I’m a lucky woman.
I’ve been working with my female staff to prepare some acts of positive awareness for International Women’s Day and the #ADayWithoutAWoman general strike on March 8, and it has reminded me how much I appreciate all the women who work for me. The ladies of Franktuary are strong, tough, creative, and hard working, in a fairly male dominated field. In food service, you use your body for a lot of repetitive, often grueling, motion, and you move around copious quantities of waste from guest’s plates, prep cooking, garbage disposal, mopping, changing beer kegs, and mucking out deep fryers. Not to mention keeping the bathrooms clean. It’s not a remotely glamorous job, and then many of us turn around and commence the very same cooking and cleaning tasks when we get home. The problem with liking good food is that somebody has to make it and clean up after it, and unless you have an unlimited budget for a personal chef or eating out, that somebody is often you.
Yet the women who work for us do it with smiles, many of them balancing intense family situations and a myriad of non-work obligations. On our Market Square staff alone, we have an energetic organized General Manager, a relentless marathoner, a dedicated mother of four, a people-loving aspiring journalist, and an ardent human rights activist. I do not mean to boil each woman down to the descriptors I’ve just used – clearly the depth and diversity of these ladies surpasses what I could put into words – but these traits in particular inspire, amaze, and encourage me.
I’m growing my second child right now, and at the size of a lime, the little dear has tanked my workplace efficiency. Nausea, cramping, and frequent trips to the bathroom are making it hard to concentrate. Nutritional requirements send me wandering through the restaurant kitchen every two hours, rivaling even the snack rate of our current Kitchen Manager whose personal trainer has put him on a 3,000 calorie weight lifting diet. I have become the cliche: my unlimited access to copious amounts of pickles means they appear on all of my plates.
I’m an odors expert, and not in a good way – the smells and textures of the walk in cooler, dish pit, and garbage cans nearly cripple me. My household fridge is unbearable, even after removing a few six month old fermentation experiments gone fascinatingly wrong. The Hubs helpfully ordered me a turquoise nose plug for cooking, which two year old Bean found hilarious and promptly placed inside his own snotty nostrils. But his nose plug enjoyment paled in comparison to the gleeful conniptions he experienced last week while I barfed up breakfast into his favorite porcelain appliance: “FUNNY NOISE! Momma made a FUNNY NOISE! Blaaaaaaaaah!!”
In short, from a numbers perspective, I am less efficient and less useful right now. I loathe evaluating my work in light of this, but continue to compare myself to my significantly younger male co-workers and my committed business partner who is putting in long weeks and longer weekends, many of them on the freezing cold food truck. I feel fairly intense guilt or sometimes just vague apathy, depending on how wracked with nausea I happen to be at the moment.
But I am also quietly, in every second of every day, performing one of the most amazing and miraculous tasks known to the human race. I am growing another person. A fresh, unique individual. A hopeful, brand new soul, being formed from my food and my cells and my heart.
This is why we need strong, balanced communities that value all parts of the whole. My community at the restaurant tells me I’m still valuable even if my quota of work is lower right now. A flexible and loving environment feeds me snacks, helps me with heavy lifting, and knows I’ll bring more of my brain to the table when I have it available. Which I have calculated to be around 2031, but let’s not be too specific.
I don’t know if my grandmother had any of these circular thoughts about her own value, but my guess is that she didn’t have time to. A thrifty Kansas farm girl, she got a rare college degree in the Forties, majored in home economics, and ran her family of four children with the grace, skill, and sensibility that only a true economist could bring to the table. In our modern US society, with its zealous commitment to excess consumption, we don’t much value or understand “home economics”, but the more I learn about business and the larger world economy, the more I realize that the home is a remarkable place to practice and teach math, budgeting, data collection and processing, reasoning, logic, scientific inquiry, negotiation and compromise, risk evaluation, a respect for diverse cultures and systems, and a love of learning.
Which is why I’m thankful to be able to work, and I’m thankful to be able to be a mom. And I stand, pregnant with expectation, alongside women everywhere who are artfully, tenaciously navigating the diverse roles that come inherently tangled up in femininity. It isn’t easy, particularly for those also fighting poverty, oppression, and discrimination, but it is worth the struggle. All beautiful things are.
This post is dedicated to:
Lynda Lindsey, my loving mother
Molly Lindsey, my inspiring sister
Sue Lindsey, my calm, gracious grandmother
Jessie Bowling, my determined, Oklahoma dust bowl cattle rancher of a great grandmother
Megan Lindsey is an owner and founder of Franktuary restaurants in Pittsburgh, PA, a new mother, and, whenever possible, a writer, homemaker, and musician. Follow her adventures as #RestaurantMom at franktuary.com/blog/.
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