“Women have a way of giving, giving, giving. It’s how we love, and love is how we exist in the world, even if sometimes it taxes us to the hilt.”
If you are a woman, the answer to that question, is without a doubt: YES. The traditional meaning of the term “Girl Friday” refers to a secretary/personal assistant, but I take it to mean a jill-of-all-trades-type who can do any task, large or small, that you ask her to. Women are, by nature, multi-taskers. I know this is true because I saw a PBS-type special in which they tested out the differences between the sexes and tried to prove if any of those gender stereotypes are actually true. They gave a group of test subjects, half men and half women, the same tasks to do. One of the tasks was to boil water, cook an egg, heat something in the microwave, and make tea – simultaneously. Domestic, I know, but it proved a point. The women all did this well. The men all succeeded in burning their water, exploding the food in the microwave, or frying the egg when they were trying to scramble it. The men, however, did redeem themselves in the parallel parking test.
Sexist scientific examinations aside, we women know we’re good at mult-tasking. Not just good at it; it’s how we exist. Nature has embedded us with the ability to do many things at once so that we can thrive as an individual member of our species, while simultaneously keeping a watchful eye on our offspring so the species is sure to survive as a whole. This ability often leads to stress and a perpetual sense of overwhelmed-ness.
I recently went to a Women Business Owner’s Network Event in Vermont with my colleague Amber Chand at the Women’s Peace Collection. At the beginning, everyone was asked to stand up and introduce herself by saying her name and her job and company. Everyone did so in an orderly fashion, trying to stand up, speak, and sit down without taking up too much time. But about half-way through, one woman stood up and said, “Everyone is being so modest! I know all you women don’t only have only one job.” I nodded my head. She was telling it like it is! Even the woman who works in one full-time, non-management position could easily add any of the following “jobs” to her resume: Mother, Caretaker, Volunteer, Board Member, Doting Wife/Sister/Daughter/Friend/Confidant. Women have a way of giving, giving, giving. It’s how we love, and love is how we exist in the world, even if sometimes it taxes us to the hilt.
But what about those of us who have other dreams besides being a model employee and the rock that our family and communities depend upon? I’m referring to Big Dreams; capital B, capital D. I know every woman harbors a dream of her own which has nothing to do with our relationship to anyone else, be it our boss or our life partner. It could be anything: gardener, jewelry designer, dancer, or singer. These dreams go beyond the traditional roles of “employee” or “nurturer,” and are instead a manifestation of the dreamer’s deepest desire to be a leader; to be on stage and to shine, whether that stage is one for her art or for her own private business. A friend of mine wants to start her own daycare. Another friend wants to become a speech therapist. My dream is to be a writer. So what is stopping us? What is holding us back from chasing that dream full-throttle?
As I said in a previous post, we women often devote ourselves to supporting other’s dreams instead of our own. But another batch of women is trying to do both; find a way to make money on the side and pursuing our true ambitions around our jobs and commitments. Or as I like to call it: hustlin’.
I am more than just a writer. I have half a dozen other skills, which I can do more or less efficiently, or at least fake my way through. These include project management, graphic design, anything to do with social media, and stuffing random data into excel sheets into a somewhat organized fashion. Ok, great: these skills collectively make me somewhat employable. But I think they’re more interesting because they lead me to wonder: what are other wannabe artists doing on the side to keep themselves fed and clothed while they strive for fame and glory, or just self-realization?
My friend Kenya Williamson, another aspiring author manages the balancing act between her muse and her Girl Friday admirably:
“I don’t feel selfish for catering to or encouraging my muse. Just as you’re helping people at your day job, you’re helping people with your creativity —whether it’s through entertainment, compassion, provoking thought or giving inspiration. It’s about balance. I strive for it every day. I don’t always get it. But, as long as I don’t devalue my talents, I know I’ll get back to the work I was born to do. And I won’t shame myself for time spent elsewhere.”
Let’s all take a lesson from Kendra and work for our muse as much as we work for our boss, and with the same positive attitude.
I want to hear from you! How are you a Girl Friday?