Mixed Messages – dVerse

once, they said we could have it all –
the partner, the career, the children
we could be superwomen all day long
immaculate, capable, professional
the mother, the lover, the corporate boss
all superlatively and effortlessly achieved
the house, the car, the long-haul holidays
yes, once, they said, we could have it all

and then, and then
we were vilified for wanting a career, and
for wanting to leave our babies at nurseries, and
for making someone else prepare the dinner, and
we were penalised at work, we were penalised at home
whatever we did – we were wrong
the back-slapping testosterone board-room, boar-boorish doors were closed
the mothers at the school-gates-club
raised their collective eyebrows at parents’ evenings
as the strange apparition of the ‘career woman’ made her appearance

and then, and then
the childless, the husband(or wife)less
were dragged through the biting, back-biting, tight-lippedness
un-natural, bitch-in-the-boardroom, frigid, husk treatment
damned if you do what they want
damned if you don’t
damned every which way but young, blond, legs-up-to-here and easy to please
we are our own worst enemies, and
we listen too much to the media, and
to the politicians (who listen too much to the media)
we listen too much to our inner bitch voice
you know the one, the friend who nobody wants
can we turn her off?
only if we work harder than was ever expected
of the mother-lover-corporate boss –
only if.

Mixed Messages


It’s that time of the month, the last Saturday, where us poets can leave whatever type of poetry we like at the dVerse bar – yes, it’s Open Link Night! Tonight, Mary is our congenial barkeep – her first time on OLN, so be kind, don’t wave money in her face to get her attention or reel off a long list of drinks. All in good time!

This piece of mine was something I was working on for submission to an anthology, but I decided to go with something else instead which was more fitting. I only half-finished this poem, so this has been buffed up a bit and chopped around. As is common with my work right now, it’s a little political! I obviously have issues I need to get off my chest.

Please pop over to dVerse to see what varigated delights await you. No two poems will be the same, that’s for sure. Happy reading, all.



59 thoughts on “Mixed Messages – dVerse

  1. smiles…do you think this puts the control outside the woman? that everything that happens to her is party to someone else? sorry, that is probably not a popular stance…i am all for equality…some of my best bosses have been women, matter of fact all of my best bosses have been…but it all comes with a trade off…its why i got out of the corporate world, because it ate into the lover/father side…regardless gender there is trade offs…ultimately we have to make those decisions ourselves and live with them…regardless what the media or politicians or anyone else says…

    1. Oh yes, I agree, we each have the power to make our own decisions. And I also agree and accept that men who are fathers and husbands and partners also have to make trade-offs and too. We all do. But I’m not a man, so I wrote as a woman. Not trying to say ‘poor women’ either – more that we are our own worst enemies, really. Sorry if that didn’t come across, and if I’ve annoyed you. It wasn’t the intention.

      1. just read your comment, and no you dont annoy me…ha….far from it…i think we have to challenge each others thoughts at times…i would agree that we as a people can be our own worst enemy, wanting one thing and going after it without thinking about those trade offs til it is out of hand….

  2. you know… our president in germany is a woman – and i think she’s the best president we ever had but no one can really have it all – neither men nor women – if you’re up for a career – it will cost you something – no matter if male or female

      1. I only meant to give you constructive criticism. Why is that when you try to help someone with your own insight they take it has a personal attack. It is the thing I dislike about the wwhole buddyt-buddy system at work in dVerse. Everyone talks about input but no one really wants it. Per haps if you are not looking to improve–even if I am wrong you shouldn’t ask for criticism which is part of the credo of this organization. From now on I am going to be kind and constructive but say what I think I feel about a personm’s endeavor and how it may be mde stronger. You said once you wanted to become a better writer than you felt you were. IUn my opinion your statement that you made in reply to my message is taking a step backwards. So be it. I won’t say anything from now on except what a lovelyu poem if that will make you feel good.>KB

      2. I was being serious – maybe I shouldn’t have posted the poem. I would really like to know how I could turn it around, as I do respect your work, your opinion and your experience. I’m sorry if it came across differently. I didn’t take it as a personal attack, truly. Someone else also thought I hadn’t written so well this time, so I would like to learn how to approach this better.

      3. Freya, just look at the poem line by line. Every where you tell someting about a thought, situation, or idea, think of substituting the telling with an image. You will have to stand back and look at the poem as a whole at first but then start at the beginning, you will see where as you change things others will no longer firt and you will have to stretch yourself to fix that in using other language. You must stop being so self-concious about ‘writing a poem’. That is the root of the problem. Let imagination help. >KB

      4. Thank you, KB. Yes, I see what you mean. I think I might put this to one side for a bit, get some distance, and then come back to it. And remember your guidance for future work.

