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I was in the park with my toddler after picking him up from his day care and he was not in a particularly great mood. With either hunger or tiredness or sleepiness already running heavy on him, his breaking point came in when another toddler refused to share his toy excavator with him. It eventually came to wailing and writhing as I lifted him to take him home! Right then when I was panting, with my face red, a lady came to me and smiled and said, “it’s okay, mine does that too sometimes, he might be tired or hungry”. While it did nothing for my toddler, I felt calm and energized with the simple words of empathy from this stranger, right when I was feeling thoroughly judged in the park filled with other moms and kids.
Not just as mothers and in the soaps that we watch on TV, the workplace also is full of situations where you feel not supported but competed with by the other women. Research shows how “the higher a woman rose to power, the less likely she might be to help other women do the same”. This research says that sometimes the reason for this can be that the women in power don’t want to appear to practice 'favoritism' by supporting their own kind. Another possible reason could be that they want to seem more like the member of the power group and hence avoid supporting someone from outside of that circle of power. But sometimes the reason can simply be that they feel threatened that the new member will be valued more. Other minorities of caste, religion, nationality, age, see their backgrounds, problems as 'common', and they support each other. But, if we were to consider women as ‘minorities’ in that meeting room in the office, we don’t support, we compete. Women in the workplace are changing, we are becoming more visible, we are ‘leaning-in’ more and more, but imagine how much better we can be, if the only other lady in the meeting room with you was not busy comparing your business suit with hers but was listening and may be simply nodding at you when the men in the room are busy taking credit by simply repeating your point loudly.
When I had just started working after having my baby, I was on constant look-out for talking to mothers in a similar situation. I was looking for comfort in knowing there are others like me and that they are going through similar guilt, difficulties, exhaustion, the list is long as you know. And you can give that support to someone, just from being a part of this beautiful, meaningful community called ‘mothers’.
Remembering how that felt that day in the park, I now use any opportunity to tell a mother how I feel the same way or how she is doing a good job. The other day I was very happy when I saw a 7-8 year old boy helping my son up the slides and also playing with him later. I saw the same kid with his mom a couple of days later and said to his mom, “Your son is wonderful! He was playing with my 2 year old the other day, it’s so nice!” Surprised at first, she smiled broadly and then surprised again and said, “Really? My little brat?”
As I read somewhere, girls compete with one another, women empower each other.