I get accused of hating women — a lot. I understand it. I take a hard line with women. I expect them to be honest and fair and upright and most importantly, forthright. I believe that a woman is completely capable of being all of those things, the same way a man is.
I’ve had many women in my life, starting with my mother. This coming Sunday being Mother’s Day, it’s appropriate to remember what I loved about my mother, but also, because she shaped my views of what a woman is, and could be, it’s important to remember the whole picture.
My mom was one tough lady. She had to be. She had an alcoholic husband, and domestic violence was a part of our life. At 43 she had me, and at 55 she divorced him.
When I think of that, of what it was she was facing, it amazes me. To be 55, have a 12 year old son and be faced with making it on your own is a daunting proposition for anyone. She had a mortgage to pay, and a kid to raise and put through college, and she knew my father wasn’t going to be there financially to help.
She did it all by herself. She did work that embarrassed me as a young man, that now when I look back, I’m proud of her for.
My mom knew how to “man up” when it was needed. Which is probably why so many of the women in my life that I get along with and admire, are the ones who do just that.
It also explains why I don’t get along so well with the ones who don’t. The type of woman who is more interested in playing games to get someone else to take care of them, is generally the type of woman that drives me crazy. The kind who flips their hair and plays “dumb” to get, generally a man, to do their work, loses my respect and frankly, it’s hard to have any type of relationship with someone that you don’t respect.
I’ll give an example. I was working at Herbalife, years ago, and there was this cute blond surfer girl in our department who played dumb often. One time, there was a box of documents to be shredded, and she didn’t want to do it. So she turns to one of the young men in the office, and says she can’t figure out the machine, and would he “help her.” He jumped at the chance to help the pretty young thing, and ended up doing the whole job for her.
Now, I don’t have any problem with getting help, when you really need it. And I don’t have trouble delegating work. But neither is what was going on here. She was manipulative and deceitful in order to get someone to do her work. That’s wrong.
Contrast that with my partner’s wife. I love her. She’s the opposite. I can remember him telling me a story about how he had to kick her out of the kitchen they were remodeling. She was in her seventh month of pregnancy, and she wouldn’t stop trying to help with the demolition. She didn’t, and doesn’t, use her femininity as an excuse to get someone else to do what she wants done. She just rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.
My favorite boss was a woman. Every Monday for five years, she asked me the same question, “did you call your mom?” Which was funny because I always had. For years I worked all kinds of crazy projects with her, and in all that time, I was never manipulated or tricked. I always knew where I stood, and what the deal was.
For me, the lesson my mom taught me was that a strong woman just gets down to work and does what needs to be done. That’s the type of woman that I respect and admire.
We all love our mothers. They play a unique role in our lives, and the echoes of their words live on in our hearts long after they are gone. But it is frequently the example of what they are, as shown by their actions, which casts the longest shadow across our lifetimes.
I’m sure it’s not easy being a mother, and feeling the constant weight of responsibility must be a daunting experience. So this Mother’s Day, if you’re lucky enough to still have your mom around, be sure to let her know what a positive example she was in your life, and how much you appreciate it.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.