#IWD2021 | Sam

International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day (IWD), held annually on March 8th, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

As the United Nations informed us that the COVID pandemic is poised to widen the existing gender disparities, IWD marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. This year, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge.

This week we’re celebrating the women in the communities we serve and telling their stories, including how they’ve faced challenges, where they find their inspiration, and which women inspire them.

In our final blog, we chat with one of our own, Sam, Customer Engagement Specialist and mother of two, who has been with us for almost three years. In this conversation, we talk about motherhood, gender roles and how she has juggled working from home with home schooling.

In conversation with Sam..

How long have you worked for Onward? What is your role?

I have worked for Onward for almost 3 years now, in the Customer Engagement Team.  I will shoutout here to my awesome team of strong, amazing women!

I found out I was pregnant a couple of weeks after starting and flew into a panic, but they have been nothing but supportive and encouraging ever since, and I love them for that.

When did you become aware of your gender identity and role?

I have only really given this some thought recently.  I think as a woman its hard not to be aware of the differences in gender roles and I have noticed in my own life that some of these I just fell into without thinking about.

I have 2 kids, my daughter Ivy who is 6 and my son Ollie who is 2.  I notice now how differently my husband and I approach parenthood. His mantra is and always has been “everything will work out” – he worries about nothing. And while I don’t deny it’s a great mantra to have, I realise its only possible for him because I pick up the worry. I make sure it does “work out”. The life admin, the wife work – things that don’t cross his mind and don’t have to because he knows I’ve got it.

I am almost constantly thinking about them, when I’m with them, when I’m not – constantly. Have they eaten enough? Why didn’t they? When was the last time they had a bath? Washed their hair? Do they have clean clothes for x,y,z? Are we in need of a last minute fancy dress costume because Mummy forgot about *insert annoying day to dress up here* (I love it really, when I remember!) What day is PE again?

My husband is a great Dad, but there is no doubt in my mind that when he’s not actively doing something with/for them, he’s not thinking about it. I think the moment I had my daughter a switch just flipped, I became a Mum and that was my role and I don’t think I’ve spent a moment since with a quiet mind.

How has this experience played out during the last 12 months with working from home and home schooling?

I am not going to lie, the last 12 months have been tough. 2020 sucked. My son Ollie was really ill in January and so we spent a whole month in Alder Hey. He eventually went back to nursery towards the end of February (we both cried a lot) and just as he was getting used to it again, the first lockdown started.

If I have learnt one thing this past year, it is that I did not miss my calling as a teacher. Nope. Not for me. My strong willed, 6 going on 16-year-old daughter, reserves her ‘model pupil’ status for school only. The fun stuff, we have smashed. Need someone to paint a potato? We got that. Find things around the house? Easy… Times tables? Nope. Adverbs and phonics? Nope.

The first lockdown the school were pretty much absent – no work sent home and not much guidance, and I got so overwhelmed by the whole thing. I had many sleepless nights worrying that I was letting Ivy down. Was I doing enough? How behind would she be in school? Will she forgive me for saying no to a living room dance party because I just didn’t have the energy? I was still in a bad place suffering with a lot of health anxiety since Ollie was sick (he was fine), but every snotty nose, weird nappy or rash sent me back there. And no matter how hard I try to adopt my husbands “everything will work out’ mantra” – it’s just not me.

This time around is better. The school are sending homework which I am trying my best to do with Ivy. She, on the other hand, is trying her best not to.

I’ve accepted I am doing what I can – if we don’t do it we don’t do it, its not the end of the world. It has fallen to me again, and weirdly I’m not complaining. I’m sure my husband is just as capable, but secretly, between the tantrums and the tears, I would be jealous and want to get involved anyway!

What advice would you give to other home schooling mums today?

The best advice I have ever been given was actually from my Dad. From a young age he told me and my sister that we have the power. And we rolled our eyes and wondered what on earth he was on about, until gradually we grew up and realised that yes, we do.

YOU have the power, no one else has power over you unless you give it to them.

Home schooling wise – you got this. We are not teachers, and if you’re like me, its for good reason. The hours are long and the pay sucks – but our kids are going to be just fine!

What women inspire you, and why?

Most of the women I know inspire me.  But, I’m going to be predictable and say my Mum. What a woman she is. She’s a (semi-retired) nurse and the most selfless person I have ever known.

She grew up in a house with 4 siblings, a sister and 3 brothers. Her and my Auntie were made to clean, cook, tidy and wash, all while their 3 brothers played football and came back to crash on the couch. She made a pact with herself that she would never treat her own children differently. I mean she had 2 girls, but I have always felt the resentment from her for that and have made sure that my own children will not think they have to do, say, or wear anything just because they are girls or boys.

She donated a kidney to her brother 3 years ago, and for the last 10 years has been caring for my Nan who has Alzheimer’s and my Grandad who has vascular dementia. She is my rock, she kept me standing when Ollie was sick last year and has told me I’m doing a great job just at the moments I’ve needed to hear it.

She inspires me to be happy. To be me. To cry when I need to and laugh when I want to. That I can say no whenever I want and mean it. All the things that I will try my hardest to teach my own daughter.

The slogan for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. What does that mean to you?

To me it means we still have a lot of work to do. There are many aspects of our lives that are affected negatively by the fact that we are women. The pandemic alone has disproportionately affected women.

For me, as the mother of a daughter, it is instilling in her that she is just as capable as anyone else of getting where she wants to be. I have and always will challenge what I believe to be sexist, which means I’ve had some pretty interesting conversations with my Grandad and other male relatives. Simple things like calling a boy “a girl” because of the way he threw a ball, or cried, or something equally unrelated to gender.

I’m actively challenging those stereotypes in my own home, and though small, it is the only immediate impact I can make. And I think if we can all commit to the little things, it has got to have a better impact than not.

And finally, what’s next for Sam?

We are now on back-to-school countdown. I am over the moon, my husband is indifferent.  He will carry on working as he was and nothing much will change.

I, on the other hand, will sit down at 9.30am Monday morning to silence. I will have dragged both kids out of bed and forced their little arms and legs into clothes, told them they have to eat their breakfast or else *insert mild threat I have no intention of carrying out here*.

I will have bundled them into the car (then gone back inside for whatever we forgot), carried Ollie while Ivy holds onto my coat across the road, gave them the biggest kisses and cuddles, waved them goodbye and told them to have the best day.  And then when I get home, and I sit down to the silence, and no one calls me Mummy, asks for food or spills a drink on my couch… I will miss them almost instantly.

If you would like to get involved in International Women’s Day, let us know what #ChooseToChallenge means to you on social media using #IWD2021. Don’t forget to tag us!