I had a conversation with Nathan last night about the underlying theme of the last blog; he marvels at the way that I loved being a small part of a big company, whereas his mentality is to only embody that role as a working bee in order to reach the finish line – to get to a place where you don’t have to be in that position anymore, because having to go to work everyday stops you from doing all the other things you want to do. But I reminded him that he is what we call “accomplished”. He has a degree. He worked his way from the bottom up. He went from broke to secure. He built a reputation for himself for which he is now highly regarded within his industry (I can speak firsthand because I have on numerous occasions worked on projects with him). His work has brought him opportunity on so many levels, and I think that this may be why he’s not in the same mind frame as me (or the former me that I was writing about)– not “chomping at the bit” to be at work. I still had so much growing and achieving to do. He mulled over this for a few moments… I’m not sure if he thought it was bullshit or if there was some truth to it, but it brings me to my next point.
Choice. As I take this stance on traditional gender roles that I have been ranting about, I now must confess that I don’t think I could be praising my lifestyle choice in the same manner if I was expected to do one thing or another, as appose to choosing on my own terms what direction to set my life in. Granted, my pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, I still have personally made the choice to be a stay-at-home-mum. So as much as I now think that there are certain things men and women are just naturally destined to be doing, the feminist movement and the push for equality of human rights and liberties (which is still going on) was very important in order to have a sense of fulfillment in what I am now embracing as a full-time job. Let me clarify.
I think its fair to say that to become “accomplished” and feel a sense of achievement is a basic desire for both men and women. Naturally, to have careers where we are on the up-and-up gives women this thrill and sense of fulfillment. Careers and babies could be interchangeable in that regard – in most cases one is as big a sacrafice as the other. For women who don’t have the “surprise” pregnancies, it’s a very hard thing to pinpoint an exact “perfect” time to have a baby. It often turns into a situation where the man is saying “okayyyyy….. are you ready yet??” Because women are invariably putting off the death of life as they know it. I’m going to go ahead and say that I LOVED my life pre-motherhood. Had it not been for my unreliable method of contraception (stay away from iPhone apps designed for this purpose), I’m not sure I could have fully grasped the fulfillment that motherhood would give me, and thus I may have been in this situation.
I don’t think it would have suited me to be born in the 50’s where there was not much choice for women. They were widely expected to be homemakers. None of this “get a trade, find independence, then settle down” business. Maybe because I had the opportunity to have that fulfillment, I am content to settle into a new role in life.
I want to express my gratitude (to noone in particular – just sending it out to the universe in true “The Secret” fashion), for the freedom of choice we are encouraged to practice nowadays. It is thanks to the “rising up” that women in western worlds no longer suffer oppression … (the third world is a whole different story, but that’s for another day)…
Don’t mistake me for a feminist – because that is one thing I am not…. However maybe it would pay to take a moment to reflect on how I have come to achieve such a high quality of life – without a doubt some tribute must be paid to the bra-less, brash and brazen women who drove a movement not so many decades ago which shaped generations to follow. Snuffing out the acceptance of chauvinism in society is probably one of the main things I have to be most grateful for. Otherwise I might not be so content to settle into the role of wifey. Coincidentally.
I have a partner who considers me his equal. He treats me with respect, and places no expectations on me at any time in regards to household duties or daily achievements etc. He encourages me to pursue my hobbies and interests, and is appreciative for all that I do for him – even though I just consider it my half of the work. He never makes me feel as though I am spending “his” money, and certainly never implies that he has some sort of ownership of me because of his bread-winning status. This may all sound obvious, however it was not so long ago that most women weren’t so lucky. They were expected to stay home, raise children, cook, clean, and look nice. There was no importance placed on their desire, or “itch”, to see the world, learn new things, gain independence.
In my travels, I have ducked in and out of different countries and witnessed varying levels of accepted chauvinism. Where I grew up, it was certainly not tolerated, and I never truly felt impacted by the disapproval of any man for what I was working towards. New Zealand was a little bit different – although I was dealing with more shock than disapproval. There are very few women in NZ taking on careers in “mens jobs”, however most men were accepting once I proved myself on the job. I did have run-ins with a few characters…. I remember once looking around for a company to take me on so I could get some domestic house-wiring experience in order to complete my apprenticeship. I called a company in Queenstown, and the guy on the other line was baffled about what I was asking for. In the end he came right out and said “look, I’m not going to hire you because you are a woman. It would just cause grief and distraction for my boys on the job. Its not worth the hassle for me.” So that was hilarious. I can think of a couple other men who didn’t want me to be doing what I was doing and tried to hinder my progress – but only a couple. And it always made me smug when I had some sort of personal success that I could somehow flaunt ….in a subtle manner, of course.
