I recently began a temp job in an office. My desk is in a cubicle, and I have an official email and Outlook calendar. This is the first time that I’ve had this kind of an office job with a strong corporate culture. Coming from a family of migrant workers and then a philosophy program in college, this is quite the culture shock for me. Until I started this job, I had plenty of thoughts about the whiny women of 2020, because I wasn’t raised by women working in corporate America.
Now, I get up at 6:00am to get ready, make a 45-minute commute, work 8 hours, and then drive home to arrive around 6:00pm. That makes up 12 hours so, if I sleep for the full 8 hours that everyone tells me I need, that leaves me with 4 hours each weekday to do anything else.
And in those four hours, I’m supposed to cram in all of the items on my to-do list. What’s on that list, anyway?
Write: I’m a writer, but I can’t make a living off my writing because of reasons that would take a whole other essay to explain. Since writing can’t pay the bills, I now work full-time and have to schedule my writing around that full-time job.
Practice self-care: I’m supposed to make time to read the Bible, pray regularly, say a rosary, and discern my choices well.
Feed the animals: We have three dogs and two bunnies, and it feels like it takes everything out of me to care for these five animals.
Do household chores: Make dinner, do the laundry, go grocery shopping, clean the house, rotate the sheets, scrub the bathtub, etc. The default is that all of these things are my responsibility, even now that I’ve started working outside of the home. Maybe we needed to have a meeting about how all of this was going to get done, because it was just assumed that I would still do it.
By now, you get my point. There are a lot of things to do in those remaining 4 hours. Yes, we have weekends, but before you know it, it’s Sunday and you’re staring down the barrel at Monday.
Stepping into the corporate world helped me empathize with the women in corporate America. In 2021, has anyone in the secular world or in the Church started the conversation on how much is put on women’s shoulders and how little care we receive?
We need to have a conversation about how to create communities that support all of us, but especially women who work outside of the home. We need to talk about childcare and laundry, about why the default is for women to take care of all the things, about fair wages, and about schedules and 8-hour workdays with commutes (especially now that we know we can do some work remotely).
Having these conversations and then acting on them will benefit not just women, but also families and entire communities. If we keep putting all of these burdens on the shoulders of women, then we will only have ourselves to blame when women believe that they have to choose between their career and the family life they might desire.
So, how can we start these conversations so that women don’t feel the need to choose?
At Home: The Dinner Table
If you are the spouse or child of a working woman, ask her how you can pitch in to help around the house. As the woman in the household, don’t shy away from asking for help - your loved ones aren’t mind-readers and might benefit from a gentle nudge.
At Work: In Office Meetings
With the authority to make decisions, a leader in an office can create a healthy working environment for working women and mothers. If you’re a working woman who can’t make these types of calls, explore avenues to lead women’s groups at work and create a platform for discussions.
At a Hangout: Over Food and Drinks with Friends
Ask the other working women in your life how they manage their schedules. Share practical tips about anything from meal prep to authentic forms of self-care – and hopefully you’ll share some compassion with each other, too.