"We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. " --Gloria Steinem
Recently, I resigned from my job. I won't go into all the gory details, but all I'll say is this: it was a difficult decision to make, but I think the right one to make, even though I am currently without a job.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I have learned something very interesting in the past week since I've started telling people about my decision. When I first started telling people, I was expecting people to say "Oh my God, what are you going to do NOW?" I was expecting more shock and alarm than I actually got. Maybe that is partly because I'm not really acting shocked and alarmed and freaking out myself about it, but I think there is a little more to it than that. Many people have said to me, "Great! Now you can relax and stay home for a while." and "Why rush into anything?" and "Take your time." and "Enjoy your time off."
Now, these are all wonderful things to say. (I swear, I'm not complaining!) I am so grateful to have friends and family that are so supportive and encouraging and make my unemployment seem almost like an extended vacation. They are being very reassuring, confident that I'll be fine without a job. And they know I'll be fine without a job because I have a husband who is employed and able to support us.
But, thinking about this then lead me to realize that partly why no one is overly concerned is because I'm a woman. Imagine instead I was an unemployed man. What if instead of having a husband who is able to pick up the slack while I'm unemployed, it was a wife?
I just can't help but thinking that if a man had just quit his job and was unemployed, he would not have it as easy as I am having it. People would not be telling him, "Great! Take some time off and relax!" Men being employed is a societal expectation, and unemployment sometimes a source of shame and humiliation. Their wives having to "pick up the slack" would be seen as something terrible and embarrassing.
How unfair to men! It is so much pressure on a man to be constantly and continually well-employed. To be without a job is to be seen of as less than a man. Silently, society regards him as a failure. People will frequently question when he's planning on getting back to work, what he's doing to find work, and make him feel uncomfortable. Isn't it unfair that a man in the same situation would never be told to just take it easy and spend some time with the family? (At least not by most people...)
(This brings to mind the particular pain that must accompany being a stay-at-home dad...a topic for another day...)
Anyway, this little event in my life has opened my eyes a little bit. Before, I used to think that women are the only victims of sex inequality. In actuality, there are 2 victims: the woman who is never allowed to achieve her full potential AND the man who is never allowed to fall short of his. If we want society to acknowledge that women can be as strong as men, we also need to acknowledge than men, at times, can need help. And, we need to make it so that it isn't a source of shame or embarrassment. Isn't it all of our fates to sometimes succeed and to sometimes fail? Why is it something to be embarrassed about? In my opinion, the real embarrassment is that some of us are not allowed to show that we have weaknesses.
So anyway, I've decided the next time a male friend of mine is unemployed (and has a spouse that is able to support him) I'm going to make sure and say, "Great...I hope you relax and enjoy the time off with your family."