Several years ago, as I was making a presentation to a group of rising female leaders in Columbus, I encouraged the participants to ask questions. I further shared that any question would be welcomed, regardless of the topic.
After I had completed my material, I opened the floor for Q&A. While I expected the queries to relate to some aspect of leadership, I shall never forget the first question posed by a young woman who was sitting in the front row. She wanted to know what guidance I might provide as male colleagues in her office whose wives were stay-at-home moms were openly critical of her because she chose to work outside the home.
My immediate response was, “Has this scenario not improved since the early 1980’s?”
I immediately had a flashback to my own experiences as a young mother who chose to pursue a professional career. I recalled the hurtful, open criticism I received from some mothers who opted to stay home after their babies were born. I vividly remembered that, shortly after the birth of my older daughter, a 70-year-old single, female consultant admonished me, stating that I couldn’t be an accomplished professional AND concurrently be a great mother. Of course, hearing what sounded to me like heresy further fueled my passion to excel at both.
In the midst of the negative memories that the young woman’s question stirred, I also remembered with great affection a friend who remains special to me. This particular friend had chosen to stay at home with her children whereas my aspiration was to pursue a professional career while also striving to be a wonderful mother.
Early mornings were not my friend’s favorite time of day. As an Early Bird, I was typically up before 5:00 AM to jog prior to getting my daughters ready for school. While my friend and I could easily have fallen prey to the “all too common “ trap of criticizing other people to justify our own respective choices, we instead found a way to support one another. As a result, I drove the early morning carpool (which helped my friend), and she picked up the children after school (which certainly helped me).
I was recently thinking about this special friend and our mutual respect for our different convictions and corresponding support for one another. This led to my reflecting upon how, in 2018, our nation has become more polarized than we could ever have imagined. Regrettably, the crescendo of angst is accelerating as myriad individuals with different political and social convictions believe they are right and to @*#& with people who have different points of view. Hatred and divisiveness appear to be encouraged on a daily basis.
In short, this has got to stop.
As we begin the new year, may we all be challenged to communicate our passionate convictions (including spirited debate) with civility, decency and respect. May we look for common ground through which we might support one another. May we be reminded that other individuals are not necessarily bad or wrong because their views are not in lockstep with ours. May we embrace the possibility that it’s ok to agree to disagree so long as we do so with kindness. And lastly, may we be resolute in knowing that as different as all of us may appear to be, at our very core, we are all the same.
Oh, by the way, I did share some guidance with the young woman who posed that sensitive and vital question. More about those thoughts in a future blog!
Have a kind and respectful new year! Blessings to you all… or should I say… to ya’ll!?!