of us.” And with the dismissal only a stay-at-home mom can wave in the face of another mother, she pivoted on her sneakered-heel and walked away in search of common ground with someone else.

First confused, then angry, I thought about this conversation for days. After my anger faded I started to wonder if this woman had difficult experiences in the past with other women. Had she been the victim of a verbal assault for making the decision to stay at home with her child rather than pursue a career? Maybe her obvious change-of-heart for me had more to do with her own experiences than with my choices. I’ll probably never know why she turned away so abruptly, but the interaction brought a multitude of questions to my mind about what I expect from other women, professionally and personally.

Do we expect women to help each other in the workplace differently than we expect men, or differently than men expect from each other? Do we expect mentoring and fellowship based on shared gender?

Add motherhood to the female-to-female equation and expectations seem even more complicated. Motherhood adds another dimension to the experiences women share, but nothing seems to bring on a cat fight faster than a disagreement about how to mother. There is absolutely nobody who can cut a mother down like another mother, and we see it happen all the time across the blogsphere, in the media, in popular culture and in our daily lives.

Much has been written about The Mommy Wars, including a book of the same title by Leslie Morgan Steiner, which is still on my reading list. The thesis of the general argument has been that women who work outside the home and women who choose to stay at home with their children routinely do psychological battle. Each feeling slighted by the other.

We talk about “girl power,” unite around common causes and hold each other up in times of crisis, sometimes, but do women only empower each other when we share the same desires, or philosophies, or politics, or religion, or what ever? It often seems that the idea of women standing on the shoulders of women is a fallacy. Just because we have the same female anatomy doesn’t mean we owe each other anything, or do our shared experiences, unique to the female journey, mean we do in fact owe each other something, and if so what?

I’m wondering on Wednesday—what do you expect from women?

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25 comments to Wondering on Wednesday: Woman to Woman

  • donna

    What she did to you was wrong and I sure hope that she is not bringing up her children the same way. Because that in my opinion is why we have bulling in the schools and on the computer. To turn her nose up at you and just walk away, Would she have done the same thing if her children were standing there and what message would it have sent to them.It is a fact that not all of us can stay home with our children even though we would all love to.Do not look down your nose at us, don’t you think that we would love to be in your shoes? We just can’t.

  • Jan

    Well, here it is, Wednesday morning, and you’ve thrown me another one. :P

    To be perfectly honest, what I expect from women has changed a great deal over the years, and especially since I began blogging. When I was younger, I almost always got along better with males than females. Guys were more fun, had more interesting interests and were far less catty. This held true until my late 30s, when I began to realize that was all changing. I began to realize that as I entered middle age, I had more in common with women, especially women my own age, and I began to enjoy their company more. Blogging has only enhanced that, and I find that I’m beginning to enjoy the company of more women of varying ages and backgrounds (you might find this amusing, but it occurred to me last night that I am closer in age to your mother than I am you). I can relate to women better now – enjoy our shared experiences and appreciate our differences. I guess that’s what I expect from other women as well.

    As for the gulf between “working” mothers and those who chose to stay at home…I was never hostile towards SAHMs, but I didn’t have a lot of time for them when I was younger. I worked – in fact, I worked very long hours. Work was how I defined myself; my marriage was so bad, my husband so abusive, that work was the only thing that made me feel good about myself. Then again, when I was younger, it was more socially acceptable, even expected, that mothers work outside the home. Over the last 15 years or so, that paradigm has begun to shift and it has become far more socially acceptable, even desirable, to stay at home with your children, so it’s hard to say why the woman at the gym was hostile towards you. Twenty years ago, it may have been because she had been made to feel uncomfortable about her decision to abandon a career in a time when women were still being told they could “have it all.” Today, it may be because she feels she’s taken the high road and you are somehow “failing” your child.

    But Tricia, she knows NOTHING about you, your home life, your family dynamics or why you’ve made the decisions you have. You have no reason to be upset by the actions of one ignorant gym rat.

    Because I pink puffy sparkle heart love you, too.

    Jans last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  • Shiela

    You seem to run into some people with no filter on their mouths. Very rude of her to have said that – even if she did think it. To each their own. I work at home because I like it (even if it is hard to do sometimes and gives me guilt on occasion) and it makes me a better person. She does not work obviously – good for her if that is what she wants. What does she mean “one of us”? One of us “Stepford wives”? Surely not! Sheesh.

  • That was terrible! I would want to ask her about it, but I probably never would. It seems to me that she doesn’t like it that she’s a SAHM, so she wanted to make you feel badly for working. Working from home is great because you’re still there for your family. What she did is confusing and wrong!

