What keeps women from showing up? Your answers.

What keeps women from showing up? | Modern Mrs Darcy

A little while ago, I asked a question: what keeps women from showing up?

I’d recently attended a conference that was very good, but lacked strong female representation from the stage. The conference organizers explained that women had been invited, but they’d turned down the invitations.

I wanted to know why.

Since 95% of MMD readers are female, I asked you to tell me the obstacles that kept YOU from showing up–to conferences, meetings, and other opportunities for growth, be they local or non-, personal or professional–and what would make it easier for you to do so.

(Go read that post for context. It’s short, it won’t take long. We’ll wait.)

For some of you, this is a practical question; for others, it’s hypothetical.

Your answers were diverse, but common themes emerged.

6 reasons came up over and over again. I’ve isolated these reasons to make discussion easier, but they obviously bleed into each other.

The Big 6 reasons that keep women from showing up, not in order: 

1. Expense. Plain old economics keeps many women at home. Travel is expensive. Childcare is expensive. If it’s an extracurricular event, missing work is expensive.

2. Small children at home. Young kids–especially nursing infants–are a major obstacle to showing up. And travel is practically impossible in late pregnancy and immediately postpartum.

3. Mother guilt. Many mothers are hesitant to leave their families–whether it’s just for an evening or for a longer stint–to pursue their own thing, whether it’s for work or for personal reasons.

4. Logistics. Many women said that leaving town for a few days requires a military-grade level of planning and execution.

5. Lack of energy. Sheer exhaustion keeps many women from saying “yes” to more opportunities, especially if there’s travel involved. Attending events of any kind requires preparation, attendance, and–especially for the introverts–a recovery period afterward. If travel is required, women are even less likely to say yes.

6. Lack of help. I was surprised at how many women cited unsupportive or unhelpful spouses as a major barrier to showing up. Less surprising was how many women said showing up would be much easier if they had family nearby or a more robust support network.

While the Big 6 were the most commonly cited reasons, others were mentioned repeatedly:

Other significant factors:

Ageism. Discrimination on the basis of age was cited numerous times.

Tokenism. Women don’t want to say yes when it’s clear they’re being invited as a “token” woman just to meet a quota.

Personality. For many people it’s a stretch to meet new people, travel, or (whatever it is that’s hard for them) unless it’s absolutely necessary. If they don’t see it as such, they stay home.

Lack of opportunity. Numerous commenters said they never received invitations to show up–despite impressive resumés–because they were the wrong gender, wrong age, wrong marital status, or had the wrong background.

No clear benefits. If the reasons for saying yes aren’t obvious and tangible, there’s no getting to “yes.”

We’ll talk soon about why women DO choose to say yes, but in the meantime…

What do you think about these reasons? Do they ring true?

PS: Women, work, and hockey. And black, white, and grey.

photo credit

"I need to live like this is my home."

my interior design freak out

We bought our house as a fixer-upper when we were straight out of college, and even now–more than a decade later–we still have a lot of fixing up to do. I was young and indecisive; I didn’t have a style; I didn’t know how to make my house mine.

We’ve known for a while that we won’t stay in our little starter house forever. (4 kids + 2 grown-ups divided by one bathroom = no thanks.), and we decided years ago that when the time comes to move on, we don’t want to sell our starter house. We want to hang on to it and rent it out, (thus the goal to save up a down payment.)

We’ve been thinking about renting out our house for Derby this spring, using it as motivation to tackle some lingering projects and make some cash.

We knew we needed to do some work to get it ready, and set out to make a to-do list: replace some broken furniture, spiff up our much-abused hand-me-down dining room chairs, repair the peeling paint in the bathroom. Buy a tv, replace the broken dishes, put in a few new windows.

Before we finished the list, we scanned the other Derby rental listings on Craigslist, just to make sure we weren’t forgetting anything.

That’s when I started to have serious angst.

I don’t usually suffer from Pinterest envy or instagram angst, but I felt a stab of something when I looked at those listings. I couldn’t help but notice that those houses all looked lived in. They looked decorated; they felt complete. Mine … doesn’t.

For ten years, I’ve put off making decisions because I didn’t know what to decide, or how. I didn’t know what my style was or what I wanted things to look like. And besides, I knew we were moving on. And so I waited … until I knew.

But when I saw those finished homes in the listings, I realized just how much I’ve been biding my time here, waiting for the next house.

I’ve used my indecision–I’m just not sure what I want, yet–and my move as an excuse to not really make this house mine.

But it turns out you can’t find out what you want by waiting. You find out by doing, by experimenting, by trying something and living with it for a bit.

I was chatting with an interior designer recently who said a surprising number of her clients are renters. She theorized it was because renters know they need help, and they feel free to experiment in their temporary space–clarifying their style, with her help–so they can be ready when they move to their own place.

I’m a vocal advocate of failing forward with my wardrobe and with my work. But when it comes to my home, I’ve been reluctant to experiment. I’m constantly beating back my maximizer nature. Experimenting with a scarf, or colored skinnies, or dangly earrings is one thing … but with a sofa? Yikes.

(It’s important to clarify: I’m not talking about spending the big bucks! I’m talking about wall colors, throw pillows, which photos to put in what color frame.)

I’m resolving to make a few more mistakes going forward: to make my house mine, through trial and error–with a little help from friends with good eyes, and Pinterest–but mostly on my own. 

It’s time to experiment: to try new things,  to see what works and what doesn’t; what we like, and what we don’t. 

Wish me luck.