  3. I think that women have been typecasted in a few roles that everyone finds easy to understand.. a man is just himself— no matter his choices.. I see a lot of this still.. everyone should make their own choices.. but still one (men and women) has to make their prioritizes … to have everything is only possible to a few selected men…

    1. Yes, I think typecasting has been the problem for many, whether they are men or women. Obviously I can only write from a female perspective, and one of my own age. I find it hard to understand where my sisters are for example, as they are over a decade younger than me. I agree, everyone should make their own choices. Sometimes, it is hard to unmake them if you are financially entangled though…

  4. Yes, sometimes it does seem that women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. But then again there are people who appreciate everyone for who they are, and women (or men) aren’t all cut out of the same mold. I guess as humans we just have to stand up to those who might criticize us & live our lives proudly. I do agree that often we are our own worst enemies. And media…yes, we have to stop paying attention indeed.

    1. Yes, living our lives proudly – that’s the key. It can be difficult for anyone (man or woman) to do so if you are exposed to constant statements about how you ‘should’ be, look, behave and so on. I try to treat everyone fairly – but maybe I don’t, who knows?

  5. Your poem reflects different negative statements we have been hearing lately. I guess this is what they call ‘backlash’. I have found however that younger dads expect their daughters to have ambition and do well in all fields. It seems they’d hate them to give up whatever they are good at to marry and raise kids. Maybe there is hope and older women and ourselves were just paving the way for the younger generation.

    1. I have read somewhere that our generation is the one that has experienced more firsts than many! I am glad that younger women are receiving more encouragement from their fathers.

  6. Oh I so hear you – trying to be – and expected to be – everything to everybody, we seem to fall short in every area. Yet we soldier on! Well expressed………..I know a lot of exhausted hard working women will relate to this poem.

    1. And a lot of men in the same position. One of my colleagues is a new-ish first-time dad, and he has been through some tough times. I think we really are our own worst enemies sometimes though…

  7. The hypocrisy that you portray is paramount, not only for women but men as well. Everyone is expected to conform to gender stereotypes by the society but times are changing. Interesting and thoughtful writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I have worked all my life and still do, so I know the sentiments of being a career woman ~ There are definitely trade offs but it depends on you and your partner ~ My hubby does household chores (because I tell him so) and in our company, women are very much respected too ~ We can be our worse enemy & critics, I agree ~

    1. Oh yes, it does depend on your ability to negotiate your path both at work and at home. I think the key is respect, and also, perhaps, trying to put yourself in another person’s shoes, when you can.

  9. we were penalised at work, we were penalised at home
    whatever we did โ€“ we were wrong

    A career women’s dilemma! Very real and very well expressed. The natural animosity for those who break traditions have to face. The sad thing is that objections are also in the home. Great observations Freya!


  10. I enjoyed your poem as always, not that I’m an expert, but my opinion is still valid.

    Saddened by K.A.Brace’s tantrum, but then I’ve always thought “constructive criticism” should be delivered in a non-aggressive way. I guess he/she was having a bad day!

    Never apologise for your writing Freya, and certainly not to someone who clearly has an axe to grind about dVerse in general and has chosen to take his/her issues out on you for some reason.

  11. I was reading a book once, and turned the page and there it was – a matter of fact statement that many have that negative inner voice, and one solution is to dialog with it – ( silently, or alone of course ) – if only I had known that years ago.

    1. I didn’t know about the ways of coping with that inner voice until not so long ago. It would have helped me to be able to deafen myself to it considerably earlier in my life, I think.

  12. Ahh..the complications of culture..
    And we are so advanced..
    the primitive ones
    live in pleasure..
    i wonder not..
    for this..
    being in this place2..
    but not now…
    as man..not
    too bad we can’t reTIRE first
    and then live..
    instead of at
    last…but last is enough for me

  13. The way you have written this…you have somehow managed to use words in a form/way that contribute to the tone and to the overwhelming frustration or harried feelings that can result from so many mixed messages. Excellent post.

    1. I think it is pretty much stream of consciousness writing, in a way that I can imagine letting off steam to anyone who might listen in a coffee shop, or in a poetry slam perhaps. I like to try different forms (or formless forms) of poetry and see what works, and what doesn’t. Thank you, CC.

