A Day Without a Woman

Today is International Women’s Day, and women across this country will celebrate by participating in A Day Without a Woman — taking a day off from paid and unpaid labor; purchasing no goods unless from a small-, woman- or minority-owned business; and (or) wearing red in solidarity.

I woke up this morning and went to work.

I work for a woman-owned business. We’re a small team, and I have a lot of work to do coming back from six weeks off with a new baby.

I guess, with an infant at home, I won’t be taking the day off from unpaid labor either. He requires a lot of labor (and it’s all of love).

Last night, I attended a Junior League of Wichita Diversity & Inclusion Committee panel discussion with local female leaders in the community — some truly amazing women from public service, higher education, law, non-profit and small business ownership. The panel discussed careers, obstacles women face in the workplace, including themselves, and — a recent topic for me — “mom guilt.”

The Wichita Eagle recently compiled a collection of survey responses from women in the workplace: Wichita women talk about workplace obstacles, which addresses obstacles, such as maternity leave, breastfeeding and child care — all things we talked about in last night’s panel discussion.

I almost did not attend the panel discussion, even though I’d been looking forward to it for a month, because of mom guilt. My husband had been home all day with our son who was suffering from gas and discomfort.

So he was fussy.

When I got home, I nursed him, burped him and gave him back to my husband so I could leave again.

He was still fussy.

My husband told me to go knowing I’d stand there staring at them with keys in hand fretting… and feeling guilty.

“Mommy guilt is real,” the panel agreed, and it’s a challenge women face in the workplace, in our home life and in our relationships.

One woman said, when her children were young, she feared the Kindergarten teacher would judge her seeing her son in the same T-shirt two days in a row “because we like that T-shirt” and some mornings can be difficult.

Another woman lamented about being asked how she could open her own business and plan her son’s birthday party at the same time.

“I can do it,” she told them.

Whether it’s the guilt we put on ourselves or the guilt we put on each other, listening to these women talk about their own mommy guilt assuaged my fears leaving my son — missing developmental milestones, not being there to comfort him, not being there to feed him.

I am going to miss things happening in his life, and that’s OK. He’s going to be OK. One of the women made a point to say: “You’re children will be fine.”

A small business owner on the panel with four children said she couldn’t do what she did every day — working, managing her business, mom-ing — without her husband. As a woman, a business owner and a mother, she wasn’t doing it all all of the time all alone.

Her message was of support — whether from a spouse, a family member or a community.

Years ago, I wrote about how my village raised me. Today, my village empowers me to be a mother, a wife and a woman.

Without the women and men who support me, throughout my pregnancy (and during the fourth trimester, especially), I could not do what I do every day — working, writing, mom-ing.

My husband, who is an amazing husband to me and father to our baby…

My mother, who taught me hard work and who loves my son so much…

My mother-in-law, who gives and gives of her time so my husband and I can go to work knowing our son is in good hands and loving arms…

My sister-in-law, who flew in just to meet him (and make us dinner — thank you!)…

My friends, who called or texted to check in on me weekly after he was born…

The women who gave so generously of new and used baby gear so I didn’t have fork over an arm and a leg to keep him diapered, clothed and soothed…

The women who became my tribe and who never passed judgement on me or my decisions.

I went to work this morning.

Wearing red.

Because — even though I went to work — I stand with women.

For an end to violence and harassment.

For reproductive rights.

For equal pay, affordable childcare and paid family leave.

For civil rights.

For women.