Growing up, I never thought of myself as a feminist. A lot of this came from a lack of education on feminism and traditional upbringing. This view of myself also stemmed from the fact that my dream was to be a wife and a stay-at-home mom. I was infatuated with the idea of the traditional role of a woman in the home. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I realized that this idea was not as glamorous as I always believed because being a SAHM is the most challenging job that exists and rarely receives the respect it deserves. These views had a damning effect on many aspects of my mental health, and on the way, I believed my life should develop and be structured.
Growing up, many of the family structures I saw inside and outside of my own family resembled this glamorized view that I had for my own future. I always assumed a normal family life was when the man was the breadwinner and the woman was responsible for the home and the family. I viewed this as the American Dream. I thought, “Wow! What fun it would be to stay at home, take care of my family, cook, clean, work out, shop, and have day dates with my friends.” It wasn’t until much later that I realized the stay-at-home mom life was not all rainbows and butterflies.
Being a SAHM requires a level of dedication and strength I am not sure I possess. These women are hardworking, dedicated, multi-tasking extraordinaires. There is no 9-5 limit on the hours they work, paid days off, or company holidays. There is no compensation other than the love of your children, which some days you may not even receive. It’s a 24/7 job, 365 days of the year, that rarely comes with the recognition it deserves. So shout out to all of the brave, talented, boss babe SAHMs. You do a job that I don’t think I’d ever be capable of doing, and you do it with wisdom and grace.
Anyway, back to my story, I had this one-track mind about what life was supposed to be and would accept nothing less. You’re supposed to graduate, go to college, meet the love of your life, get married by 25, buy a house, and start having children. Anything outside of this plan just would not work. Welp. If you have read my book or know me personally, you know that my life did not play out even remotely close to how I had planned. As each year ticked by without accomplishing any of these “goals,” my confidence waned, the self-deprecating internal conversations continued, and the destructive behaviors worsened. I hated my life, and I hated myself. It did, however, force me to get my shit together because no bread-winning man meant I needed to support myself.
I had always been intelligent and ambitious, so that wasn’t the issue, but I did sell myself short for a while. In college, I got a degree in strategic communications with hopes of landing an amazing marketing, event planning, or PR job. Unfortunately, I graduated in 2009, which was the height of the economic crisis. During that time, communications-related jobs were few and far between, required years of experience, and paid very little. To increase my chances of finding a job, I decided to move to Charlotte, where there was a promise of more opportunities. Sadly, there still weren’t great opportunities in my field, and I temporarily headed back to the service industry because a girl had to eat.
For a few years, I went back to bartending and serving and got an additional job working at my gym. I started to consider taking the GMAT and going to grad school, but once I found my friend group and started filling my time with partying and going out, that fell to the wayside. All of these new friends had amazing corporate-type jobs or worked in their dream career, whatever that may be. This motivated me to start applying to jobs again, and I found a staffing agency to assist me in my search. Eventually, I interviewed for a “marketing job” at a recruiting agency, which ended up being much more of a recruiter role with lots of cold calling. I have an irrational fear of calling people on the phone and loathe cold calling. It didn’t help that the men I worked with were chauvinistic creepers that didn’t respect and value women. Within a month, I had panic attacks while on the way to work every day and decided to hand in my two weeks notice. This was my first time ever working in an environment like that, but sadly, it wouldn’t be my last.
After leaving the recruiting firm, I tried my hand as a bank teller, which wasn’t awful but still wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Because my bank role was part-time, I started serving and bartending, which would end up being my favorite job of all time. To this day, I search for the type of love and community I had at Leroy Fox with every role I step into because even with its faults, it still had the family feel we all dream of.
While I was at the bank, I searched for a more marketing specific role and hoped to land something soon. Eventually, I had a break in my search when a friend reached out about a position she was leaving that she thought would be the perfect fit for me. I interviewed for the role and got hired. I said goodbye to the bank full of excitement for this new opportunity. It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I realized this job would be a nightmare.
I had been hired for a “marketing” role, but that was just a cover for “gloried errand runner.” The owner of the company and the C-suite leaders were all men, none of whom respected women and all of whom believed women were worthless in the workplace. Myself and the other two women in the company were treated like dirt. We were spoken down to and asked to do endless amounts of menial tasks. We were sent out to grab snacks, grab documents off the printer, set up meetings, organize files, etc. On one occasion, I was asked to go into the warehouse and spray paint letters on a metal box. It was ridiculous.
