Tania's Words

here is an empty shell- a resonant shadow- waiting

Archive for February, 2009

Being a feminist stay at home mom.

What the heck? It’s been like, a million years since I last posted.

I feel like I’ve been extra busy recently. Busy with what? I’m not really sure. I’ve found that lately I feel very busy, but at the end of the day I am not sure I have anything to show for my alleged busyness. If that is even a word. Maybe that is just what being a stay at home mom is about.  Or maybe I am just lazy. A little of both?

I do know that lately, I have been trying to really learn the art of balancing baby care with home care. I’ve never pretended to be the neatest or most organized of people. It bothers me when my home is a wreck, but that doesn’t always mean I’ll get off of my bum to clean it. Especially with my husband’s new work hours- I find that I am alone with the baby during his crankiest part of the day  which leads me to feel utterly wrung out by the time he’s gone to bed. Ideally this time would be when I clean the house, do laundry, cook food for myself. Instead I find myself mindlessly watching TV, surfing the net, and reading horrible romance novels. Eating an entire bag of baby carrots instead of making myself a real meal.  It is hard not to beat myself up over this because I feel lazy. My other mom friends say that I shouldn’t but I don’t know. I feel all this crazy pressure to be the perfect stay at home wife. House clean, baby happy, laundry done, husband taken care of. Is this just my internal insanity? Is this something I picked up from the big bad world?  Do other SAHM’s feel this way?  I try to tell myself that I am doing the best I can and to just try and do better the next day, but every time Dan comes home from work and something isn’t picked up, or something is messy, I feel like a total failure. Not because of him, but because I feel like the least I can do when he works all day is to greet him with a nice home.  And saying that makes me feel like I’ve taken a trip to the 1950’s.

Is that wrong? I am a part of that generation of women who grew up expecting to reap the benefits of all the hard work and struggle that women before me went through.   With the idea that being a SAHM , or wanting to be, was just buying into old, outdated gender roles.  Perhaps not all women my age were raised this way, so I’d hate to speak for all women, but I find myself struggling with the inured idea that staying at home is some how failing. That by wanting to keep a nice home and please my husband because I love and appreciate him, I am buying into every negative gender role I was taught to fight against.  I distinctly remember in high school my best friend Maura being attacked for this very reason. All she ever wanted was to be a mother, and to stay home with her children. At our school, this was so frowned upon- everyone, from friends, to teachers, to parents tried to convince her that she was worth more than that, that she could do better. That she was wasting her intelligence and gifts by only wanting to be a mother.

Nowadays, that strikes me as terribly sad. I think that a lot of women my age got caught up in this idea- that women had fought so hard for the right to an identity outside of the home and motherhood, that to buy into it was letting down all of our “sisters” out there.

And I disagree. For me, being a feminist means that I believe women, like men, should have a choice to live their lives the way that they want to. Intellectually, I strongly believe that a woman should have the right to chose if she wants to work , or when, or how.  And I know that staying at home is the best thing for my family, and the right decision. But it is hard to shake off the idea that I am failing all the other women out there who fought for me to have the right to be educated and work.  Which is terribly sad. I don’t think that there is a more important job in the world than being a parent. And it isn’t easy.  It is ridiculously rewarding, but a tough , tough job.

That said, I have to add a caveat. I don’t believe that all women should be mothers. I don’t think that my identity as a woman and as a mother need to be mutually exclusive. I think that there is no real wrong. If a woman chooses not to have children, or chooses to have then and to work, or chooses to stay at home- I don’t think any of it is wrong or right. It is what is right for you, and your family. And I think that that is the best gift feminism has given women. The right to chose what is best for them and their families, rather than having to conform to an idea that really only fit some.