    I think that all people, man or woman, whatever color, should help each other. But since that Utopia isn’t likely to happen, I believe women should support each other. Whether they work or not. We’re all raising a family and winging it as best we can. It really makes me wonder if there isn’t some other reason for her rude behavior. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Wendys last blog post..Letting Go

  • Hi Tricia, I would say this is much more to do with the way she feels about herself than the way she feels about you.

    It doesn’t take much for people to have their worst insecurities come to the fore in the presence of those who are able (or just willing) to live an ‘unconventional’ life. And I laughed when I wrote unconventional because as far as I can tell, working from home is becoming very ‘normal’.

    Being a SAHD I can understand how it’s possible for women feel overwhelmed. It’s sometimes amazing to think that anyone who stays at home with small children can do anything else at all, let alone run a business.

    I expect she felt threatened and undermined by her own thoughts and assumptions.

    I wouldn’t have thought her reaction was typical of women in general, and I would have expected her to be more interested and inquisitive. I would say she’s got some unresolved issues.


    Dave Fowlers last blog post..What I Learnt From Crashing The Car – Part 2

  • Amy

    As family structure changes we seem to be burning bridges between differences, which is very sad and unfortunate. I run into similar attitudes because I choose to have a large family, I stay at home and homeschool!

    Sometimes I think that it comes from guilt or maybe just the belief that if it is not the same as me then I do not like it (which I find usually translates to I do not understand it)!

    I do look for like minded women BECAUSE it is easier … that does not mean that I judge anyone who is different but I think that is what tends to happen! Now I have friends that work or whose children go to public school or whatever the difference may be! I can assure you no ones parenting skills are the same as mine BUT I try my best to respect others.

    I find this very situation sad because if we could find a way to respect and help each other, there really could be more peace and caring. If we worked together I think all our differences have something to add to the mix and possibly could make our society a better place to raise children!

    The bottom line is humans (generalization here) are VERY judgmental and I wonder on Wednesday Why that is?

    Tricia: you balance your family, your work, your pleasure (well!) so wonderfully. The bottom line, as your mom pointed out too … we do what we are able and for reasons that work for us! It does not make us ‘bad’ parents just different!

    Amys last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Happy Halloween

  • That was extremely rude of her to say that. I haven’t worked in four years and I have a lot of respect for women who juggle a family and career… it’s tough, I’ve been there. It’s unfair to categorize women as those who work and those who don’t… I like to think we’re a lot more than that.

    Sammanthias last blog post..I Voted In ‘08 And All I Got Was This Lousy Sticker

  • Tricia

    Donna (Mom): I’m sending you a big hug for your mama bear reaction to what probably feels like an attack on your cub. I have to disagree though that not all women would choose not to work professionally if given a choice. If I were independently wealthy, I’d still chose to work, albeit perhaps in different capacities. Many women NEED to work for reasons that have nothing to do with money…self fulfillment, a passion for what they do, etc.

    Jan: I, too, have found that my expectations of other women have changed dramatically over the last decade, and I’ve also fostered relationships with women when previously I was always drawn more toward friendships with men. Becoming a mother also changed the playing field, and I find I depend on other women for council much more than I ever used to. I only have two friends that are my age, the rest are older than I am. Not sure why, but it’s a joke amongst my friends that many of them are older than my own mother.

    Shiela: I do seem to have a lot of unfiltered conversations, funny. I know this woman through our children in addition to being members at the same gym, and many of our common colleagues are SAHMs.

    Wendy: Your version of utopia sounds nice to me too.

    Dave: I have to add a disclaimer that I’d NEVER be able to run a business from home if my husband wasn’t also at home. We tag team it during the day, otherwise I’d be a mess trying to talk to clients on the phone with a four-year-old in the background. I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful husband and partner, that’s for sure. You’re right of course that the woman’s comments have more to do with her than with me, but it makes me sad that she’s most likely had some sort of experience that’s made her feel negatively and perhaps devalued.

    Amy: I agree that it would be wonderful if we took more time to learn from each other rather than tearing each other apart. I do think women are more guilty of this than men.

    Sammanthia: I agree that we should be a lot more than that, but I keep questioning whether or not we actually are. Does that make sense?

  • Tricia, it’s brilliant that you can do that. If only that woman had asked you how you coped, you could have told her what you told me and then you could have chatted. It’s a shame really.