On a happier note, I heard something about interior design in the midst of my freak-out that I found reassuring. I’ll share a little about that tomorrow.

I’d love to hear about your personal experience–good or bad–with interior design in comments. And if you’ve got any good tips, please share them there!

(Title quote from my current read: Micha Boyett’s forthcoming memoir Found.)

PS. My #1 lesson from Pinterest, and a DIY decorating experiment I don’t regret a bit.

Give me one week without.

give me one week without

In her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp introduces the idea of “a week without” as a way to boost creativity. She writes,

People go on diets all the time. If they don’t like their weight, they stop eating certain foods. If their spending is out of control, they lock away their credit cards. If they need quiet time at home, they take the phone off the hook. These are all diets of one kind or another. Why not do the same for your creative health? Take a week off from clutter and distractions.

Tharp suggests taking a week-long break from the following things, and noticing what impact it has on your creativity:

1. Mirrors. After a week, you’ll be dying to see your own reflection.

2. Clocks. Let your internal clock rule instead of the time on your wrist or the wall.

3. Newspapers. (Not forever! Just for a week.)

4. Speaking. Tharp this “the perfect editor for the creative soul.” You’ll soon understand what’s actually worth saying–and what isn’t.

Tharp’s idea of “one week without” reminded me very much of Shauna Niequist’s discussion of feasting and fasting in Bread and Wine. The two are inextricably linked: “yin and yang, up and down, permission and discipline, necessary slides back and forth along the continuum of how we feed ourselves.”

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately, ever since my last Whole 30 ended, and particularly as I continue to examine my long-term relationships with wine and sweets. Moderation is hard for me, but somehow thinking of my life as consisting of seasons of feasting and seasons of fasting rings truer (and sounds a lot more poetic, which doesn’t hurt).

Niequist writes,

I don’t want Thanksgiving without stuffing or Christmas without cookies and champagne. I don’t want to give up on our family tradition of deep-frying everything we can think of on New Year’s Eve. But I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully–physically, spiritually, and emotionally–in a life that also includes fasting.

(I wonder if the opposite is true: does fasting need feasting, as well?)

These two women–writing about very different things–have arrived at the same conclusion: that to appreciate what we have, we need to give it up–if only for a little while.

What have you chosen to give up for a time, and why? And if you’re feeling brave, tell us if there’s anything you’re thinking of giving up for a little while because you think it might do you some good.

*****     *****     *****

My friend Jessica’s wrote a cookbook and it’s fantastic. Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook contains some of our new family favorites (salsa verde beef, spicy dijon chicken) and we relief heavily upon them while traveling last year. There’s a huge gluten-free section, and many recipes are easily adaptable for the Whole 30. Get it while it’s $2.99 for Kindle.

One of my reading goals this year is to read something, anything by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals is $4.99 right now, which is half off the regular price.

And I just bought the new ebook Clutterfree with Kids at the introductory price of $2.99, because I need all the help I can get in that area! I’ll let you know how it is.

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How a Photo Can Save a Child’s Life

Rerunning this post from 2011, because this topic is dear to my heart. 

7 years ago, our baby boy was diagnosed with eye cancer because of a Christmas photo.  He was almost two at the time.

That baby boy is nearly 9 now, and the story is becoming more and more his and not just mine–so I’m growing reluctant to go into the details with people now that he’s getting older.

But I have to share this, because we nearly didn’t find out there was a problem. The photographer knew that there was something wrong with our son’s red eye reflex, but he didn’t want to scare us or be the bearer of bad news.  His wife, however, insisted, because she had seen an article about an actress whose child had a very similar presentation (that’s what doctors call it).

We’re so thankful she did.

Our son was quickly diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a very rare form of childhood eye cancer.  It affects only 1 in 20,000.  That’s only 300 cases per year in the U.S.  In 2005, we were one of those 300.

And now that it’s been 7 years and he’s healthy, we don’t talk about it much.  But this Christmas I didn’t want to not speak up for fear of spooking someone or being the bearer of bad news.

But here it is:  when you’re looking through your Christmas photos this year, pay attention to the red-eye in your flash photography.  The red-eye  is caused by the reflection of light against the retina.  Pediatricians check for it every time you’re there, and many cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed at routine well-checks (though our pediatrician didn’t catch it because of the unusual way the tumor presented).

In that Christmas photo taken 7 years ago, our son had red-eye in one eye, and a white eye in the other.  A white or milky-looking pupil in a flash photograph is a classic indicator of retinoblastoma.   The pupil appears white because light is not reaching the retina at the back of the eye.

Note the white eye on the right: a classic sign of retinoblastoma.

Our son’s tumor was growing dead in the bottom of his eye, which meant that the vast majority of the time, his red-eye reflex wasn’t impaired.  We have dozens of photos from that Christmas that look absolutely perfect–even though his cancer was in the final stage.  But one photo was snapped when the tumor seeds were up and dancing around, blocking the retina and causing a white eye in the photo.

A white eye in a photo doesn’t necessarily mean the child has eye cancer, and it’s not the only sign.  (Other signs can be strabismus, a drifting eye, or a red and irritated eye.)  But we found out because of a white eye in a flash photograph.

I have no medical experience.  I’m just a mom whose baby had eye cancer.

If you have any concerns at all, ask your doctor. If you ever see a white eye reflex in a child, have it checked out with a dilated eye exam–it’s not that big a deal.  But it could save a child’s life.

And please, don’t be afraid to speak up.

I’m so thankful someone spoke up to me.

photo credit: J Morley-Smith