Friday, November 7, 2008

The Right to Choose

Ahhh I bet you thought I was going to get all political on you. Well, I am, but not about what you think.

Since I've had kids (almost 4 years *sob*) I have had a HUGE perspective change on feminism. Growing up, I was under the impression that I could grow up to be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do. This right was given to me by the generations before me who fought for equality for women.

For all of my middle school years my mother was going to grad school in the evenings for her Master's of Education. Now that I am a mother of two I realize how insane that must have been for her. Additionally, my father was traveling 3-4 nights out of the week for work at that time. Does this situation sound appealing to any of your mothers out there? I doubt it.

I clearly remember the sound and smell of her tan typewriter in the kitchen. I remember hesitantly touching a key and the huge noise it made as it punched the paper. It felt so powerful to type. But mainly I remember hearing that typewriting click clacking after I was put to bed for the night. So after a day of taking care of our home, her church responsibilities, and me and my sister, my mother then went to work on essays and papers.

I'm sure that somewhere down the line my mother influenced my idea that I could do whatever I wanted professional regardless of whether or not I had a family. But to be honest, I have no recollection of my mother ever telling me these things. She was (and is) by no means someone I would label "a feminist". There were no rallys or marches for us. We did not have NOW signs in our yard. But her actions probably reinforced what I was being taught in school - girls could do the same thing as boys.

So when I had Lily in December 2004 I took a small maternity leave and then headed back to work. While before I had her I was working 50-ish hour weeks I toned it down to 40 hours while my mother watched her.

This worked out well for about 5 months. Then she kinda woke up from her sleep-all-the-time-infancy stage and became a very addictive little baby. It was at that point that I could not understand why I physically, mentally, and emotionally could not handle working that much. I was easily distracted, forgetting things, and even (gasp) getting disorganized. I found myself staying up later and later to try to get "everything" done.

And then I lost it. I did not want my mother to watch Lily, I wanted to watch Lily. She was my baby and I was her mother and work was getting in the way of what my gut told me to do. Luckily, I was able to distribute some work to others, convince myself that the company didn't need me to survive (that's still up for debate), and reduced my hours. And that made things better.

It was around that point that I slowly began to understand what the feminist movement impacted me negatively and positively.

I had no idea that I couldn't do everything. Wasn't that what I was told in school? Why couldn't I excel at work and be the perfect mother? Why could I not keep my house organized and my voice mails kept piling up? Why couldn't I physically, mentally, and emotionally handle everything like they said I could?

BUT WAIT. They never said that.

Feminism only gave me the CHOICE to do these things. That idea was like a slap in the face. Maybe this was apparent to lots of other women out there, but I was in the dark about it. I felt incredibly deceived and broken. What was I going to do? This revelation put me in a weird spot for a few weeks until I realized that this was actually a wonderful thing.

I was going to accept it. And that, actually, didn't take that long at all. I was relieved to finally understand my place. If it weren't for the feminist movement I never would have had the choice to work or stay at home. While I chose motherhood to become my career, other woman could chose not to. Like my friend Natalie. Or Oprah.

It actually has become a slight soapbox for me and if I find anyone who is interested in talking to me about it, they become my best friend...whether they want to or not.

The most recent example of this was at Reagan's wedding last weekend. I have know Rena for probably 12 years but only through Reagan and I can't even remember having a conversation with her without Reagan being present. Rena is pregnant with her second daughter. At the reception I had a brief conversation with Rena about motherhood, intelligence, and societies perception of that combination.

Rena is one of the lucky ones that gets to stay at home with her kids. Isn't it odd how this is now looked upon as a good thing? Two decades a go it was almost looked down upon to be a stay at home mom. Unfortunately I believe that ideology has led us to a place, as a society, where it is almost impossible to have a stay at home mom. It is heartbreaking to hear my friends who are mothers wish they could quit work and stay at home with their kids. But they can't afford to do that.

Now we can discuss the definition of "afford" to the enth degree but let's just leave it at that.

Rena was saying how she loved staying home with Helena but if she happened to be in a conversation circle that turned to professional talk, she was ignored or disregarded. When she was once looked to for professional advice and guidance she was now indirectly told that she no longer belonged to that group because she was a stay at home mom now. In effect, she said, they were indicating that she wasn't intelligent as she once was.

What is that about??!!? Maybe it's a southern thing. Or she chose the wrong people to talk to. Either way it comes down to the fact that women now have the right to choose motherhood, career, or a combination of both. And whatever choice we make shouldn't impact societies' perception of what our brains can do.

On a side note - another negative that (I believe) feminism has brought upon us is the degradation of males. Wanna know why it's hard to find a good, strong, male leader? One of the major contributors to that small selection is feminism. (other factors include loss of close communities, absent male parental figures, lack of rights of passage, and less commitment to the Church). True feminism is about equality - not that boys and girls need to be raised alike and not that one is better than the other.

I am incredibly blessed to be able to work part time and stay at home with my kids the rest of the time. If I could stay at home full time I'd do it in a minute. I know in the deepest part of me that being a mother to Lily and Jamison is what I was born to do. If I feel any career pull it is to make sure that my kids are raised to be faithful Christians, polite, respectful, healthy, and can contribute to society (basically not live off the state) . The rest is peripheral, in my opinion.

Thank you mom - and all those crazy feminists who fought for me to have the right to choose!


Kristen said...

What? No pictures? :)

24crayons said...

Okay so, I'm totally blog rolling you because I think you're great.

Also, I'm a lucky one too, but now that they're both in school I'm a little stir crazy.

... like what I'm supposed to clean or something? psssha

Tammie's Thoughts said...

You are blessed to be able to stay home with your kids. And I don't know why they call us stay-at-home moms....I was never home when my kids were growing up between being room mother and car pool driver and field trip driver and school mom volunteer and PTA worker but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in the world!

It was great to see you at Reagan's wedding! You look great.