I’ve been noticing over the past several months that the helping profession is disproportionately filled with women. If I thought about it at all, I figured that it was connected with our socialization as nurturers—and that it was probably also spurred by the low pay/hard work equation which keeps women trapped as sub-par wage earners, despite our often heading single-income households.
I recently attended a training on motivational interviewing (where there were 13 women and two men), and my fellow students voiced my own tendency to want to FIX IT. (This in MI is bad.) I joked that MI was going to be a hard sell, because everybody in that room got there because they were fixers. On the job, we’re so often—possibly even usually—faced with a crisis, small or large, that demands immediate action: fixing.
However, this very morning I was given a small—a very small—crisis, and instead of getting all Socratic with my recoveree as I should probably have done, I . . . fixed it. And then after a few moments, I had to stop myself from further inserting myself into my recoveree’s issues. “Stop being a mommy,” I scolded myself. And then it hit me: Women—fixers—helping professionals—mommies.
How many of us still carry things like emergency bandaids?
In fact, I suspect that helping profess—ah, hell, call us what we are: fixers. I suspect that fixers are in a way uber-Moms, regardless of our gender. We’re the people other moms call for a consult, or would if we were better able to listen and less willing to roll up our sleeves with a savage grin and fix the hell out of the thing. This is obviously a social problem, which is counter-productive to our own self-care. Fixers (and for this I mean women) are probably short on friends of the galpal, chillaxing with the homeys variety. And that can only add to our stress, which ironically makes us poorer at what we do.
It’s all very well to tell us to listen more than we speak. That just makes most of us give ourselves a smug little pat on the back, because we do listen—it’s just that at the end we tend to give out a well-reasoned solution to the issue. Fixed! Check! Pleased to be of service, ma’am!
I’ve gotten to the point of keeping silence because once you take my fixing away, I don’t know what to say half the time. I just crack out one of my large supply of listening noises (got ‘em for every occasion) and hope my conversational partner will comply by continuing her flow of words. I’m glad to be learning techniques for what can be thought of as stealth fixing fu: I need them for me.