“The Secret Lives of Women” by Deb Schmidt-Rogers

So my WISA blog post was written and ready to be sent to Ann Marie for posting on Wednesday and then just a few minutes ago I received a DM on my twitter account that read, “Really need some prayers for strength and perspective today. Struggling more than I have in a really long time”

I had been struggling with this blog post since I agreed to write it. I am not really good at writing on demand. I have to somehow feel my subject and while I have had plenty of wonderful opportunities recently about which I could write none of them had really given me inspiration. I knew what I wanted to write about but was not sure that I could or should.

I am a believer in signs from above and I think the DM was my sign to write a blog that has been on my heart for some time.

Picture the airport on a busy weekend afternoon. All sorts of people are briskly walking through terminals, coffee shops are full, and travelers are buying last minute souvenirs to take home to children, partners, grandchildren, colleagues… Most of the seats in the gate areas are filled; children are alternately happy and whiny. Parents are doing their best to keep the little ones occupied as the plane has been delayed yet again. Tempers are short and yet everyone is smiling and making the best of their travel day.

And in the corner is the woman. She looks like she is trying to blend into the wall. She is on her cell phone. And…she is crying. Not just crying but very nearly bawling. You can’t quite make out the words and you are very uncomfortable with her presence. She is me. Very literally she was me this past weekend.

I have a secret life. We all do.

Mine is filled with a father struggling with Alzheimer’s. He was a college professor, a thinker and now he spends his time desperately trying to focus on small things. He calls my husband several times a day to ask about the garden. He asks me each time we talk me if my daughter is happy in high school. He asks me 13 times in a 10 minute conversation. He still knows my name. I sit near him at church to make sure he knows the people who come to talk to him after service.

Mine is filled with a mother who is now a caregiver. She married a man for his mind and the deep and rich conversations they would have about education, religion and their children. Her life is now filled with making sure he eats enough, listening to his stories 40 times an hour and pretending to be okay. I stop by many times a week so she can have someone to talk with about her day. Usually she says everything is fine. I know she is lying.

Mine is filled with a teenager who is often so angry she tells me she hates me and wishes I would die. I know she does not mean it but it does not make the words hurt any less. The tension at home can be so thick that on many days that I wish I could stay at the office and keep working.

I am nervous sharing this with you because I don’t know if your perception of me will change. To the casual observer I am a woman who has it all together. I am a woman who successfully navigates both work and home, who has a great marriage and has raised terrific children. I am the role model. I like that illusion. It is much easier to live in the perception than to share the reality of my daily life outside of work. Women are really good at pretending. We have learned to be happy, to smile, to support those around us, to role model that you really can have it all.

We all live our lives in perceptions – the ones we hope that others have of us, the ones that we have of others, of circumstances and incidents. I am thinking about whether those perceptions are influenced by my gender. As a woman I was raised to be strong and confident. I was raised to challenge opinions and to speak up for those without a voice. I was also raised to serve those around me and to be inconspicuous about it. I was not raised to ask for help. I was raised that my dirty laundry stays in the basement.

What does this mean for me as a woman to live in a world where most perceptions don’t match the invisible realities of my secret lives? Do we want others to think better of us than we do of ourselves? Do we do anything to counter the incorrect perceptions others have of us or does that simply take too much energy? Do we spend time trying to discern whether our impressions of others are accurate?

We all have a secret life. We all have those parts of us that we don’t readily share and yet it is often those parts that have so mightily influenced who we are and who we may become. What would your world be like if you shared those secrets?

I love my life and would not trade it for anything but sometimes it makes me tired to walk the tightrope between the perceptions and my secrets.

My father

My family

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36 Comments

Filed under women, Work/Life Negotiation

36 responses to ““The Secret Lives of Women” by Deb Schmidt-Rogers

  1. Heather Chrsitman

    Thanks for sharing Deb! This was really great to read this morning! I hope you are well.

  2. Your post so resonates with me…Lately I find myself wondering when it will all cave in on me for I am certain it is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. Hang in there. You are not alone. We all have those secret lives on some level because we have been taught to “fake it, until we make it”. There is a lot of life going on behind closed doors. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone in managing and/or struggling to manage our chaotic lives.

  3. Bravo, Deb! I so admire and appreciate your honesty and courage in putting these words out there. And, I can totally relate. I think all of us can. You are strong and beautiful and wonderful. Thank you. #wlsalt

  4. Jennifer Keegin

    Thank you so much for sharing what’s been on your heart. I call it “Putting the Gloss On”. Covering up what’s really deeply hurting and challenging us. This is why its so important to get to know the other women surrounding us and know their stories – provide that support we all need in different ways. Thank you for the perspective this morning.

