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Mommy Blog April B – Aging Gracefully

As I purchased a $25 jar of anti-wrinkle cream the other day to take charge over some fine lines that are becoming noticeably less fine, I couldn’t help but feel resentful… like I was forced to buy it. It feels like men are allowed to age and no one thinks anything of it. Sure there are a few men who try to maintain their youth and take it just a little too far. Hello, Kenny Rogers.

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Women, however, talk about “aging gracefully.” I don’t even know what that means. Why do we have to label it? Why can’t we just age how we age? Why it’s OK for men to get old, but not women? It’s also much more socially acceptable for men to gain weight. And, as several people very correctly pointed out to me after the “Mom on the iPhone rant,” a man on his phone while his kids played at the park would be ogled and revered for being such a responsible, hands-on dad. How gracious of him to babysit his own children. Meanwhile, a mom doing the same thing is selfishly ignoring hers.

But I digress.

This week I–somewhat begrudgingly–began reading, “Lean In,” Facebook COO, Chery Sandberg’s, manifesto on why women still haven’t really busted through that proverbial glass ceiling. As she notes, we’re 50 percent of the college graduates, yet men still hold most of the leadership roles in the workplace. I have to admit, I went into it largely in disagreement with her, based on various reviews I’ve read leading up to the release of the book. I wasn’t disputing the very harsh reality that women still aren’t really equal in the workplace. But I was prepared for Sandberg to lay the blame on women… to say that no matter what we’ve done, no matter how far we’ve come, we still aren’t enough… that we simply haven’t worked hard enough to shatter that glass.

To be honest, she kind of does. Only, after reading her defense of this position, I think she might be right.

“Lean in” talks at length about women being forced to choose between working and parenting… that there’s this assumption we can’t–and shouldn’t–do both. This made me realize my entire adult life is pretty much the result of a series of assumptions made by me and subsequently acted upon by me. It never occurred to me that I *wouldn’t* work. I just always operated off the assumption that I would go to college, have a career AND have children. I never considered choosing one or the other. Call me naive. Call me selfish. But, it simply never occurred to me that choosing is an expectation still placed on women. And luckily, I married a man who never asked me to choose. We never even had that discussion. I was always confident in what I wanted to do with my life and just assumed my spouse would support my choice, no questions asked. And he did.

So this got me thinking… I am darn lucky to have married someone who takes an equal part in parenting and household management, so that I can continue to work. After chewing on that thought for awhile, I realized thinking of myself as lucky because I have a partner who is truly a partner so that I *can* continue to work is kind of an insult. Shouldn’t my partner be expected to be an equal partner? Shouldn’t it be assumed that a Y2K husband is OK with a wife who works.. OK with washing dishes… OK with picking the kids up from daycare and chauffeuring them to various activities? Shouldn’t all spouses behave this way? Shouldn’t all parenting and housework be equally split?  If you are a stay-at-home parent, then yes, I would consider that your job and maybe you would take on more of it. But if both parents work, shouldn’t both have equally involved roles outside the office? That’s a no-brainer to me… but for some reason, that’s still not how it often ends up–even in the year 2013.

And don’t get me wrong… I don’t assume ALL women want to have careers. But I do think there is still some sort of automatic expectation put on many women that they will have to choose between a family and a career.

I suppose I would say I’m “lucky” to have married an awesome man who lets me be me… whoever that is. But what I really think is *that* should be the expectation of *any* modern woman. I think men should get with the program and women should demand that of them.  I mean, you’d never hear a man say, “Man, I am so lucky. My wife helps me out at home so I can have a career *and* be a dad.”

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