on father’s day

Yesterday was the second Father’s Day I’ve spent without my dad. In some way, without that familiar stamp of “the first ___ without him”, the string of “seconds” has felt a little strange.

Despite the weight of the day, I felt little urge to write about it. I love my dad, and I loved celebrating what a wonderful dad he was (and continues to be). But I remember very little of the more scripted holidays, so the weight I carry on these days is largely a hollow one.

Thankfully, my friend Kate wrote an incredibly poignant piece about this very subject. Her post touches on often incommunicable aspects of grief, and I’m so grateful she’s shared it, especially on a day when words escaped me. So, for today, I’ll share her words instead.

You can read the whole post here; I’m including a particularly resonant passage below.

“Even though all of us experience it, death sets you apart from people. I can’t mention my father without weight anymore. He’ll never escape that label, no more so than he could escape the label of father once I was born. Sometimes I wonder if, with death, parents pass the weight of parenthood on to their children, newly defined as parentless.

[…]

But for next year, I say: go on — take your dad for granted. I give you permission to do nothing special for him, to treat him exactly like you always have. I’d like a day when my dad’s status as a father wasn’t loaded with meaning. It’s the biggest luxury you can have.”

As sad as it may seem, I read this last bit with a smile. Because as my dad always said, it’s those moments of boredom, those moments of nothing special that we spend with one another, that are the most valuable of all. And that’s probably why I remember watching Giants games with him on lazy summer days far more than that 3rd Sunday every June that we call Father’s Day. So, as I’ve mentioned earlier, here’s to celebrating those moments that hold true meaning — be it June 19th, or that random Tuesday you got an ice cream cone just for kicks.

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on workplace inequality

I can always tell how overwhelmed my mom and I are by the number of times we have baked potatoes for dinner (or, as we call them, vessels for butter). Thanks to a crazy time of year and a sudden family medical emergency, it’s been more baked potato butter dinners than I can count.

Nevertheless, I’m trying to regain some sense of routine, thus the blog post attempt. Also, something recently got me riled up, so virtual sharing ensues. Now on to the topic…

A few days ago, my friend and I were talking about women in the work place. At one point, he mentioned that his CEO recently had gotten in the habit of jokingly telling senior female employees that “you better not get pregnant right now!” Ha. Ha.

Aside from being ILLEGAL, that statement says a whole lot about the current status of the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley (well, and pretty much everywhere…). In a hustle bustle go-get-’em environment, pregnancies, marriage, sickness, or family can easily slide into the “hindrance to success” category. This CEO, leading a company doing big things, was largely reflecting on the fact that this ship can’t sink now, we’re heading to mega success — and a pregnancy is a serious sinkage. I mean, babies, who needs ’em.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of a friend, who was suggesting to me that women must be inherently less entrepreneurial, since everyone he interacts with in his field is a man. I didn’t want to spend my energy then, nor do I now, deconstructing the MANY issues in that logic — but I do bring it up to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the gender bias in this start-up world.

On a more constructive note, it also reminded me of a talk given by Cheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook (which is echoed here in her Commencement Address at Barnard) that tackles this very subject. Having once met with venture capitalists who could not tell her where a women’s restroom was in their entire building, she’s  well acquainted with the gender gap in the Silicon Valley world. But she went on to discuss how she watched as many of her female employees would turn down promotions, leave jobs, or accept lesser pay because they knew that kids would be on the way shortly. Add on a dollop of “we could get funded, don’t get pregnant!” fear-mongering, and you’re one step away from working for free.

Though I question Sandberg’s logic that this burden falls on women (i.e., we must learn to be as ambitious as our male counterparts), I appreciate her insights into a work culture that dramatically needs reform. However much you ask women to “be ambitious”, the fact of the matter is that the laws are unequal. As long as we demand that women must return to work 6 weeks after giving birth and that partner or paternity leave is nonexistent in this country, the mother makes the sacrifice. Compared to the majority of Western Europe (where parents are granted 1 to 5 years leave, man or woman), our policies are laughable. What’s not laughable is the CEOs and employees who frame personal lives (and largely female ones) as hindrances to money-making.