I Should Really Stop Listening to the Radio While Driving
On November 9, 2016 I sat in my car in a parking lot, sobbing, listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech and texting with my similarly undone sister-in-law. It wasn’t just losing an election. It was a former Secretary of State and United States Senator, having taken the stage at the convention in suffragette white, losing an election to … the current occupant of the Oval Office.
And the worst part: on some level we weren’t really surprised, were we? Rebecca Traister put it best: “A competent woman losing a job to an incompetent man is not an anomalous Election Day surprise; it is Tuesday in America.”
I got my shit together and went back to work, of course, because that’s what you do.
Two months later I was sobbing in my car again, listening to that batshit inaugural address (no link, because if you’ve forgotten that speech I envy you). It was as though the creeping dread I had felt while watching the second debate had somehow crested and washed over all of us. And then I got my shit together and went back to work.
Pilots, Doctors, Astronauts
My 4-year-old seems to see the world as a rational place, and he wants very badly to get at the reasons and rules behind what he can observe. He asks question after question about power plants and conveyor belts and candlelight and hot chocolate powder and waterslides and the digestive systems of various animals . . . and gender roles.
Can women be pilots? Yes, of course.
Am I right that men are doctors and women are nurses? No, anyone can be a doctor and anyone can be a nurse.
Why have no women ever walked on the moon? At the time the moon missions were happening, women weren’t allowed to be astronauts. Now anyone can be an astronaut.
Are men smarter than women?
And there it is. Holy shit, there it is.
In Which I Buy a Pantsuit
I leave my house at 6:30 every morning, coffee in hand, and I leave my office promptly at 4 to pick up my kids at daycare. I wonder what they think I do all day. I wonder if they know that other moms stay home with their kids every day.
I have a good job, and I’m good at it. I work to pay the mortgage; I work to support my family. I didn’t think this was controversial. Then the election laid bare once again the degree to which a segment of the American public thinks Hillary Clinton should have stayed home and baked cookies way back in 1992.
And after I sat in my car and listened to that concession speech, I knew I needed to lean the fuck in.
Sheryl Sandberg took a lot of heat, and rightfully so, for what seemed like a let-them-eat-cake philosophy of feminism. Just try harder, she seemed to be saying. Just lean in. It felt hollow and out-of-touch, because most of us are not tech executives with nannies and lots of money to throw at problems. And the last thing feminism needed was another rich white ciswoman telling the rest of us we’re doing it wrong.
But my four-year-old is going to keep asking me what women can do. What am I going to tell him? What am I going to show him?
Representation matters. And I have the immense privilege of education and work experience, which means I can try to show him that ambition isn’t just for men. So I replaced my comfort flats with stack heels, my hippie maxi skirts with (yes) a pantsuit. I focused even harder on work. I accepted the hard assignments. I stretched my skills. I started speaking up in meetings, even when it’s hard and I know I’m probably going to be patted on the head, then ignored.
In the year since the election I have been promoted, and have had the opportunity to work on several high-profile projects. And still people at my office say things like “I don’t know how you leave those babies every day” and “I’m sure you’d rather stay home with your kids” and “How does your husband feel about you traveling?”
Enough Is All There Is
I am writing this from a hotel room. The only solitary time I really have is when I’m traveling for work. I get kind of reflective in these bland interchangeable rooms with their white comforters and fluffy pillows. I think about what I’m trying to do, at work and in my marriage and for my kids and for myself, and sometimes all I can come up with is I’m really bad at this. My bathroom wasn’t clean when I left for the airport this morning. I forgot to pack an extra pair of mittens in the daycare bag. Am I prepared enough for the meeting tomorrow? Where even is my deodorant? When was the last time I vacuumed the kids’ room?
No matter how hard I work, it will never be enough. I will never be enough. Sometimes this is discouraging, and sometimes it’s comforting: if there is no enough, then the best I can do is all there is. Time to get my shit together and get back to work.