    Your husband sounds like a great guy! :)

    Dave Fowlers last blog post..What I Learnt From Crashing The Car – Part 2

  • To address part of the issue here: working at home doesn’t get a lot of respect or support. I also work at home, as a guy, and people have wondered why I can walk the dog midday, etc. Well, I can walk the dog midday because I started work at 3am today! And I work 7 days a week. If you work at home, you have to be careful you are not always at work.
    People should first of all mind their own business, and second of all, if a person works at home, and keeps on working month after month, they deserve a certain amount of respect from others for having an unusual amount of self-discipline.
    This is what I like about you, Shout, you get a good conversation going.

    garys last blog post..Spike, Emily and Mickey: back in the saddle again

  • Tricia

    Dave: It is a shame, but you just gave me an idea. Maybe my own expectations are cloudy here and the next time I run into this particular person, I need to make an effort to strike up a conversation and build a bridge.

    Gary: I hear you. I think the acceptance of working from home is growing, slowly, but there’s still a tremendous amount of misunderstanding, and I especially find that to be true across generations. I too am often in my office at ungodly hours, very early in the morning and very late at night. It affords me some flexibility during the day that I’d not otherwise have, but I pay for it in other ways. Entrepreneurship takes huge amounts of self discipline…look, here I am blogging instead of working. Geez!

  • Very thoughtful post. My daughter made me read an article in her Cosmo Girl the other day about “helicopter moms.” And no, not because I am one, but because, as a high school teacher, I have to deal with them sometimes. An interesting point in the article is the new phenonemon of competitive parenting and thinking one can raise the “perfect child.”

    phhhsts last blog post..Wordless Wednesday #6

  • I think Jan may implanted a device in my head, because a lot of what she said in her first couple of paragraphs is exactly what i have been thinking and feeling lately..

    but just to add another dimension here (and i apologize if someone else has already said it, i’m trying to get ready for work, and haven’t got time to read all the other comments before commenting myself)…but as a childless WORKING female, i am often made to feel as if i have failed for not having produced any offspring…all other accomplishments are nothing in the shadow of being an un-mommy…and that makes me feel a little bit worthless and resentful of SAHMs at times, and probably the reason i usually try to avoid raging mommy-bloggers like the plague. Where i come from, and the family background i have…producing a child trumps all, and i mean ALL.

    thistles last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  • I think that’s a shame. I have never encountered anything like that. I work, because we built a house with a mortgage payment based on two incomes, and I love my home and my neighborhood and wouldn’t want to give it up in order to stay home. But I also have my mother staying full time with the baby and on Logan’s days off from preschool, so I have a really good situation going.

    It makes me sad that women are often so hard on each other. We need to realize that we are all just doing the best we can. No one wants to be a screw up. We all make our own choices.

    HeatherPrides last blog post..Facebook Idjit

  • Tricia

    phhhst: Ughh. I know that game and I always wonder what exactly is a perfect child, and who gets to define it? Can you imagine? I’m pretty sure my idea of perfection would be different than someone else’s and on and on. There certainly is a ton of competitiveness in parenting that I never really was aware of until this last year.

    thistle: It may sound strange coming from me, but I wholeheartedly understand where you’re coming from, and the sentiment behind it. When I was struggling for so many years with infertility, I often found myself in situations like you describe and I have a million scars from the mommy club that are still red and ugly welts.

    HeatherPride: It makes me sad too, but even though we all say that we need to realize we’re all doing our best and we have to respect each other’s choices, etc…even though we outwardly seem to expect that from each other, are we really doing a good job of it?

  • LOL @ ’sneakered heel’. I read it as ‘well-sneakered heel’ which made me snort coffee on my monitor (again), but then I went back and read it correctly. Still hilarious.

    I work at home several days a week. And I’m with Gary – it’s important to not be at work all day and all night. You have to STOP and go watch the Daily Show. :D

    goodfathers last blog post..Spin Cycle: ‘Change has come to America’

  • Whatever that woman’s issues (and she may have some valid ones), she handled the situation terribly and flat out rudely (and there’s no excuse for that). But you’re right…women do seem to be each other’s harshest critics. I’ve had both male and female bosses in the past and the female ones were never any better than the male ones (and most of the male ones were pretty crappy). At the beginning of my experience in the work force, I didn’t think that would be the case, but I was wrong.

    But you bring up an interesting point. It does seem to me that women don’t support or empower their sisters unless they share the same convictions or beliefs. For instance, I can’t think of two more polarizing figures among women than Hillary Clinton and Sara Palin. I mean, it almost seems like we’re more critical of those two than any male candidate. And 95% of black people supported Barack Obama (some, admittedly just because he shared their skin color and they felt it was important to support his candidacy). We certainly didn’t feel the need to support female candidates just because we’d like to see America finally elect a woman Pres. or V.P.

    Why is that? And is that bad?

