Embracing Femininity – Part 2
This 3 part series was inspired by a Facebook post on a professional women's forum, bashing the “50’s housewife” and characteristics associated with that term (Click HERE for Part 1). Instead of judging, be the kind of woman who wants to see other women flourish.
You can be anything but...
To set the stage--a professional woman in a leadership position was asking advice on things she could do to show her office she appreciated them. She then proceeded to say she was hesitant to make and bring in home-baked goods for fear of setting women back 50 years…
Part of my response:
“I wholeheartedly understand that as strong and influential women, we do not want to be viewed as the stereotypical “50’s housewife”, but I disagree with the notion that we should eliminate our femininity to succeed in a leadership role.
All too often we, women, fight to be seen as equal, and somehow we distort the image of what equality actually looks like. We think that in order to achieve greatness we need to be more like men. To become CEO's, we need to embody these male traits and rid ourselves of anything that will be seen as too feminine, such as baking cookies.“
For whatever reason, that post really struck a nerve with me. See, it wasn’t until I was in my late teens to mid 20’s that I embraced femininity, before then, I fought it like the plague; as if being a woman was a bad thing!
I hated the idea that men and women were different. I wanted to believe that we were the same and could do the same things and I wanted to prove it.
This showed in the activities I was interested in as a pre-teen/teen. I would avoid any activity that related to “50’s housewife” life, such as cleaning, baking or helping my mom in the kitchen. If the boys didn’t have to do it, then I shouldn’t have to either—this was my main argument.
Looking back, I regret all the missed moments I could have had learning how to cook like my mom and abuela (what kind of Puerto Rican makes rice out of an Uncle Bens 90sec bag?!).
I was also raised to believe that I could be anything I ever wanted—A doctor, the president, an architect, etc... The only things that seemed off limits were a teacher or a stay at home wife/mom.
Why not a teacher? My father was a teacher for most of his adult career. He worked through a lot of disrespect and didn’t want the same for me. Note—he taught in an inner city Cleveland School—the struggle was/is real! As for me, I still believe being a teacher is a noble profession and it’s a good contender for my future job (shhhh! don’t tell my dad).
Why not a stay-at-home wife/mom? I think my dad believed that staying home would be a waste of my degree and potential. He had to overcome many obstacles in order for our family to live the life we had and he wanted to see me continue to flourish. When he was growing up, women didn’t have careers; back then, women were expected to remain home and raise the family. My dad, one of the greatest influencers of my life, had a vision greater for my life.
The problem with these beliefs?
Women now believe that in order to be successful, they must erase anything that might make them seem too girly (see Part 1).
We have been so focused on telling girls they can be anything but then, we place a negative connotation on women who want to stay home and raise a family.
When I graduated college, got married and had our first daughter, my perspective shifted drastically. No longer did I want to hide my desire to be a good wife or a good mother or being “feminine”. I regretted not spending more time with my mom learning how to sew, or cook some delicious Puerto Rican food. I was so equipped to lead in the workplace, but felt ill equipped to take care of my family.
That’s when it hit me—I could be both. I could be a woman and a leader. I could be a womanly woman and still be a great professional. I could be a professional and still be a great mom and wife. These terms are not mutually exclusive.
Call to Action
Ladies, embrace your femininity. Embrace the emotions that God created you to have. It is those very emotions that give me the strength to fight for those I work with. It is those emotions that develop my passion to lead younger generations. Embrace your creative side if you were blessed with one (and I believe most, if not all humans were created with one). That creativity allows me to think outside of the box, to empathize with others and to inspire change. Flaunt your Happy Planner in the staff meeting filled with all guys. Show them that using stickers on your calendar doesn’t make you any less influential.
Mommas, encourage your girls to embrace the world, not just what media tells them they should enjoy. And please don’t overcorrect and sway them to believe that being a girl is inherently bad. Let them play with their Barbie’s while building a house using Legos surrounded by toy soldiers (true story--Barbie’s and Legos are an awesome way to occupy your son AND your daughter).