Whose baggage are you carrying? (Read time: 6 min.)

School 7I was reading an article about female breadwinners.  It talked about the way in which the husbands of these breadwinners felt emasculated and, as a result, the breadwinning wives carried around with them unspoken guilt about their husband’s loss of identity… and it left me wondering:

Whose baggage are you carrying?

I get the mommy guilt, the woman breadwinner resentment, the wanting Superman and finding bliss with Clark Kent.  What I don’t get is why we continue to have this dialogue about how women breadwinners have tougher marriages, greater divorces, and spend less time mothering their children… all because they make at least 60% of the annual household income.

How do you win in a society that says “Damn you for being successful!” on the one hand and “Damn you for being dependent!” on the other?

How is it that women have come so far and still they carry with them other people’s baggage, other people’s issues, and other people’s guilt?

Is it not enough that we carry and bear children, that we’ve spent thousands of years being dominated, treated like property, and tossed aside like trash?

Isn’t it time we put away the old paradigm of expecting men to be bullet proof and women to be soft as silk?

The answer is yes.  But if women breadwinners continue to carry their spouses’ baggage, their boyfriends’ hangups, and their partners’ insecurities, don’t we keep sending the message that women breadwinning is somehow wrong and that the women who do it are, in many ways, committing a societal sin?

Women are breadwinners because they can be, because they want to be, and, in many instances, because they HAVE to be.

This is a sign of forward movement, not a symptom of societal decay.

It is not a woman breadwinner’s job to “make” her partner feel more like a man nor is it his role to become her maid, her housekeeper, or her babysitter.  We aren’t talking about two people who happen to be roommates.  We’re talking about two people who signed up for the same journey, who agreed to enjoy the ride, and who decided that they were stronger together than they were apart.  That means you love who you’re with.  It means you support their highest potential.  It translates into focusing on what makes the relationship work, not what makes the parntership suffer.

We’ve come so far… and, yet, we haven’t.

I remember in college, as women, we were told, “You can have it all!”

What “they” didn’t say is that “having it all” isn’t always a win.

Sometimes when you win, you lose… and, sometimes, when you lose, you win…

So what do you do when you’re tired of carrying around other people’s shame, guilt, anger, frustration, and resentment?

1) You let other people’s  baggage go.  You do this by not making anyone else’s emotional hang-ups, opinions, or concerns your own.  Be very clear about what you think of your woman breadwinner status.  When someone comes your way with negativity, separate their issues from your beliefs.  Say to yourself, “I’m not taking them or that comment personally” and then move on to something more positive.  Change the topic of conversation.  Focus on your goals.  Ask them to stop the negativity.  Walk away if you have to.  Someone can attempt to hand you their baggage but you get to decide whether or not you accept it.

2) You stop defining your life by your role.  You may fill the role of a woman breadwinner but a woman breadwinner is not who you REALLY are.  People like labels because they like to arrange their worlds in neat, tidy categories.  You don’t have to be one of those compartments.  Nobody is their title.  You can decide here, today, that while you might fulfill the role of a breadwinner, you are so much more than that.  You are not your stuff and you are certainly not your breadwinning title.  Begin to define your life by  WHO you are, not WHAT you do… and the title (woman breadwinner) loses all stigma and all unnecessary pressure.

3) You start enjoying your life AND your role.  Bask in the freedoms you have that your great-grand mothers didn’t.  Enjoy what it means to experience financial and professional freedom.  Give thanks that you’re a woman who lives in an age where your influence, freedom, and power have never been more available to you.  Instead of making this role your job, see it as ONE of your callings. Be present to all the gifts and blessings that come with running your own show.  Forget about the cost.  No matter how you slice it, it’s better on the side of financial, professional and personal freedom.

4) You continue to speak the truth about your experience of the journey.  No more shame, blame, or guilt about days when you don’t love your role.  Some days you won’t.  No more apologizing for being brave, brilliant and daring.  You were born that way.  Why apologize now?  No more acting as if you wish it were the Leave it to Beaver decade.  Talk to your grandmother.  You don’t.  Tell the truth about your experience of this role and don’t shy away from being candid about both the ups and the downs.  Our daughters and granddaughters will either benefit from your wisdom or learn painfully from your silence.  You get to choose…

And, above all, NEVER believe that your power costs anyone else their own.

 It is the most insidious lie society has ever told and they tell it so strongly about women.

Men don’t apologize for being brave.  Why would we ever apologize for being strong?

Run your show, own your value, and speak your truth…

#sherunstheshow

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