  14. All these politically correct responses about it being just as hard for men as for women in the career circus is codswallop. It is much more difficult for women. We are still not men although pressure to be so is ceaseless.It is all very well quoting the few success stories but the greater majority of women carry the load of children work and the home (statistics)

    Women are still not treated equally , the sisterhood is dead and if it were ever alive is a moot point. Men help each other with getting jobs making connections etc…women are competetive and do not help each other career wise generally speaking. I thought you raised a very important issue and one which bothers me a lot. Men are taken more seriously than women. If you want proof open up a blog as a guy. A friend of mine did to prove a point to her intractable ( am I allowed to be vulgar)..dickhead husband.The notable difference in deferential responses was resounding by men and especially the women. I have been dying to air my views on this topic so thank you Freya for the opportunity.

    1. Thank you, Rallentanda. I took a risk in writing this. I have been somewhat scared of my own vehemence of late, and also frustrated at my timidity in airing it. Life is damned confusing these days and if you work in business (which I do), no matter how benign the environment might be (which mine is) it is still very hard to be treated in a ‘traditional’ way and not feel frustrated. And then not feel irritated with yourself for letting the status quo continue… The fact is, gender creates inequalities. It always has. Will it continue? I hope not.
      The example you gave about the blog was telling indeed. In the world of writing there is still the idea that if you publish under a male pseudonym, or one that is not obviously female, you will reach a wider audience and command better fees. The Bronte sisters had that sussed all that time ago…
      Thank you, Rallentanda for your comments and for saying how you feel. Vulgarity is fine ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Fantastic, Freya! Yes, you’ve said it how it really is. Often our worst detractors are other women – so much for The Sisterhood, huh? I went through all those issues, then thought bugger it – it’s My life, I’m going to live it how I want. I hope young women read your poem, & wrest back control. And stop trying to control others who are trying to do the same. -Vivienne, of OneVoicePoetry

    1. Thank you, Viv. Yes, we are often our own worst enemies. I would be very pleased if someone younger did read and take away the message I was trying to put across.

  16. Well, it is difficult to have it all as there will always be some sort of sacrifice at home or at work. Part of the problem is time. Your poem gave the readers something to ponder.

  17. Freya..that’s a beautiful poem..one has to accept and love oneself first… we can forget about what the whole world thinks about us..

    1. I don’t know – we can never fully put ourselves in others’ shoes, can we? It takes work to empathise – we seem to be lacking that more and more these days.

  18. Mixed messages indeed…and now, if a woman chooses to stay at home, she is looked at funny. I wonder how long it will be before people can all be what they wish to be?

    1. Some day soon, I hope! Wouldn’t that be a wondrous thing? We have much in common, we humans, and yet we focus on the differences and see them as negatives… Such a shame.

  19. I like the idea of writing poetry as a stream of consciousness – it gives it an immediacy and rawness. Your poetic voice comes across as authentic and honest. It is such a complicated world and women are expected to do and be so many things – but as you say – we are dammed if we do, dammed if you don’t. I think the essential problem is that we are all still living by the rules of patriarchy. True equality would value women for their feminine qualities not for their ability to act like men.

    1. Thank you, Suzanne. It does also add a bit of an ‘unfinished’ quality, which I do like (in the appropriate circumstances) – sometimes if I spend to much time finessing, it removes the immediacy and the tone that I wanted to achieve. I agree with your analysis of equality….

  20. my grandmother worked her whole life in restaurants; my mom her whole life in social service. the treatment of women is hostile, demeaning, and hopefully, eventually, correctable. a strong pen ~

    1. In certain circumstances, yes, the treatment is hostile. There is still an expectation in some quarters (I think) that we should work in the service industry, or as nurses, social workers, but nothing more.

  21. Difficult world we live in Freya and I agree that we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
    I must admit, that as a teenager, my dream was to marry and have kids, and for a while, as my dream came true, I was satisfied with that.
    As my children grew older, I realised I was beginning to vegetate, my epiphany being when thinking: Yes, Ajax does make my bath cleaner.
    And I was mortified with myself!
    So out into the big wide world I went and couldn’t be happier. I became alive again.
    That said, I do realise the menfolk don’t have life choices either – they are expected to work. Maybe, they don’t want to…
    Anna :o]

    1. I imagined myself in that married with kids scenario for a while, but not for long. I had a bit of a different upbringing in that regard – to be honest, I’ve mostly felt like a square peg in a round hole all of my life! I love the way you described your epiphany, and I’m glad you are happy now ๐Ÿ™‚
      Yes, men do not have all things their way either… do any of us?

  22. Hear Hear! Goodness I remember this feeling – and so well articulated – tryin’ to hold all that come hither, Mother Mary and ROI in one body! ๐Ÿ™‚

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