Today I was surprised. It was the result of my own biases and stereotypes and I hope I will learn to be more aware of my potential to make assumptions about people as a result.
Sounds a bit of a random jump to make, right? Hear me out its not that complicated really.
Today we had some new cupboard doors fitted, exchanging sliding ones for opening out hinged ones. The joiner is a local guy who came recommended; personable and chatty.
While they drank coffee (always make coffee for people doing stuff to the house, always) he asked me about the kids: how many, ages, and the dreaded “having any more?” I make it a point to be honest but brief in response to this one.
Well, the boys should have had a 5 month old baby brother. But we didn’t get to keep him unfortunately.
The joiner’s mate had been standing outside the garage door using his e-cigarette vape thingy. Now he joined in. He explained that he’d met his wife 10 years ago and tried for 4 years before she fell pregnant only to miscarry. Eventually, they had a baby by IVF who’s now 2. He spoke about the babies they lost. He said they would stay with him forever.
I’m ashamed to say I was taken aback. This workman, bristly, a bit mucky, talking football and the pub later surprised me by speaking openly, honestly, almost relaxed, about miscarriage.
I thanked him. It was refreshing and reassuring.
LeanIn and Bias
But why was I surprised?
It shouldn’t be surprising to hear a man, any man, speak of loss, emotions, sympathy.
My unconscious bias was strong today. It didn’t occur to me that he should feel what I feel. I was unfair and I am sorry.
Grief and sorrow and sadness following miscarriage is not solely the woman’s domain. We’re expected and we expect women to be more demonstrative and open about how we feel. But why? Men suffer too, from the loss of a pregnancy or baby as much as any other loss.
I’ve been participating in my corporate LeanIn circle for several years. We largely discuss inequality and unfairness where women lose out. While we acknowledge that men can suffer the effects of unconscious bias too, we rarely encounter direct examples.
I was wrong. I’m sorry and I will try to do better and be aware of the risk of being unfair. I will be more open minded and not close the door on my ideas about people.