  5. This is a beautiful post Deb, like so many other things you’ve written. Having a secret life doesn’t make you weak and covering it up doesn’t make you strong. You are more of a role model to me and the other’s who hear your story because you share it. Thank you for opening the door for other women to expose their secret lives too.

  6. Great post Deb. Praying for you and all the women out there who resemble a duck sitting on water. We swiftly and calmly float on the water but underneath we are paddling like the dickens.

  7. Deb, what can I say other than “thank you.” You are amazing & I hope I am blessed with connecting to you IRL someday but for now I’ll settle for being inspired by you via Twitter. :)

  8. I am fiercely protective of my personal life because of previous experiences. However, I do see the power in sharing my story in certain instances. Thank you for sharing yours and creating an opportunity for dialogue about the world might be different if such sharing took place.

  9. Krissie Tomlinson

    Deb, you are quite simply marvelous. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and opening a door for which so many of us are scared to open ourselves–being authentic without being afraid of judgment.

  10. I am so grateful for your courage to write this. We take on so much and let it pile and pile, being brave for others.It takes a lot of strength to say, “No, I’m not ok right now. But I will be.”

    And a side note… I was that teenager who said hateful things to my mother. As an adult I know how much that must have hurt her. Almost fifteen years later, she is my best friend and I am STILL apologizing for the things I said when I was twelve.

  11. Deb- even before #WLsalt I cherished the time with you- your wisdom, knowledge and strength. This post reflects all of you and I sit here with tears running down my face amazing by your incredible strength and generosity…I love you and feel so honored to be your friend…you are right we all have secrets & pretend …you & this network of women who support more and judge less have profoundly impacted my life- allowing me to be more real everyday. thank you. T

  12. Beautiful, heartfelt post, Deb. As women, we have very few “allowances” to be and feel all that we experience due living our lives in the perceptions (putting the gloss on – I really like that, Jennifer!). Thanks for sharing your story. #wlsalt

  13. Wow, Deb. WOW! This is such a powerful, honest and open posting and it resonates with me as well. I appreciate your sharing and it only reinforces my sense of you as a strong, grounded woman who is an excellent role model for all of us!

  14. Eric

    Deb – thank you for sharing your story this morning. It reminds us of the need to take care of ourselves as well as others. I feel very fortunate to have connected with you. You are an amazing person. Thank you.

  15. Megan Igoe

    Thank you for this blog post. It really hit home for me on a few levels and I hope it was therapeutic for you as well.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing. Your post came for me at a time when I am really struggling to balance my “secret life” and what my kids call my “office life.” Your words gave me more support, confidence and encouragement, and reminds me to support others as well.

  17. Love this and so appreciate your honesty! Thanks for sharing!

  18. And this is I get so angry when people pooh-pooh social media. Were it not for Twitter, I wouldn’t know you (or the people commenting) — and knowing you has made my life richer. You inspire all of us, Deb, and I’m honored and lucky to know you. Hugs and wine await your next visit to KC.

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  20. Beautifully written. So often we forget that everyone’s got their own things to deal with in their life.

  21. Laurie Berry

    I doubt I will accurately be able to say what is in my heart as tears stream down my face. I appreciate the courage you had in writing this post. I relate on several levels as many no doubt many will. I am a better person because of the open, caring, loving relationships I have with people like you. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  23. Deb, I’m not much of a crier, but your post did move me. It’s a reminder of a quote I’ve been seeing a lot lately “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a secret battle.”

    Thank you so much for sharing. The only change in my perception of you is even more admiration. I would give you a big comforting hug if I were able.

  24. Deb – what a beautifully written and amazingly insightful post! One of the things that I have come to appreciate and love about blogging and social media is that it really does allow us to share these things and find out, hey, we’re NOT the only one. I know that I have found so much support and strength from the people that take the time to read, take the time to reach out, and not only support me, but lift me up. I hope that you are able to find the same support – both online and in person – after sharing this. Thank you for opening your heart up, and know that you have friends everywhere who are thinking of you today.

  25. Josh Skillman

    This was an amazing post! Thanks for having the courage to share. This moved me…

  26. Roberta Rea

    Dear Deb—Thank you for your honesty & authenticity. Your message is powerful and your writing is inspiring. A woman’s journey is often balanced on this tightrope between perception and secrets. Your ability to humbly share your story in a way that resonates so well is extraordinary.

