"I can do anything/ I am strong/ I am invincible/ I am woman." - "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy
First off, I really hate that song. It's so annoying, but it fits this post so I'm going with it. I was thinking the other day about how much I have changed since I was a teenager, and one thing that stood out to me the most was how I react in certain situations.
I have always considered myself to be a feminist. I think that women can do anything men can do, I believe in equal rights and equal pay (it makes me furious that women in America still only make $0.77 on the dollar compared to men), and most certainly do not feel like I belong to the "weaker sex". And I will proudly and loudly voice my opinions whenever I feel it's necessary. That will never change. But when I was a little bit younger, I would actually get a little angry, offended even, if a guy tried to open a door for me, offered to carry my things, or do something for me that I was perfectly capable of doing myself. I think I knew that they were just trying to be polite or helpful, but I took it to mean that they thought I couldn't get the job done on my own. I was a little too proud and stubborn for my own good.
That changed a few years ago when I started going places with the kids on a regular basis. When I had two toddlers in tow, plus a diaper bag and enough other junk to last us a week on a desert island, I found myself smiling and offering my heartfelt thanks if someone opened the door for me, picked up something I had dropped, or offered to help me out to the car with my purchases. It took me being in a more vulnerable state to learn that it's okay to accept help when someone offers it. It doesn't mean I am any less strong of a woman, of a person, or that I am dependent on others to get through my day. It just means that maybe sometimes it's okay to not be the one who has to do it all. Even for little things like I have mentioned here. Sometimes it's better to accept someone's act of good will and then pay it forward. That's what I try to do now, to graciously accept and give back, and I think it's a good example for the kids to see as well. And whenever I see one of them thank someone for helping them, no matter how minor the help was, and then turn around and hold a door open for someone else, help their friends carry their things to the car at school, or offer to help their teachers clean up just because they know it's the nice thing to do, I feel a sense of pride build up inside of me. It looks like they are learning this lesson much faster than I did.