Welcome to Switzerland, enjoy your stay in 1951.
Living in Switzerland has surprisingly awakened the feisty feminist in me. Feisty is a better word than angry or ragey. Those are the words, unfortunately, that more accurately described my state of mind earlier this week.
Allow me to elaborate. This week we celebrated Swiss Future Day, a Thursday every November when kids, in grades 6-9, join their parents at work. Fun, right?
Last year was our first Swiss Future Day. Diego joined me at Starbucks where the goal was to ensure that he came away with an appreciation for how hard workers in the service industry work and with a strong determination to aspire for a higher goal for himself. It was close – the moment I let him operate the secret underground garbage-storage mechanical lift had him so excited, it was a near career choice right there on the spot. Not to mention the all-you-can-drink Frappuccinos.
Pending obesity aside, I did hope he would see being a Starbucks Barista as a fantastic transitional job, not the end goal. And to remember to ALWAYS be kind to service industry workers – that’s a lesson always worth repeating.
That afternoon he joined Dad for a glimpse of life as an ebike mechanic. Thankfully zipping around the shop on 11,000 CHFs worth of motorized two-wheel fun trumped the mechanical underground garbage system. But still, the goal was to aspire for more.
So this year I was so excited! I’d get to bring D to my job, show him our giant test engine, let him try his hand at some engineering, some CAD programming and be inspired by my team and my clever, clever colleagues.
The week before Futures Day, D came home saying they talked about it at school.
“Did you tell your teacher about the awesome day you have planned with me?”
“No” (he’s nearly 13 people, his enthusiasm for telling people about his awesome mom is waning…)
“My teacher said that the boys should try girl jobs and the girls should try boy jobs.”
“I beg your pardon?”
At this point I had stopped preparing dinner and was gripping the counter because I was worried I might be having an aneurysm.
“WHAT EXACTLY DID YOUR TEACHER SAY!?”
At this point D realized that I had crossed over into a hyper-focused state so he chose his words carefully and slowly, attempting to back out of the conversation. Kind of the way you’re encouraged to slowly, carefully back away from a mama bear.
“Mom, don’t freak out. It’s not just his opinion, they showed us a video. It’s a Swiss thing.”
“Explain to me exactly what is a Swiss thing!?”
“Well they said that boys should try a girl job, like nursing.”
“And what exactly is a boy job, Buddy?”
“Well, they said computer programming is a boy job.”
“Mom. Are you ok?” I had been standing with my eyes closed, pinching the bridge of my nose, concentrating on breathing in and out.
“Mom, you’re not going to say anything to my teacher, are you?”
“Well, Buddy, I have to. I can’t NOT say something. This is ridiculous.”
Luckily, because I’m a communications professional, I know that the moment when you have a pulsating pain over your left eye is not the time to say something. D’s first parent teacher meeting is coming up in a week’s time. Perfect…
“You make sure you tell your teacher that you ARE going to a girl job! You’re going to learn all about building the biggest engines in the world. You tell him that!!!”
He may have left the room already, afraid of ragey-mom.
Turns out D was right, it’s not just the opinion of his teacher, I discovered a website which described the purpose of Futures Day.
For the love… this is not the 1950s!
Thankfully, we had a fantastic day together at my “girl job” where my company put great effort into creating a fantastic learning experience for girls AND boys. It was awesome.
The thing is, I know a lot of amazing women here with kick-ass jobs. But I also know of women who judge us for having those jobs. Who literally say “but don’t you love your children?” when they learn we work full-time.
Being asked in a job interview here “how will your children be cared for?” is so common, no one seems to realize how absurd it. Or how absurd it is to have to list marital status on our resumes.
And we all know that no man has EVER been asked how his children are being cared for in a job interview. EVER
This progressive mindset was something I took for granted in Canada. It astounds me to see that despite amazing progress in so many areas here, in this respect we are so far behind.
I struggled with this post today. Especially today, November 11th. But then I remembered that this is all connected.
In Canada, like so many other countries, over 100 yrs ago, the men left to go to war. The women stepped into their roles to keep life moving at home. The capabilities of women kept society going while the men fought for our freedom. For our freedom and for our opportunities.
That never happened here. The men never left. The women didn’t have the opportunity to step up. For goodness sake, full women’s suffrage didn’t happen until the 90s here!
Not to say that things are perfect in Canada, of course not. Our girls are still growing up facing images and stereotypes like this, just like here:
While I can’t control the messages coming at my kids I can at least influence the way they see their potential and that it is limitless.
It makes me even more proud of our present household situation. Where for D & H, their new normal is that Dad works in our home, keeping us fed, keeping the schedules, housework and the laundry under control. And this makes it easier for mom to be kick-ass at work.
My inner feminist is wide awake here and feeling feisty. And my kids both know that any career they choose is within reach.