We All Make Assumptions

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I hate it when people make assumptions about me. Like when I was standing in the check-out line several years ago-- holding a newborn in one arm, unloading groceries, and chasing around two toddlers. An elderly woman watched me with doting eyes. She gave me a warm smile and said, "My, you are busy, aren’t you? I remember those days like they were yesterday." She started to help me with my groceries and we struck up a conversation. I learned that she had five grandchildren, and her granddaughter had curly hair just like my Anna. Then she said to me, "I know how hard it is being at home all day with them. You must feel like you never get a break." I replied, "Well, actually, I work full time as a lawyer. Most days, I don’t get to see them until after dinner." Her warm smile turned into a scowl. Then she gave me The Look. She didn’t have to say a word.

How could you leave these three beautiful children every day for a paycheck? You must be extremely selfish.
All of a sudden, I could feel her staring at all the junk food in my cart with disdain. Of course, she now knew that I didn’t have time to make my children well-deserved, homemade meals. She didn’t even know me. She didn’t have to -- she already had enough information. I was one of those women. A woman who cares more about her own success than that of her children. A woman who is more interested in her work than her home. A woman who has abandoned her God-given responsibilities as a wife and mother.
I brushed off her scowl with some small talk and quickly headed out of the store. I can't say I was surprised by her reaction. But it still hurt.

And I’ve been hurt before. I grew up in a church with traditional female role models. And over the years, I’ve heard the Christian community take more than a few swings at working mothers. Some of them have even taken a few swings at me. When they find out I’m a busy lawyer with three small children, they automatically assume that I don’t have a life. That I never see my kids. That I don’t cook, and I avoid laundry like the plague. And that I’m not interested in them, just because I live and work in a different space. Of course, none of this is true (except the part about the laundry). But it takes a while to get past the assumptions. Doesn’t it? I’m pretty good at making assumptions myself. By telling me your familial status, what you do for a living, and if and where you attend church, I can tell you a few things about yourself. Like what you believe, what you value, and who you vote for. I have all the information I need. And if you give me a few more details about your life, I’ll even tell you what you probably put in your grocery cart. Are you a stay-at-home mom? I assume you never get out of the house and lack ambition. Are you single? I assume your life revolves around yoga classes and your next vacation. Are you a working dad with a stay-at-home wife? I assume you’re absorbed in your work and never lift a finger at home. I don’t even know you, yet I’m prepared to judge you. I’m prepared do to the very thing that I hate. Sometimes I wonder how many people I’ve hurt at the grocery store.

Post by Susan DiMickele.