  27. thatwoman_is

    Deb, Wow, that was so beautiful and most importantly honest. Recently I shared on Twitter what I was going through with my mother’s near death scare and now having to become a guardian of her health and finances. I was told I revealed “too much.” That others might find what I am going through as an indicator that I can’t do my job or perform well on the job.

    As women we do have very secret lives and very few people we can share the secrets with. Teenagers who are angry. Parents we once admired for their strength and resilience and now they rely on us, unknowingly for the same.

    I have a 30 year old who is my only child, but often times challenges me like most Gen Y’s will with how much I should do for him both financially and emotionally because “the other parents are doing it for their children.” It hurts to say no. It hurts me financially to say yes.”

    I am a babyboomer with a business in a world where my gray and the few wrinkles I have around my eyes are seen as “not being able to understand the product or service I am selling.” I am also a black-woman in a world that “would like for me to slap a label on my products and services in order to identify my sex or ethnicity” I refuse to do so, because a man doesn’t have to market to a segment, but to “a market.”

    I’ve experienced lumps in my breast and with no one to tell or scream to but myself and Jesus Christ.

    You did a wonderful service to women every where Deb. I tip my hat to you and in am in awe of your inner beauty and humbled by your strength.

    Many respects, Cd

  28. Deb Schmidt-Rogers

    All – Just this minute, just this hour, just this day, just this year, just this life. We all live in moments and my last 48 hours have been mightily enriched by the support and love of friends and strangers alike. I am humbled that my post spoke to so many of you and I am bouyed by your understanding. Thank you.

  29. Deb, thank you for sharing. The line that “We all live our lives in perceptions – the ones we hope that others have of us, the ones that we have of others, of circumstances and incidents” made me think too about the perceptions we have of ourselves — “I am invincible,” “I can carry it all” — and perhaps those are the hardest perceptions to break free from, when we realize that they hold us back terribly from asking for help from those around us and from integrating our work and home lives in a way that allows us the support we need in and for both.

  30. Deb Boykin

    This is why members of ACUHO-I elected you to represent them on the Executive Board as the Inclusion and Equity Director.

  31. Happy Birthday Deb!

    I’m just now reading this post. Let me first say that I was the teenager that screamed at my mom that I hated her and I regret saying it now that I’m older. However, I have realized it was all part of our relationship building and now my mother and I are best friends. Teenagers tend to be short sided, I apologize in advance for your daughter because I was her and I know she will come around.
    Your post is everything I find beautiful in a human being. The ability to be transparent about the bad as well as the good is the only true route to healing and growth. What you’re going through is extraordinarily stressful and just a chapter in your book of life. Obviously you have a lot of support here but I pray you find rest and solace at home. May your Birthday be a wonderful day to reflect on how everything around you is making you stronger.
    Thanks for your post and for breaking the “traditional” role of faking everything is OK that women are taught, you are true trendsetter and role model.

  32. Wow Thanks for sharing! I thought I was the only one in student affairs with a secret life. Lately I have been learning it’s okay to be weak. I always felt like I had to be strong for those around me and to protect those I care about but I am learning that’s not my responsibility.

    Thanks for sharing. I am sure it took a lot of courage to share your heart with so many people.

  33. Kate Kinsella

    Deb, this is so true. Thank you for having the courage to share. As of late, I feel like I’m just on the edge, holding it together. Very few really know and I find it gets harder and harder to hide behind the armour.
    You’re right – we all have a secret life.

  34. Found your post after it was mentioned by Eric on his SALive show. Really glad that I did take the time to find it.

    Whenever I am going through a major struggle in my life or trying to make sense of something I don’t understand, I turn to others to validate my experience. It helps knowing I am not alone. While many of us posting can’t understand exactly what it is like to go through what you are managing right now, we can relate to pieces of your story. We know what it is like to feel helpless. We know what it is like to feel exhausted. We know what it is like to feel hidden. When someone has the strength to share her story, she helps all of us know we aren’t alone.

    I am always holding out hope that one day everything is just going to “click” and that I will not have to worry so much, or work so much, or struggle so much. Your story reminds me that it’s not that magical day I should be holding out for, but for a way to live with resilience by having a network of people to support you when things are tough.

    Thank you for sharing your story and to all of the women who posted above who strengthen our SA women community.

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