Being a finalist in the NSW Woman of the Year Awards this week felt like the perfect compliment to, and acknowledgement of, our work at Miracle Babies, as we celebrate 10 years in existence and the impact we are making to the Australian Health System - and the families that experience the birth of a premature or sick baby.
Supporting 45,000 families every year with a small - and yes, female only - staff, and an army of volunteers around the country is tough, but we do it.
And we do it really well.
In her fantastic introduction (and I wish I could remember more of it!), event host Gretel Killeen made a comment along the lines of not understanding why we are not yet at the point where these awards do not have to exist.
I have to say that sitting there, I completely echoed what she was saying. And to be perfectly honest, a part of me felt a little uncomfortable being on show and for my work to be acknowledged in this way purely because I was a woman.
I did not realise how much this affected me until I found myself at a complete loss to provide an adequate answer to my three boys about why the Awards existed.
The conversation went something like this:
“What’s the award mum?”
“NSW Woman of the Year.”
“Is it a competition?”
“Well, yes, sort of, there are 3 other finalists. And one of us will get the top award but everyone is there because they are doing amazing work.”
“Does the winner then compete in the Australian Awards?”
“No, it is just for the state.”
“That’s a bit weird.”
“I guess it is...”
“So, is there a Man of the Year Award?”
My husband piped up “nope, doesn’t need to be, 'cause I’m man of the century!”
“Haha, Dad… seriously, Mum?”
“No there isn’t.”
“How come? That’s even weirder.”
Silence. (And internal struggle from me). Then I finally said; “I don't really know how to answer that because you are right; there shouldn't be a ‘woman’ of the year award without a man of the year award - or either at all.”
And as they pushed to find answers, I somehow fumbled through the conversation by trying to explain that it’s part of International Women’s Day, and that exists because there are parts of the world where women cannot get an education, that in some countries or certain cultures women and girls are not seen as being as important as the men, that women find it hard to go back to work after having a family more than men do, that some women are not paid as much as a man for the same job etc (not mentioning that this happens in Australia)…
Every statement returned a “how come?” or “that’s stupid” or “that doesn't make sense”.
Instantly, I felt enormous pride wash over me followed by a sense of sadness. Here was their beautiful innocence, their natural instinct and what is modelled for them in our own home being challenged. And I didn't want it to be. I wanted it to stay intact. Because what they know now is right. Girls are equal to boys. Women are equal to men. I am equal to their dad.
And I don't want to introduce to them even the possibility that it could not be considered true.
I may not be raising girls to believe that they are equal and can do anything, but I am raising boys that do. They have a mother who is a CEO, who travels and who has help in the home. An educated mother with a university degree, who started her ‘business’ after her first two were born, grew it while they were little, and then during another pregnancy grew it even further - and has continued to do so. And they have watched their father support it.
They don’t know that what she has done was, and still is in some places, considered impossible.
I truly believe that along with promising our girls that things will change and be different, we must also make that promise to our boys and our men. That they will be seen as equals within their role in the family. That they will have flexibility and ability to comfortably assume a more involved, engaged parenting role. As I sit and write this, I am in my office and my husband is at home. Why? Because our 10 year old has a rash and needed to see a doctor. It was my husband who made the choice to return home to take him, and together we made the decision that I will go on Monday for the follow up.
We can definitely do this together. And I know there are plenty of men who are flying the #womancan flag like he is. I am certainly surrounded by them.
So, maybe one day ‘womens’ awards won’t exist – that’s the plan right? I hope so. Until then, here is one reason why they need to exist.
10 years ago, the founding women of Miracle Babies were continually referred to as 'just a group of mums' who did a nice thing and started a small community support group. Well done. Doesn’t happen so much now. Not too long ago, I overheard a leading university researcher introduce us as a group of women who saw a gap in the health system, filled it and now sit on the global stage changing and challenging health care.
This is what can happen when women and yes, mothers are supported. This is why the acknowledgement of an award for a woman being a woman even in today’s progressive environment is still important.
I still went home after the awards and told my boys “I am so glad you find it strange that an award for women just because she is a woman exists. Let’s hope we can all be a part of the change where one day they won't exist.”
Originally published at www.linkedin.com