You make your bed, you lie in it…
I believe that we as women tend to carve our own niche in the workplace, we find out what we are good at, or comfortable with and we tend to make ourselves indispensable so we are known to our colleagues for that very quality.
Sounds good? Not always because it really depends what impression and niche we are trying to make and carve and we could unknowingly, be setting the trend for our future female colleagues thus making an enormous and rather unsavory pile of ‘work baggage’ for them, not to mention reinforcing the fact that women are not always perceived as equal in a workforce that can be dominated by men.
What am I going on about? I shall tell you and it is with some shame that I am going to elaborate on my story because let me just say that my previous ‘indispensable behavior’ came right back to bite my butt – take this as a warning if you see yourself in the article.
Not all ‘ducks’ are nice…
When I worked for a company in a male dominated environment, I took ‘my boys’ and ‘mothered them’ somewhat. I would make sure the toilet supplies were replenished – which yes, as a department administrator was my job but although the three female staff including myself, in the facility had no problem pouring bleach or toilet duck down our lavatory, the men however saw it as an alien concept and were happy to urinate on the seat/floor or wherever they ‘aimed’ their manhood and toilet duck was akin to the work of the devil, in fact they were even known to urinate in the women’s toilet – which I assumed to be like dogs, a bit of territorial marking – except they missed and would pee on our floor.
So I would dutifully go in during the day and make sure toilet duck was put down, ‘Glenn 20′ (disinfectant) was sprayed on the taps so if we had visitors/auditors, it would not resemble a complete cesspit. Toilet rolls were filled up and it got to the point people would say ‘Sam, there is no toilet roll in our toilet’ and I would fill it up ‘for my boys’.
Boys and their mothers….(or Administrators)
The trouble is with men (boys), the more you mother them, the more they refuse to grow up and you end up with some tragic 20 something virgin that nobody wants as the only experience he has with women is being mothered by his mother, he has no idea of how to wash, cook clean and certainly the only duck he knows are the ones his mum takes him to feed down the river/lake, and if you put the word ‘toilet’ in front of duck, he will no doubt have visions of a duck taking a swim in the river.
‘We need to get a cleaner’ someone said at work, ‘Oh get Sam to do the washing up’ and after moaning a bit, I would wash up ‘for the boys’ or should I say ‘for my boys’. And before long, I didn’t just have one boy spoiled to the point I am surprised they didn’t need breastfeeding, but I had lots of ‘boys’.
One day it was suggested that I took home the work vests to wash and launder to make sure the ‘boys’ had clean ones to wear for work. I was horrified to the point of wanting to raise my voice somewhat and the manager looked horrified that I was horrified, after all – was it just one step up from the toilet duck?
I refused point blank and still carry that horror to this very day. Another time it was suggested I came in at the weekend to do some cleaning to prepare for an inspection – again, this was met with more horror. But did I have a right to be horrified when I in fact had carved the first step by making myself into what they wanted me to do more of – a skivvy?
Moving onwards and upwards….
So I left this company because my job description had become so diluted (with Toilet Duck and Glenn20) that I felt my role was no longer defined nor skilled.
After a few disasters with regards to employment, I went for a short term temp role and immediately I felt a sense of ‘deja vu’ and you know what? I am surprised it didn’t involve a toilet and some duck.
This very pleasant old lady did a handover, I say old – she was about 60(ish) or she could have been 50(is) with elephant skin, I couldn’t tell but she was well spoken and well dressed and from behind could have been a bit of a ‘Mabel’ with a nice figure and nice clothes and then she turned round and morphed into an ‘Ethel’ with no breasts but she was smart and well presented and guess what? She could have been me when I am 60 (except for the breasts and the Ethel/Mabel hair cut) and the fact I would never wear a grey skirt.
‘Now, each Friday I take the tea towels home and I wash and iron them’ She told me matter-of-factly with a hint of pride in her voice.
Alarm bells rang so loudly in my head at this point, I am surprised there was not a vicar perched on my shoulder.
‘Pardon, did you say I take the tea towels home to wash and iron them?’ I said totally astounded, any second now, she was going to mention Toilet Duck and Glenn20, I could feel it in my womb.
‘Yes, you have to take them home and wash/iron them, you also have to clean the kitchen a bit and take the coffee machine apart, but if you have an trouble – one of the boys will help you, they are good like that’ She said, as though the King of Thailand might help you if you smiled nicely enough at him.
‘If I brought those tea towels home my husband would have a baby’ – remembering husbands face when it was suggested I wash the vests, and he doesn’t even know about the Toilet Duck saga.
Looking at me as though I had beaten her kitten with the head of a pit bull terrier chewing a guinea pig, she stared at the other woman who was in the kitchen and said ‘But you have to, you must’ and then her bottom lip went out like the bottom of a wash hand basin because I was about to shatter her routine – the men didn’t have to wash them, that is ‘women’s work’.
‘It isn’t going to happen, I am sorry’ I replied firmly, I could smell the duck – citrus flavor and any second was going to morph into an ‘S bend’ shape ready to clean the urinals.
‘You will have to take it up with the boss’ She said crestfallen, and that is when the penny dropped – she was me, but older, she had made herself indispensable ‘for her boys’, she mothered them and did the things I used to and instead of being recognized for her true skills, had unknowingly taken a step back several decades in time where women were expected to fulfill the stereotypical female of being a cleaner/mother/carer to the men in the workforce, which results in their real skills being totally ignored, smothered and never to surface again because the only recognition they will get is for domestic skills and even then, that recognition is out of convenience and nothing else.
So Why Did I Do it?
You know something, I do not know – I guess I like looking after people and thought at the time it was appreciated, but it wasn’t and never will be.
I am skilled in the areas of Administration, Secretary and Personal Assistant and by turning myself into a cleaner, I did myself and probably the lady that took my job after I left, no favors either. I found this to my cost when I went for the temp role and got myself tangled up in ‘Tea Towel -Gate’.
What happens now?
Ladies, if you are guilty of ‘looking after your boys’ then remember one thing, they are not ‘boys’ they are grown men capable of washing their own vests/safety gear, they are capable of cleaning their own toilets, washing up their own cups – they are over 18 years old, they can drink, go to strip clubs, do whatever they like and if they still really need to have basic domestic chores done for them, then perhaps they need to move back in with ‘Mum’ to learn survival skills like the art of putting toilet duck down the lavatory or how about, not peeing all over the floor when they urinate.
If you are employed as an Admin person or Secretary/PA then make sure that is the job you should do and nothing less. If you want to be recognized for your formatting/editing/typing or any other real skill then make sure that is what you are known for – you do your job and let ‘the boys’ do theirs and do not cross those boundaries.
Women have fought hard to be seen as equal in the workplace and we still have such a long way to go on that score, so if you see yourself in this article, do yourself a favor and step away from the toilet duck and adopt the persona that the only thing you are good for and exceptionally good at that, is the one you were hired to do.
Because it is only when you leave your job, you will pass down your domestic legacy to the next poor female who may not be happy to carry that gauntlet because I know I am rather horrified myself – horrified at what the old ‘Mabel’ woman had started and left and also horrified at what I have started and left in my old job.
Be recognized for real talents, start as you mean to go on, look the part, dress the part and play the part but make sure it is a part you would happily play in the future and hand down to another female without any guilt.
Ladies – put a price on yourself and make it high – you know it makes sense.
Samantha Rose (c) Copyright Dec 2012