So then there was Eastern Canada. After a series of events I found myself in Ontario, where I was promised a job with a power company from a family member out east. This didn’t pan out, however, so I was left applying for jobs all over bloody Ontario smack dab in the middle of the recession - in a month when there had already been 60,000 job losses across the country. This led nowhere, but it did reveal that not everywhere in Canada has the same supportive and accepting attitude towards women in trades as Fort McMurray does. You know, a lot of “Sorry little lady, would love to help you, but I just haven’t got anything for ya”; with sympathetic smiles and tips of the hat. I was shrugged off and snickered at and patronized in my face-to-face encounters while job hunting in Ontario.
My next prospect was the opening up of a position within ABB (again) in the Asian country of Lao. Naturally, I was all over this. A chance to go somewhere exotic and isolated and different, and a chance to get seriously stuck into my work. So off I went on what would be come the most life-changing adventure thus far. And just speaking in terms of gender roles, it was a real eye-opener. The job was in a newly-built and yet-to-be-commissioned hydro power station deep in the heart of Lao. There were other women on site, but none of them trades people doing manual work in the field. The station was swarming with hundreds of local Lao and Thai men, boys and girls – whose level of knowledge was indicated by a sticker on their hard hats – and I had to get used to them collecting into a mob around the panel I was working in and blatantly staring as I terminated wires or tested circuits. It was creepy and distracting and would make me mad to begin with and I would try to shoo them off. There were some Indonesian and Indian guys on site who would come question me all the time; asking where I came from, why I do this mans work. And now, looking back, I can see their fascination/confusion. Growing up in a communist country, Laotians would struggle to understand the freedom I exhibited as a young woman. Growing up in a country heavily bound by tradition and religion, Indians would struggle to understand my desire to be so adverse to these sacred things. The women on site and in the camp and the village were lovely and full of character and personality, however they were quite obviously never going to be straying far from their villages and their roles as women. Tradition is paramount in most non-first world countries and it made me reconsider my sometimes carefree and dominant attitude - as a matter of respect.
Now we are in Australia. Australia is interesting because it’s a fully developed western country just like Canada and NZ and US etc, but thus far I have observed a disgustingly high allowance of chauvinism. Its apparent in media, advertising, attitudes of politicians and citizens alike. In fact, the whole Australian identity sort of promotes it. Not sure how I would get on trying to find a job in my field in this country… I suppose with international companies such as ABB there is a more mature approach in their hiring policies, but can’t see myself getting on with a local sparky bashing wires around Brissy. ……Maybe this has a lot to do with my love of big companies – they sort of have an obligation to protect the minorities, like myself – and to give the benefit of the doubt. ABB certainly did that for me in many instances. Bless ‘em!
(Note: I know I jump from past tense to present tense when I write, and I apologize cause I think its poor grammar, but it can’t be helped.)
Something just popped into my head – and its somewhat relative to my blog topic…. When I first applied to the co-op program to start an apprenticeship, my dad seemed really eager for me to go down this path.
I guess for him, he could see that Fort McMurray was a rare gem – tons of opportunity for the bright young locals who chose to seize it. He said “Yes my dear – get a trade – once you have that ticket in your pocket noone can take it away from you, and you can go anywhere in the world”……. In hindsight, he was right – it has taken me so many places. I suppose a father wants nothing more than a world of equal opportunity for his little girl. Thank goodness he (and mom) instilled in me the confidence that I have – as it armed me for all the surprises I would face once leaving my hometown. Equally, on the other end of the spectrum, I got wind of the much-acclaimed Dubai – where opportunity, jobs and money were abound – and I mentioned this to my Auntie (she has a name, but to me she is just Auntie). I said “when I get qualified, I could go work in Dubai and make tons of money!” She gave me a serious look and politely but sternly pulled me out of my naïve cloud of youth and into reality. “Jennifer” (note use of full name… means she is serious) women cannot do such things in Dubai. It is a highly conservative and religious country – it is illegal for women to even show the skin on their arms or ankles there. Do you really think you could easily find a job on a construction site with only men? It’s not like Canada”. She emphasized a number of things to me with that statement… A. that I was naïve, B. that I was fortunate to live in a liberated, democratic, free country and C. that when you go somewhere you must, to a certain degree, follow THEIR rules.
Anyway. As much as I believe in gender roles in the home which supports my decision to be a stay at home mum, I believe that every step of the road I have walked so far have been important. Women that step out of their comfort zones pave the way for tomorrows women, so they too may have a fair crack at whatever fulfillment it is they’re after. This may, in a roundabout way, even help towards creating more happy and contented mums for our little angels… is that fair to say?
Next week I am going to discuss my moral and ethical dilemmas for the “work / stay at home” argument.