Friday, 15 May 2009

Wishin' and Hopin'

I read the other day that there's a report out saying women are bullied more by other women at work than by men. Judging from my own experience, I'd say that's true. Sad, but true.

The truth is that sisterhood is pretty much a myth. Women are less tolerant of and helpful to other women than they are to men. Maybe it's because we all suffer from the same thing and have little time for those that moan. We're all from Venus, and we'd rip each other's ovaries out at times if we could.

Of course it's a generalisation. We can be and are helpful to some of our sisters, but if there's somebody we're going to stick a knife in the back of, it's more likely to be a woman than a man.

The worst bosses I ever had were female. There, I've said it. One was a Machiavellian fat freak. Another was a wannabe Machiavellian freak (she wasn't fat). They favoured the men and spat on and sat on the women. I had a couple of female bosses who were all right, but not much in the way of mentors. I used to think it was because their generation were among the first female managers in newspapers. They had no women to emulate so they emulated the men. Badly. They resented the next generation of women because we had it that much easier.

It's not just in the workplace that women stab each other. There's the ongoing -- and, frankly, boring -- war between working mothers and mothers who stay at home. Working mothers are superwomen. We all know that. It's exhausting looking after a home, small children, and holding down a job. I have the utmost respect for women who do it. I'd like to be able to say that working mothers have respect for those of us who stay at home with our kids. But I can't. In my experience, working mothers look down on those of us who stayed home with the kids. We're not as bright, not as hardworking, not as ambitious. Our children suffer as well.

I never planned to stay at home raising my kids. I planned to be a career woman, just like all the other women I knew. Then I moved to England. I wanted to start over in a new career, but didn't know what. Then I got pregnant. Then I got pregnant again. I had no family nearby to support me if I did go back to work. Hubby had a pretty high-octane career and was quite honestly selfish. I knew I wouldn't have his support either if I went back to work. So I stayed home. It was lonely. It was frustrating at times, boring at others. I developed hobbies and went to the gym and for coffee. I cleaned my own house, did my own gardening, looked after my own children. And endured comments from my working friends. "Wish I could go to the gym." "Wish I could go for coffee." The meaning behind these wishful comments was clear: I was and am a frivolous human being with no real skills and am therefore inferior to them.

Or am I? I have a bit of wishful thinking too. Wish I could have gone to the bathroom in peace just once when my kids were younger. Wish I could get out of the house and have people treat me like I have even one active brain cell. Wish my parents lived nearby so I could dump my kids on them whenever, leaving me free to pursue a meaningful and lucrative career.

Why do we do this to each other? Here's what I really wish: I wish that we women could all just have a bit of respect for the choices others have made in their lives.

Or is that a wish too far?

8 comments:

solomi558 said...

Yes it,s true ,woman boss !! toe the line or else.---cottonreel

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

I think you are right on each count - stay at home mother and women in the workplace. A long while ago, I got a tiny glimpse of what you are saying. Colleagues of mine used to get together frequently with all our families. One larger than life character always brought his quiet, say nothing, stay at home wife and although we all liked her, I think we politely ignored her because she always detached herself from us and played around with the kids and her husband was so larger than life he drowned her out - and us! One day I started talking to her and found she was actually very engaging and I couldnt stop conversing with her. She had a MBA and had a great professional life but gave it up to look after the kids. In one instant I had a glimpse of what it was like to be in her shoes, knowing she was smart but treated like the little woman. I asked her once if she would ever go back to her old profession. She said "No, it turns me into a bitch!"

J said...

I think there is respect among specific women, but among women in general...no. And that's pretty effing sad. I've experienced plenty of bullying from female colleagues and superiors.

I've had a couple of great women bosses, but more often than not, they've been mean, nasty, backstabbing bitches. I've had some awful male bosses, and a couple good male bosses. Come to think of it, the adage that incompetence gets promoted is totally true, as I have had so few good bosses of either gender. At least this is one area where there seems to be gender parity.

As for the working outside the home mom versus the stay at home mom? Let me fill you in on a little secret.... I work because I don't have what it takes to be a stay at home mom. Seriously. I would completely and totally suck at it. I marvel at women who can give themselves so completely. I marvel at how you do it every day.

And you really want to see this backstabbing in action? Tag along with me to my college reunion...at a women's college.

Sigh.

Kaycie said...

The best boss I ever had was a woman. I think that's unusual. I've done the working mom and the stay-at-home mom as well at different stages in my kids life. Neither one is easy, that's for sure.

Fire Byrd said...

I think both sides of the divide probably envy the other to some extent. And rather than admit that they bully as a way to deflect their envy.
Course the best place to be is work part time!!!!
xx

Mean Mom said...

My sentiments entirely! The last 3 managers I had were female and bullying. I saw some strong personalities in tears and in my last job I saw (and heard) the most amazing amount of shrieking, shouting, arguments and tantrums - all taking place between the manager and female staff. I was in the same position as you, when bringing up my children. If my family had been closer, I think I would maybe have worked part-time.

Expat mum said...

Agree with you on every point. I gave up work because I just wasn't doing anything well. My husband was on a career trajectory and never at home, and I was exhausted. When he made partner at his firm, I found myself suddenly earning about a tenth of his salary so I stopped. I didn't feel like I had a choice, which caused some resentment at the time.
If I could warn women of one thing about "staying at home to be with the children" it's that you become responsible for EVERYTHING on the domestic front - food, laundry, bills, school stuff. You're not just "with the children". It's exhausting and you're usually doing it with at least one small child in tow.
Ah well...

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

solomi558: isn't that sad though?

Dave: How kind of you to try to get beyond the facade! If you're single, Dave, I don't know why. Some lucky woman should be snapping you up. I turned into a bitch at work too and hated myself for it.

J: Oooh, women! I went to an all-girl high school and couldn't wait to get out. Now, they're some of my best friends on Face Book. Which goes to show that we can change and grow out of it. On the other hand, I shuddered when I saw an old female boss was one of my Face Book buddy's friends. It takes all kinds, J., as you've pointed out.

Kaycie: I think your case was unusual too. We women can't win. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

fire byrd: I have some friends who work part time and find they're never anywhere full time, and that can be difficult too. But you're right about the envy bit.

Mean Mom: Screaming in the workplace is just not on. So unprofessional and it brings the whole side down, if you know what I mean.

Expat mum: We live parallel lives, you and I. Is your husband American? Have you seen that film Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? I'll be visiting Chicago one day and my twin, you, will be going out one door as I go in.