Earlier this year I lost my job. Well, I didn’t really lose it, I know exactly where it is. I just don’t have it anymore. I am a casualty of corporate downsizing. This new state of affairs has provided numerous interesting observations as I have found myself in a woman’s, or should I say, Mommy’s world. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Let me back up and make some historical observations. A few decades ago, there were certain bastions dominated by men. These structures were sometimes formal, sometimes informal, but they existed – good old boys clubs, if you will. Over the years, the majority of these formal structures that were exclusively male have been changed to allow members of both sexes to participate. Some voluntarily, some under pressure and some under compulsion. Even the Masters has now added to women to it’s membership roles.
A number of year ago when I attended seminary, I was formally instructed to use gender neutral writing in my papers and presentations. Because I understood that some folks are sensitive to the use of gendered language and because I understood that a good communicator wants to try and remove barriers to communication, I willingly adapted my style to be sensitive to my potential audience.
A number of years later I embarked on a career in sales. Up to this point, I had no experience with big corporate America, but I had read about the “glass ceiling” and about the hostile nature of the work environment for women. So I naturally assumed that being sensitive to others was really important to women, and that when the tables were turned, they would be sensitive, if not extra-ordinarily so, to those in the minority — to men. When I entered “Big Corporate” as part of a sales division, I found that in my new profession male team members were typically in the minority. Unsurprisingly, there were a few awkward moments where I did not fit in –I recall one team meeting in particular. There were about ten of us gathered around the conference table and I was the only male in the room. I was quietly observing a rousing discussion taking place around me when I decided to interject with an idea of my own. The room fell completely silent. They stared at me like I was from another planet. And then they proceeded with their conversation as if nothing had ever happened.
Still, I was not prepared for the new world I stepped into after being “downsized” by my employer. The world of the “stay at home dad.” It quickly became apparent that I was a man in a mommie world. When it comes to child rearing and domestic activities, there is definitely a “gender bias.” The prevailing and almost universal implicit assumption is that this world is a woman’s world. Consequently, the corresponding default language of this world is definitely gender specific. The entrance of a man into this world is an unexpected one for those who reside within it. And they stare at us like we are from another planet. And then proceed on as if nothing ever happened.
And then came yesterday. The final straw. The one that created the impetus and the resolve to post on this topic. But that is a story that will have to wait for another day. One that is coming soon. And a story that involves raccoons, mommies and kindergarten.
(Disclaimer/addendum: Let me give a shout out to the mom’s on my street who do not treat me like I’m from another planet, who are very supportive and seem to have enjoyed having a dad around the neighborhood during the day. Thanks, Ladies!)