A few weeks ago, a friend of mine had to stay home from work to care for her sick child. She is a single mom of two kids under 6, working full time, and doing a number of creative and service-oriented projects when she gets the time. She really gives it all she's got, every day, on a budget. When her children are ill, they can't go to school or daycare, and she cannot really afford a private sitter for a whole day while she is at work. The cost of that for one or two children for one day would be equal to something like a week's worth of groceries for her family. It's hard to manage when this happens, so she has to use her own sick days to cover taking care of the kids, or try as best she can to get permission to work from home at a company that does not look favorably on the work from home option.
So, on this day, her (male, child-free) boss sent her a text that said something like, "We need to figure out what to do about this." This set my friend into a panic for a minute: "I have a good relationship with my boss. He is usually cool. But what if I can't really manage? What if I lose my job because I have to choose between taking care of my kid or going to work?" There are many women in America who can relate to this scenario. Even though, technically, losing one's job for having to care for one's children is grounds for a successful lawsuit, for many women, the reality of this possibility still looms large. I have personally known several women tarot clients who were edged out of competitive jobs with a variety of excuses to cover for the fact that they were pregnant, moms, or even just getting older. It might be illegal, but it's also illegal for cops to kill unarmed people, and that still happens, too.
In addition to the truly desperate need our society has for teaching men to stop raping women and others, closing the wage gap, ending the use of misogyny and misogynoir as forms of power or entertainment, ending sexual slavery, and creating more equitable opportunities for women, we also would do well to support a basic recognition of each individual's need to have a full life in healthy balance. Namely, we need to be okay with the fact that life happens, that kids, illnesses, rough times, and emergencies happen, that people are occasionally battling extraordinary circumstances, but that life even on a "normal" day is hard enough sometimes to knock any of us for a loop. We need to think about the value of our humanity over the value of money, systems, government, business, and material goods. This is not achieved with sweatshops. This is not achieved with making anyone choose between family wellness and money to live on. This is not achieved with yet another expensive artisanal food outlet taking over what used to be a small, affordable neighborhood grocery store. This is not achieved by Patricia Arquette throwing other marginalized people under the bus in her campaign for women's equal pay. The adequate valuation of humanity is not achieved in a culture of fear that our lives are not worth as much as we pay for them in all of the taxes, fees, and costs associated with existence. Baby delivery copay: $5k. That's with insurance. That's unreachable for many. I met a woman once who told me, "I had a neighbor come help me give birth in exchange for a case of diet coke."
My friend went in to her meeting with her boss, and he started to ask her the obvious questions that women always get asked when they need to explain why they missed work for family: "Did you try this? What about that? Have you thought of this?" She patiently explained how she could not get around needing time off when her children were sick, and that she had truly already considered all of the choices, and took her time to explain further. In my own experience of witnessing this happen to women over the years, this is the moment when companies usually begin to find lots of strange little picky things to take a mom apart with, or they shift her role, or drop her hours, or restructure, or do any number of other subtle things to destabilize the woman's value in her role, so they can justify letting her go.
Instead, her boss said, "You know what? You're totally right. I honestly just am having this meeting with you because there is a policy that I have to have this meeting with you. But I totally see what's up and I'll work with you on this. I really like your work and recognize how much you have riding on your shoulders. You're doing just fine. It's not a big deal."
If more of us chose to take this kind of approach, what a better world we might have: "I see where you're coming from. I see that you're doing your best here. I acknowledge that you are in a tough position. I value what you have to offer. I'm willing to work with you on this." This kind of approach doesn't just happen. It requires a commitment to being compassionate.
March is Women's History Month. Of course, in my world, women's history is happening every day. We are making history as we go along! But I am honoring Women's History Month by committing to work on meeting people, especially other women, right where they are, with compassion. To let go of exasperation when someone just doesn't have anything else they can do but the thing that inconveniences me. To honor that we each have the balance of an entire life we are holding up. I am doing that for myself, too. I am also ever mindful of the Great Mother who sustains us all, and I am going to give the Earth extra care this month, because she needs it. I'm doing a simple daily ritual at my altar, and you are welcome to join me in doing it.
Women's History Month Daily Practice
Also place a photo of yourself on the altar.
Every day in March, stand in front of your altar for a few minutes each morning or evening.
Looking at the photo of yourself, say out loud, "I have compassion for you, and I commit to you, Self."
Then think about all of the women you know who are struggling to do their best, to make change, to take good care of those they love, to create art and beauty, to invent, innovate, revise and iterate, and generate a deep sense of compassion and respect for them all. Say out loud, "I have compassion for you, and I commit to you, Women."
Finally, look at the photo of the Earth, and envision all that needs to be done to heal her...the waters, the air, the land, the animals. Say out loud, "I have compassion for you, and I commit to you, Mother Earth."
I will also be posting about Women's History, sacred Ancestresses and the legacy of women witches this month with the hashtag #womenshistorywomensmagic. If you'd like to use that hashtag, too, go for it. If you like this working, you also might enjoy CAYA Coven's Mothers of the New Time monthly Full Moon working for women.
"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." -Fanny Lou Hamer