On top of being sick of the lack of respect I was receiving at work, I was in a deep depression about being single and not having any prospects on the horizon. All I wanted was to fall in love with my soulmate and get on with the life I always pictured for myself. I was over 25, which was my goal age to be married and feeling quite upset about it. I felt like something was wrong with me that I couldn’t achieve this goal, and it nagged at me constantly.
My experience in the workplace encouraged me to pick up where I left off studying for the GMAT and sign up for the test. I had reached my breaking point with the office bullshit, and it gave me something to distract me from my depression. Deep down, I knew I was more intelligent than some of these men I was working with, yet I was treated like a toddler. I knew my future was so much brighter than what I was experiencing, even without a soulmate to share it with, so I headed to grad school after acing the GMAT.
Going back to school was a second chance to get things right. This second go-around, I decided accounting was the field for me. My advisor was a little baffled by the drastic direction I wanted to take my schooling, but we agreed I should give it a shot. After taking the first class of my first semester, I was hooked. I loved accounting and finally felt I had found my niche. Because I was older this time, I took school much more seriously and aced every single exam. After 2 ½ years, I graduated grad school, began studying for the CPA exam, and was excited to start my new career.
My first job came with its challenges, including a personality crisis between my free-thinking, wanderlust, dreamer personality, and my serious, Type-A, career woman personality. Eventually, I would learn to embrace them both, but it did present initial complications. Despite these issues, my new career made me feel productive and important. New challenges existed every day, and I was in a constant state of learning and development.
The majority of the team I worked on and the other teams I sat by comprised of brilliant, hardworking, badass women. Seeing women in the workplace in a different light than I had ever experienced before was enlightening. My senior manager at the time was laid back but so knowledgeable and hardworking. She loved being with her family just as much as she loved being at work. Her dedication to motherhood equaled her commitment to success in the workplace. The more time I spent with her, the more I knew this could be me too.
Over the next few years, I would work for two different companies under similar circumstances. For 3 ½ years, I worked on a team of nearly all women, with only two men at any given time. Our assistant vice president and entire management staff were all women. Much of the leadership at the company were women, too—all so intelligent, hardworking career women and dedicated wives and mothers. After believing for so long that mothering and having a successful career could not co-exist, I saw endless proof that said otherwise.
To say I was inspired was an understatement. Even during my grad school years, I still dreamed of meeting the person who would sweep me off my feet, get married, and escape the responsibility of having a career. After a few years into my accounting career, my views started drastically changing. While being a SAHM or stay-at-home wife could be a very rewarding choice, so could being a corporate badass. What I wanted for my life had morphed into something so much more than I could’ve ever believed.
I started to realize that women are important no matter what role they are in. We do not have to be molded to fit one certain stereotype or another. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a career and be a mother, nor is there anything wrong with wanting to stay at home. What matters most is that everyone makes the right choice for them.
Despite still being single and getting down on myself about it, I felt empowered and realized I had been selling myself short the entire time. I learned about true feminism. Feminism is not bowing down to the stereotypes of roles that society laid out for us. It’s paving our own paths in whatever form we choose. It’s raising your hand and speaking up. It’s walking in with confidence and sitting at the round table with all the big dogs. It’s talking the talk and walking the walk with endless amounts of confidence, knowing that what you have to say is important. It’s never allowing a man or anyone else to make you feel less than.
Being a feminist is cool!Carrie Thompson
I don’t know if anyone else has struggled from these toxic thought patterns as I have, but I can’t imagine I’m alone. Women are important. Hell, we create life and carry it around for 9 months so that we can bring more bold, brilliant, intelligent women into the world to follow in our footsteps. Women deserve to be praised in whatever role they choose to assume in life. None of us has to dim our light and allow others to shine brighter just because of our choices or because we are female. We are necessary inside and outside of the home, all of us finding our perfect place to shine.
There are so many women I idolize now. I look to all the women I know and find something unique and exciting about their lives. Some have started their own businesses, some are in successful corporate jobs, some are expert SAHMs with perfect kiddos, and others are still figuring it out. I’m upset it has taken me so long to get to this place, a place where I recognize the badassery inside every woman I meet and acknowledge their importance on this earth. But I got here and did it on my own, so I tell myself that’s all that matters.
I am grateful for the path my life has taken me on because while I still don’t have any of the things I ever dreamt of, including being a wife and mother, I have so much more now. I have dreams and goals that I continue to crush so that I have the privilege to set new ones. I have a career that makes me feel fulfilled and proud. I am surrounded by so much love that my heart can barely handle it. And above all else, I am surrounded by a community of women in varying careers, varying stages of life, rocking out at whatever they have chosen to do, and for that, I am beyond blessed and grateful.
Share in the comments: What are your viewpoints on feminism and how does it play a role in your life?