Are we equal? I am a lawyer, working, mother of three. My husband has a big career which unlike mine, has never been interrupted by childbearing and rearing. He travels regularly for his job, and in any given week could be in six different cities or countries. I am so accustomed to his traveling that I no longer ask questions, it is simply understood in our home that papa is traveling and will be out for one to six nights. Cool rooftop bars until 3 a.m., belly-dancing restaurants in exotic cities, lunches in the top-rated spots in cities around the world, are all par for the course in his career. Normal business, a regular Monday.
My career trajectory looks a bit different. After building a thriving practice, I got pregnant. I continued working until one day when my baby was a few months old and scooting around on his belly in my home-office, I looked at his face and realized that he needed me, so I needed to stop working. I took about a year off to raise, play and be with my baby.
Then I visited my friends in Miami, boss ladies who were slaying in every way and I got the fever to re-enter the game. It took some time to regain momentum, because a year is a long time to be out of the game. But I got it back and was once again making money moves. Twenty-three months after my first born, I got pregnant, with twins. Here we go.
I was a mother of 3 under 3, and believe me, it was rough. I always tell people that a baby puts you out of commission for at least two years. My body, mind and spirit were busted. I was a shell of myself, simply there to serve, care for and handle domesticity. I started working again when the twins turned one, and it was even harder to break back onto the scene. Uphill battle. But with my networks and my fire, I got back on it. And I made a promise to myself…
I was done having children, I was done sacrificing myself, and I was done screwing with my career. Done! Time’s up. When my twins turned 3 I woke up one morning and felt as if the walls of my home-office were swallowing me whole. Suffocating and crushing me. I had to get out. Get out! No longer was it enough for me to work mostly via technology and only meet clients and colleagues rarely, now I was starving to work anywhere but in my home-office and to meet up with my professional peers like a junkie, meet or die. I wanted as much distance from my house and the domestic hell of it as possible. I wanted to be very unavailable, just like papa. And I did not want to be called mama.
I manifested it all. With my mind trained on one thing – get my career back to the top – and my crazy hustle and grind ethic, I got it back, and still going. I signed some big clients to properly round out my portfolio, started setting up weekly meetings, in and out of the office, and started living in the streets. My tunnel-vision game is strong, and my tiger eye sees only my goal…all the way up.
I recently met up with a former colleague of mine with whom I was very close back in the day. After a seven year radio silence I called him. He came to my mind as a great invitee to my salons, because he is very smart. I didn’t remember how smart he was, turns out, pretty close to genius level. Waka waka. When I told my husband I was meeting him for dinner he got into his feelings. He didn’t say much, and I wasn’t entertaining much, this was happening, and if it were up to me it would be happening often with many professional peers.
The Morning After
Husband asked me how it was. I started in on the story, excited to add to my stories of boss moves and professional bonds being secured in social settings.
“He told me a lot about his job…”
“Did he think it was a date?”
“Well, you wore that short black dress, so men think that outfit means it is a date.”
That is when I conclusively realized that my husband does not consider me his professional equal. In his mind, he can do whatever he wants to close the deal. Meet whomever, go wherever, come home whenever or not, all in the name of doing business. But when I do it it’s a problem. He thinks that he has the right to question my outfit. Really, what am I 13? My outfit dude? My response: I wear what I want.
His words showed me that he thinks I am responsible for making sure that the men with whom I interact are not adversely affected by my clothing, that I make it as easy for them as possible to stay level-headed, and that my clear expression to said man, i.e., “Let’s catch up dear former colleague”, carries no weight.
The conversation showed me that although I, wife, accept without question his lunch, dinner, and drink dates with female colleagues and clients, he does not give me the same courtesy. Why not? I have a sneaky feeling it has something to do with those breaks I took to stay home and be the house-chick. Childbearing and rearing apparently cast women in a different light. I decline.
And my husband is not the only one. Many men are guilty of this filth. They see women in a role beneath them in the working world. If they are the primary earner in the home, they think they own you. I know it’s not a pretty thought, but yes, you are their bitch. Good men fall into this trap everyday, and don’t even realize that their words, arguments, and mindsets are disrespectful and out of line. Talking to my male friends and colleagues, I hear effed-up talk all the time: “She got the job because she’s a woman”, “I think I have a problem with a woman being my boss”, “You’re wearing that?”. I love that last one, like who are you to give fashion advice, Karl Lagerfeld? They wanna see you do good, just not better than them. As someone once said. And not in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. We have to change this. My husband is a good man, so I will help him.
I was highly offended and disgusted. My education level is as high as it gets, anything higher is simply the 501st sprinkle on the ice-cream sunday, but yet, I was being called to explain myself to this man about why I was reconnecting with a work-friend and possibly massive business connect? I had to justify my outfit? I had to consider what a man would think and change my clothes. Boy bye. Not me. She doesn’t do explanations and justifications.
In one desperate last-ditch effort, he tried this,
“You should be worried if I as your husband were not jealous.”
“You don’t tell me what to be worried about. I am not worried about anything.”
I refused to let the story be twisted, to disguise the fact that he just does not consider me his professional equal. As long as I am hidden away in my home-office, life is good and things are as they should be, but let Rapunzel flee the tower and start making moves in the streets, moves albeit far less exciting to date than his, but still outside moves, with men, in a hot dress?! Suddenly things don’t feel so comfortable anymore. Well guess what fellas? Get ready to be hella uncomfortable, because I am writing the new memo:
Women are men’s professional equals. Wives are husbands’ professional equals. Even when we take breaks to bear and rear your children, we’ll be back. Hey dudes! I’m baaaack.