Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day!

It's March 8th. International Women's Day. I thought I'd come up with a list of qualities I admire in women and maybe even the people I know who embody them.

1. Builds others up - I've come to appreciate women who take the time and energy to build each other up instead of tearing each other down or being critical. I think I took for granted the idea that all women are catty or petty, or that gossip was just the norm, but it's not. I've had friends for over 10 years who personify this kind of empowering thinking and I notice that I feel different around them than I do around those who are always tearing others down. Being around women who don't participate in gossip and who can call a spade a spade without tearing others down unnecessarily makes me want to be a better person myself, too. Some of my favorite conversations with others are those that are about anything BUT gossip. It feeds the soul and the mind and I like that.

2. Is a good listener - Women who pay attention to what's going on in the lives of others and take time to check in . . . that's pretty great. When those in my life take the time to be present, know our lives, and help where they can, even with a text saying, "Hey, I remembered that today is the first day of classes - how is that going for Kate?" or "I know Max entered that X-wing competition. How did it go?" or simply, "How are you holding up?" It's greatly appreciated. Women who say, "I know you're tired and spent. How about I take you out for coffee and some good conversation?" That. That is immensely appreciated. Be here. Be present. Listen.

3. Lightens the load - I've said this before and I'll say it again, these child-raising years are, hands down, the *busiest* years I've ever experienced in my life. It is far more mentally and emotionally and physically involved than childhood, adolescence, college, grad school, working, etc. That is not to say that all those other things aren't involved or don't present their own challenges, but being a parent is not a job for the weary. I've read countless articles about gentle parenting and conscientious parenting. Bringing a child into the world means so much more than feeding and clothing and educating them. That is the *bare minimum* expectation (you know, keep them alive and healthy - duh). While the pendulum could easily swing the other way where parents are enmeshed or over-involved, avoiding that extreme does not excuse one from thoughtfully considering their children's individual needs, sensitivities, and what makes them who they are. It's talking to them, listening to them, building them up. It's coordinating the activities and experiences that feed their souls and minds. It's making sure they are considered in decision making, that they are spoken with respectfully, that they know they matter and are a priority. This takes time and energy. A lot of it. Whenever anyone has done *something* to lighten the load a bit, I'm ready to cry. I think it's times like that I realize how spread thin I often am. I've had times where a friend has helped us get ready for birthday parties or friends who have offered a ride or even a day for my kids to go play at their house so I can have a breather. I've had friends show up to the kids' recitals and plays and ceremonies and games and book signings. I've been lucky enough to have women in my life who have sat at my bedside when I couldn't muster the energy to get out of it due to depression. Women who have made a meal or helped us move. Again, be here. Be present. I don't take that for granted. Most of the women I know have constant hands-on help from their parents with this sort of thing, but for those of us who don't, friends become like family, filling in those roles and helping be "the village." All of us, especially as women, have a delicate balance here - taking care of ourselves and our own sanity while also helping those around us. I've been out of balance on this for many years - taking care of everyone else's needs ahead of my own - but I've been working hard to get a better grasp on this balance and I think I'm making progress.

4. Celebrates others - Oh man, I admire the hell out of women who do this, especially those who do this with their own children. What examples they are to me! Respecting others' own choices and decisions; recognizing that everyone is different and not everyone is on the same life path; seeing that what feeds one's soul isn't necessarily the same thing for everyone - these are ways to celebrate one another. I know so many good women who speak highly of their children and can say they're tired or worn out or losing themselves at times even, but never, ever, ever with an unkind or untoward word about their children. And definitely never blaming their children. They recognize who their children are - the ones who need to wiggle; the ones who need to talk more; the ones who need more hugs; the ones who need more space; the ones who are more sensitive. None of this is stated negatively or mockingly or in a criticizing manner. These things are seen, embraced, and fed. They are celebrated, building up the child instead of tearing them down. Man oh man, I hope I do this with my kids. I give this a lot of thought and I know, even if I'm not always perfect, I certainly try.

5. Shows their vulnerability as well as their strength - I admire strong women, but I especially admire a strong woman who isn't afraid to say, "It's hard sometimes." That's not weakness. Showing vulnerability is a risk and is, therefore, an act of bravery, I suppose. You risk being discarded. But when you connect? Oh, it's worth every bit of risk, because those connections can often be so pure and profound. In fact, being "discarded" helps, too - it's like the trash taking out itself when you see that someone judges you like that and wants nothing to do with you. I have cried in front of my family and in front of some close friends. I've shared my emotional health struggles pretty openly with people, because I hate that mental health stigma exists and I want to help combat it and connect with those who also struggle to let them know they're not alone.

So there are 5 qualities off the top of my head. I'm grateful for the good women in my life who exemplify these traits and help me be a better person. What qualities would you add?


The Magic Violinist said...

Yes, I agree with all of these! I'd also add inspires people/pushes them to be better. Especially being a writer, I love when I can send trusted friends my work and they'll respond with both all-caps excitement and several notes about how I can improve it. And being able to make me laugh is always a huge plus. It's nice to just goof off with friends.

Jimmy said...

These are all great. I can't say enough about the impact women have had on my life. I had the good fortune of knowing my great grandmother well. She raised two children on her own at a time when single mom's were very rare. She found herself a single mother at the age of 17, went back to high school, then to college, and became a teacher. Her daughter, my grandma, had a very different life from her mother. She married young, had six children, was a traditional stay at home mom all her life. Both were a great influence on me. Then my mom--also a single mother. Did every thing she could to give me an economic advantage with no financial help at all from my "father." I thank the women who have struggled in one way or another to make life better for me. All women of every circumstance have every right to fight for their individual rights. But I find it honorable that they are not just fighting for themselves, they are fighting for the rights of their children and their children's children. My daughters will have more freedoms and economic opportunities thanks to the example of the women before them.

Boquinha said...

TMV, I like those, too. I love, love, love laughing and being around people who make me laugh. I know we're talking about women here, but Daddy makes me laugh a lot. As do you kids.

Jimmy, you've always spoken so highly of the women in your life. I think that's really special. Do you watch the show "Jane the Virgin?" It's a 3-generation Latina family with STRONG women and sometimes when I watch, I think of how you've spoken about your mother and grandmother. How special that your 5 daughters have you as a good man in their lives - a good man who respects, appreciates, and honors women.

Dr. Mark said...

This is a great post, and at the risk of sounding biased (and slightly sycophantic), I think you are someone who really embodies a lot of what you admire. We are all works in progress, but you are definitely someone dedicated to the progress.

This is a quality good for women and men, but being able to see the humor in life is a really important talent. Thankfully I have some women around me that do that frequently.

Boquinha said...

Aww, thank you. That's really sweet. Both things. Totally agree - humor is so important. I'm really glad we have a lot of humor in our lives. Sanity saver. :)