Thanking the good guys, and even a few of the bad


This column usually talks about the problems and concerns working women face each day as we juggle the demands of our workplace and home responsibilities.

But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's shelve our problems for a while and think about our progress instead. We have much for which to be thankful.

When I wrote the first Working Woman Thanksgiving column 17 years ago, we were still agonizing over whether we had a right to be employed at all -- and being told in no uncertain terms by just about everyone (including our employers) that we did not, that we should stay home where we "belonged."

Today we know we belong wherever we need -- or choose -- to be, and 75 percent of us need to work for the same reasons men work: to pay our way and give our children a decent start in life.

Working, plus filling the roles of wife and mother, is an intricate, non-stop balancing act that requires our best performance every day, but this is a good time to give thanks for the people in our lives who help make our problems smaller and our time on this earth richer and more satisfying.

First, let's give thanks for the good men in our lives, those supportive husbands of working women so often neglected by the media who plug along every day doing their share -- and sometimes more -- in an equal partnership with their working wives.

For every uncaring, unfeeling Neanderthal out there, there's a compassionate, fair-minded man who tries every day to deal fairly and honestly with today's new roles and rules and expectations.

It may not seem like a big deal when our husbands -- without being asked! -- routinely do the dishes and put the children to bed, but it's an important step to men who probably have never seen another man do such a thing before.

It seems only fair to us that young fathers whose wives work should participate equally in the rearing of their children, yet as I watch my own son do so, I'm reminded that this is new ground for him; he does so without precedent or example from any man he's ever known.

So here's to the supportive husbands of working women -- we seldom hear about you, but we'd be lost without your patience, understanding, support, love -- and the pitching-in you do at home.

Let's also give thanks for the bosses we don't talk about often enough. They're the ones who don't harass or discriminate against us, patronize or hold us back in any way.

They challenge and respect us instead, think of us not as female employees, but as employees who do an equal share in getting the job done.

Let's be thankful for male colleagues who treat us as the equals we are on the job, the ones who neither sabotage our work nor condescend to help us when we don't need it. They give us their support without words, and we are -- wordlessly -- grateful.

Let's give thanks for the people in our lives who forced us to stretch and grow and become more resilient, independent and self-confident because they were so entirely rotten.

Here's to husbands and boyfriends who made it impossible for us to stay coupled with them, and bosses who were so unfair and/or uncaring that we had no choice but to resign and find better jobs -- and better bosses.

You forced us to move on -- to better jobs and/or better relationships -- and while you may have hurt us deeply in the short run, you taught us in the long run that we could stand up for ourselves, be self-reliant, trust ourselves, and make our own way.

Finally, let's take a minute to thank our children. I don't know any child of a working mother who doesn't have to rise to the occasion from time to time -- to do more, know more, be more mature and conscientious and reliable than he or she might have to be if his or her mother was at home.

You so often help to make our balancing act easier. You're breaking ground, too, and we know it's not always easy. And because we're human, we too often tell you when you mess up, and too seldom tell you how very, very proud we are of you -- and how grateful we are every day that you have graced our lives.

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