  • i think women are competitive by nature, especially in face-to-face interactions. always sizing each other up and trying to keep up or surpass.

  • This is particularly hard for me to answer. I never really got along well with other women. I have always gotten along better with men. I always feel like the outsider in a group of women. At work, I get my hands just as dirty as the guys do and I don’t expect them to do things for me because they are “male” tasks. Unfortunately, in my line of work, this is not the normal way things are handled. So, I am usually shunned by my female co-workers because I will lift a heavy monitor and not ask a guy to do it for me. I have never been very good at talking to women and I don’t think that I ever will. So, generally, I expect the worst from other women. I expect them to isolate me and shun me. I expect them to disrespect me behind my back. Because, that has always been my experience. I try to teach my girls that “girl power” is about girls doing anything boys can do. And that they should do them because it is their responsibility to do something that they can do. Other people in their lives are trying to teach them that girl power means that they can do whatever they want but not take any responsibility and they don’t have to do things that they are capable of.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..The Un-Patriot

  • How very very rude of her!!!! What a biatch!!!! I think what you’re doing is amazing – juggling work and being a mum. However, it doesn’t mean that being a SAHM has it any easier, but why the need to judge on what we do or don’t do??? I am the total opposite. I used to work for a large international beauty conglomerate, as you would know, but since moving to Australia and then finding out that I had to do IVF, we decided that I would concentrate on my first cycle and decide work later. And trust me, some of my “friends” or ex-colleagues, give me that tone of voice too – So, what do you do in your free time? Because we didn’t tell everybody what was happening, there were soo many times when I had to lie and the next question would be followed in that same tone of voice – OH, DON’T YOU EVER GET BORED?!!!

    I wish I was working again, I really do. And I loved what your mum said: Do not look down your nose at us, don’t you think that we would love to be in your shoes? We just can’t.

    Brandygirls last blog post..When love becomes this simple and beautiful

  • Jen

    I do feel a kinship with women that I don’t feel with men. Part of it is shared struggles, part of it is this journey we call motherhood.

    I never looked down on SAHM’s while I was a working mother, but I have received some degrading comments now that I’m a SAHM. Like, “it must be so nice not to have to work!” and, “you seem stressed, why don’t you just get a job”.

    There will always be mommy wars, sadly. I’m sorry she was such a twat to you.

    Jens last blog post..It’s a beautiful day

  • Tricia

    Goodfather: I like your turn of phrase better. I’m not sure about the daily show, but I did take my husband out for lunch today, which was a nice break.

    tcb: The election is a great example of how women tore women apart based on different belief systems, and throughout the blogshpere and in the media it went on and on and on, and it was physically gut wrenching to see. I lost quite a bit of faith in the “sisterhood” as a result.

    Marie: I think the competitive nature is very American, and crosses gender lines. Perhaps though the way women size each other up, and the parameters we use, are different than those men use with other men.

    WickedStepMom: I’d hang out with you any day. I love how you’re working to empower your girls and the values you’re helping them to build will surely outweigh any of the negative messages they’re receiving from other people in their life, I really do believe that.

    Brandygirl: Infertility adds a whole new component to the idea of whether or not women support each other, doesn’t it. Like Thistle pointed out, having or not having children tends to put us in little blocks and define our womeness. If you do decide to go back to work after the baby is born, I just have one thing to say…I want free samples!!!

    Jen: I say with great affection that I hope you’re wrong. I hope someday there will no longer be mommy wars, but in reality you are most likely very right. The comments you’ve received since becoming a SAHM seem so outrageous to me and I’m sorry you’ve experienced that.

  • Talk about being rude. Yes, she may have had some difficult experiences that tainted her worldview, but haven’t we all?

    I’ve worked and now I am in transition, staying at home. I’ve felt heat over both positions (either I’m selfish and neglecting my kids or I’m dopey and wasting my life) but really? I’ve always been doing the best that I can, and what works for my family.

    I’ve got to believe others are doing the same.

    I wish we lived in a more supportive environment that helped us work and raise our families successfully. Until then, I’m holding back judgment.

    (I’d sneaker with you any day.)

    Lisa Miltons last blog post..fragile

  • What do I expect from women? I expect support and sisterhood. I often receive it, but just as often, I am frustrated with how harsh women can be towards other women.

  • I expect to get back what I give. If that doesn’t happen, I find someone else who will do that. I try not to paint everyone with the same brush whenever I encounter some dumb-ass. (Be them blonde or working or sloughing off at home as I am.) (Joking about the “sloughing off,” of course.)

    patoiss last blog post..Even the Dog Likes Her Better!

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