Updated: Apr 17
If you’re a woman, you know the scenario.
You stand around chatting at a party, and the men ask each other “so what do you do?” Nobody asks me, the definitely-child-rearing-age woman, because I’m probably a stay-at-home mum. The conversation goes on and, all of a sudden, one of the guys turn to me and says, clearly in surprise, “it seems that you’re quite knowledgeable about finance”. (My thoughts: “Duh”)
At another party, I had been conversing with two men for most of an hour when my husband joined in. They immediately asked him what he did. He looked at me and said “Well, I’m sure Mette has already mentioned the businesses she built – I left my corporate job some years ago and now work for her”. Cue silence and embarrassed facial expressions. They hadn’t asked me the question that took them about a fraction of a second to pop to my husband.
That’s when it hit me. Women, at a certain age, are not asked about their contribution to society. Whilst the blokes had been asking each other what they do, their biases had put me in the stay-at-home mum, not-interesting-enough-to-bother box.
To be frank, I’m not completely comfortable popping the question to women, either. Too often, the situation is somewhat awkward, with embarrassed and apologetic answers. “Well, I’m just at home with the kids” or “I had to leave my job when I was pregnant with our eldest” or “It’s only Mark working – with all his travelling, I have to stay home”. I’m relieved when I hear a job title or when a woman says with pride that she’s raising two wonderful kids.
And this is an important point. I’m fine with women raising kids, or men, for that matter. However, it’s important that you are content with the life you’ve chosen. You’ve made a decision as part of a common interest, in this case your family, and everyone is perfectly happy and non-apologetic about it.
What makes me uncomfortable with the answers I listed above is not that people choose children versus career; it’s that they have chosen a path that they, for some reason or another, have to be apologetic about.
I’ve tried to ask the question in different ways: “How do you spend your days?” or “What are your passions?” to value that there are other honourable ways to lead your life and be fulfilled.
However, I am still looking for the most appropriate questions.
Which ones do you suggest? Or do you have other strategies to navigate the uncomfortable situations that result from the assumption that 30-year-old-plus-women are probably housewives? Do add them in the comments!
PS: I hope this article is not interpreted as a bias against stay-at-home-mums or dads. What matters to me is that you have chosen a life that fulfills you. To me, finding the path to a fulfilled life means finding and following your passion.
Author: Mette Johansson | Editor: Nedda Chaplin
Mette Johansson is a corporate trainer, a business coach, a speaker and a best-selling author. She is the founder and CEO of MetaMind Training.
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