Notes from the Women’s Strike — 2017

Photo by Will Reyes on Unsplash

I joined the strike today.

It wasn’t graceful. Instead of planning. I did what I always do when I have to make a decision that might lead people to be annoyed at me: I procrastinated. I didn’t say anything leading up to today. I didn’t give anyone a heads up to let them know I wouldn’t be coming in. Instead I woke up at the right time to be on time for work, and then waited some more. I scrolled facebook instead of getting up right away and I saw a few posts where women were wearing red or planning on striking. Or saying they couldn’t, but were in solidarity. The one that struck me for some reason was the image of the Statue of Liberty going dark.

I knew that I could put on my clothes and go work with a bunch of men and be resentful all day, or I could suck it up and say I wasn’t going to be there. I sent the email; it was short and I erased the multiple apologies that kept creeping in. I left one because I meant it. I was sorry I didn’t give them a better heads up. Then I let my husband take our son to daycare. He was annoyed, but also seemed to feel it was the right thing for him to do. And instead of seizing my day, I still find myself waiting for permission to do my thing.

I have all sorts of friends who have a toe in this strike thing. They want to be a part of it, but aren’t really. A couple friends are home with their kids. Many went to work because they couldn’t imagine how that would play out with their jobs. From all over I see different responses to this. I’m too important so I can’t let everyone down. I’m not important enough so I can’t put my job in jeopardy. As for the unpaid labor I do, I’m finding that hardest to break free from because it’s so personal. The job I had to email today was a part time gig, they are likely annoyed, maybe they will fire me, but for some reason I don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal. And if it is, it’ll be a loss, but not a major one. Asking my husband to do drop off and pick up, not spending the day doing laundry if I’m home, not making dinner, this feels personal. This morning, as I lay in bed after deciding to stay home, I could hear the struggle to get clothes on, the confusing negotiations that are typical of 3 year olds. I’m pretty good at dealing with this. My husband, probably out of annoyance at me, wasn’t dealing with it well. I could hear lots of his calm and elaborate explanations of why our son needed to be more cooperative, but I didn’t hear much actual getting dressed. So I got up to help. And while that’s fine, I actually like much of the getting ready for daycare routine, I can’t help but feel a little resentful that there is the undercurrent of our child being my child, that my jumping in to help is required whereas my receiving help is something I should be grateful for. We have a pretty equitable home life. My husband and I share responsibilities and some times he gets the brunt of things I can’t deal with. I am grateful, even when I’m annoyed that just because our marriage looks a lot closer to equitable doesn’t mean I can’t be annoyed that default parenting goes to me. Even when I’m annoyed historically more than presently. It’s hard to escape the fact that we have a loving relationship in what, up until recently, was a relationship rooted in ownership.

This is all compounded by the fact that I’m in this weird place where I quit my job a couple of months ago and have been doing odd jobs since.I don’t really feel like I bring any value to anything at the moment, so striking in some ways is affirming the deep self-conscious part of me that is saying I’m not worth that much anyway: Go ahead, Honey, take a day because no one will notice. They’ll probably be more efficient without me. I don’t really believe that, but the voices are there and exist in my self talk, even when they are low.

When I was working, I struggled with feeling like my contributions mattered because I worked at a nonprofit and brought in much less than my husband. The job was also more flexible in some ways, I could work from home a couple of days a week and could move things around easily if I needed to, so I felt responsible for more of the caregiving for our son and our family (even when I didn’t get things done, because let’s be real I often didn’t. I have a high degree in procrastination).

There’s something in this that brings me back to a moment in high school. For senior cut day a group of us planned to barbecue at a friend’s house. I asked my parents to write me an excuse so I wouldn’t get detention. Everyone else’s parents were into it. Lots of people I knew would get to participate in Senior Cut Day with an excused absence. To my absolute dismay my parents refused. Specifically, my dad. After some hallway arguments and likely whining on my part, he said: “Look. If you want to participate, go for it. It undermines the whole day if you are asking for permission like a little kid. You want to cut? Cut. Get detention. Do what you need to do, but I’m not helping you not get in trouble.” I was kind of stunned into silence. Shit. He was right. So I cut. I owned it. It’s a lesson in autonomy I’m still learning.

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