Over the past month, we have had a house full of visitors. 4 generations of family and over 80 years of life experience, all housed under one roof. We talked about religion, politics, and everything in between. We each had different opinions on different topics, realizing there was a lot of life and wisdom we could individually contribute to the conversation.
At one point, we talked about how different life was for women back when my husband’s grandmother found herself widowed, with four small children to raise. Back then, women were expected to put any career aspirations on hold, serving as a support system for their husband. Household duties outweighed any desire to pursue a career. It wasn’t necessarily that women didn’t want to work, it was just the way life was.
After the death of her husband, her family physician handed her 3 sleeping pills and said, “take these and when they are gone, it’s time to get your butt out of bed and get a job. You have a family to support.”
She did what she had to do to make it work and support her family.
Things have changed dramatically through the years as women have fought hard to earn our way through the ranks and push forward in hopes of creating an egalitarian society.
The conversation, discussing a time where it was frowned upon for women to work, brought me back to a few years ago when I was sitting outside on the deck of our home in Nashville. One of my dearest friends was considering making a huge change in her career, leaving a senior-level position that came with over 16 years of climbing the ladder attached to it. She was good at what she did – the best – but she had been the major wage earner for her family and wanted to take a step back to allow for more flexibility in her life, particularly after navigating through some unnecessarily stressful situations at her job.
We talked about all the years spent pouring into her career and why it was important to her that her kids saw her working so hard, but how it was now just as important for her to be there with them, to pour into their lives in a way she couldn’t while being tied to an office each day. She wanted to show her daughters and son that they had a choice, always.
One of the topics we always discussed when the two of us were together was raising our sons and daughters to see one another as equals. It was a huge priority, in both our personal and professional lives. It brought us together for many conversations over wine on the back deck or over lunch, trying to figure out a way to conquer the world.
As we were sitting there, I figured it would be a great time to have my son tell her what we had been teaching him about equality.
I called him over, “girls can do anything boys can do, except?” Expecting his usual reply, I looked over at my girlfriend, beaming with pride for what I knew would come next. But, for the first time ever, he decided to change the dialogue. What was usually echoed with, “pee on a tree” was quickly improvised to, “free ball it.”
I sat there completely shocked for a minute. My jaw dropped to the floor. My eyes doubled in size. I looked to her, but didn’t quite know how to react.
I didn’t know where in the world he had learned that (one guess). And while technically it was true, never in a million years during what I thought would be a proud mom moment, did I think those words would come out of his mouth. He was 4.
I nearly turned blue trying to hold in my laughter. When he walked away, proud of himself, she and I looked at one another and completely lost it.
We literally laughed until we cried.
What I realized, while sitting in our dining room, half-way around the world from our back deck in Nashville, with 80 years of wisdom surrounding me, was that the foundation of who we are as people hasn’t changed. Children are not born thinking they are better than one another for reasons ranging from gender and sexual orientation to religious affiliation. The concept is simple to them. What changed is who was leading the conversation, dictating these things to be true or not.
Life has changed. The landscape of opportunity has changed. Technology has changed. But, whether you like it or not, women have always been equal. Love has always been love. And the difference between right and wrong has always been easily defined.
In each of us, whether you are a parent or not, you have an opportunity to pour into the lives of the next generation – to teach them that equality and compassion are okay and that sometimes there are adults in positions of power who will change the message to fit their own agenda.
It isn’t the minds of those skewing the message you stand to reach, it is the hearts of children.
This week, let’s all ask ourselves, what are we doing in our daily lives to impact the next generation, to change the conversation?
Cheers to a new week!
*Sidenote – Thank you Australia for the brilliant invention called the SheWee. (My brother-in-law sent me the link to this contraption as soon as we told him the original story referenced above). This is not an ad. I just think it is hilarious! Urination Equality.