Even though I've suspected from a very young age that I have a mind that doesn't work quite the way a "normal" mind is supposed to, I still have the capacity to be surprised when others don't share my opinion. I guess I'm just that naive. I can't understand why anyone would hate another person because of the color of their skin, or how someone could fail to see the innate beauty in an egg fresh from the bidness end of your very own chicken or how anyone misses the fact that there is almost nothing in this world so breathtaking as a half naked child covered in dirt, grubbing away in the garden alongside you. I just think you should all know that I think you think the way I do and I am shocked beyond belief when you just. don't.
I've worked in transportation for a very long time. And I've always worked. I had a period of about two weeks in 1998 when I was unemployed, prior to that my longest time frame between jobs was 6 days. There are two threads of thought interwoven into these sentences. One: I have throughout my career worked mostly around really crass, un-PC and mostly chauvinistic men who probably believe that women belong at home, and for my entire career I have worked my ass off to be respected by those men. Part of my current job today is to make decisions about which trucking companies my company uses to ship product. Don't think for a minute that I don't experience a little shiver of joy every time a trucking company salesperson comes to see if they can get my business, because 99% of these salespeople are men. I enjoy very much that they need to earn MY respect in order to be considered, and I like watching their faces when they realize that they are dealing with a woman who is smart, knows her business, and has the temerity to be balls-out blunt when the situation requires.
Two: I've always held a job. I've never stayed home with my children. I've never had that particular option. I think in the biggest part that it is due to my own choices in life, some of them not so great, many of them selfish, some of them largely inescapable. I've always been the breadwinner, even when I was married. At some point in time him not working might have been an option, but me not working was never on the table.
I have to admit, though, that when it came right down to it, I don't think I have the ovaries to be a SAHM. At least when they were little - we lived in suburban New Jersey. All I would have had to keep my brain from wilting would have been a baby and my house. Possibly my internet connection would have kept me sane, but that's questionable. I just don't know that I would have chosen to stay at home, even if I could have. Nowadays, possibly. I have a fair bit more to take care of than just the house - I could take a three week vacation and do nothing but repair fence & irrigation, catch up on eleventy billion chores, and for ONCE spend time working my horses more than one lousy day a week. There would be ever so much to do - and I would love it.
Its not that my world doesn't revolve around my children. I believe to my core that raising them is one of the most important things I will ever accomplish in this world, and that the price of failing at that task is higher than I can pay. When I'm not with them I think about them. I have their pictures and their artwork all over my office so that any direction I look, there they are. When they are at J's house for the night and I think about going home to a house without them there, my heart turns over solidly in my chest and I get that sort of hollow sick feeling you get when you know something's not right. I may not have been born to be a mother, but a mother was born right along with my daughter.
I have a liberal arts degree - a bachelor's degree in English, to be precise. Or rather, imprecise, as I honestly believe there's almost nothing more useless in this universe than an English degree. My liberal arts education did little to prepare me for a career in anything. College itself provided me with an endless education in athletics and interpersonal relationships, the fine art of beer-bonging without spilling it on your sorority initiation dress and how to set a formal table. There are, beyond those precious and banal skills, a few things that to this day make their impression known.
I had a roommate my freshman year, Becky. Becky was the first girl I'd ever heard use the word "masturbate" out loud in front of people. Becky encouraged me to take some of my general credits in the Women's Studies department. I ended up with about three semesters worth of women's studies, grounding myself for a lifelong interest in women's rights and women's welfare. I loved my TA in my Introduction to Women's Studies. She was out and proud, smart, engaging, challenging. She was first openly gay woman I had ever met, and she set cornerstone in the foundation of my viewpoint. From her I learned to see queerness not just as a societal and cultural issue, but as a women's issue. It was there, in that class, that I began to consider and question what it truly means to be a feminist.
As a young college student, feminism to me meant the right to be different. To be respected. Wage equality. To be safe from violence. To have a voice.
And then I got older. I had friends get married, become mothers. I married, divorced, married again. I became a mother. I advanced in my career, not to stellar heights, of course, but to higher levels of responsibility and respect. And throughout that process, my views on feminism advanced as well.
In many respects, feminism to me is still first and foremost about respect, about freedom from violence and ignorance, about equality in the workplace. But its about a hell of a lot more than that.
Its about choice. Its about all of us or NONE of us. It means that I have to be glad to see the biggest crop of women running for higher office than we've ever had in the history of this country, even if most of them are diametrically opposed to my politics. It means that I support a woman's decision to be a stay at home mom just as much as I support a woman's decision to pursue a career. Really being a feminist means that I want all women to have real choices in life, choices to be or not be a parent, to get as much of as an education as we want to have, to have safe and adequate medical care, to be respected in our choice of religion. To live our lives with dignity, no matter how we choose to live them. To
One of the things that disturbs me most is when I see women tearing down other women's choices. Moms fighting over whether you should stay at home or work. WOHM's who think SAHM's are somehow less smart and missing something; SAHM's who think WOHM's are letting other people raise their children (an assertion with which I most heartily disagree). Women bloggers who think "mommybloggers" are sellouts; High-revenue bloggers who think bloggers with low readership and no ad revenue are stupid; Moms who have the time, money and ability to cook everything from scratch who judge moms who work too many hours a week and don't.
I'm left wondering where all of this gets us, as women, as mothers. Am I better if I tell everybody I'm better than you because I have *this* job or *this* value? Am I better if I insist you're not as good as I am?
I have this thought about what it means to be a woman, a mother, a feminist. And that thought is that we either ALL benefit or none of us do. That to me part of being a feminist is fighting for the right of women not to be torn down by other women. That a bigger part of it is for women, ultimately, to really have it all -- "all" being whatever it is they hope, dream, aspire to. For one it is to be rich and famous. For another it is to be president. For another, to raise her children and to keep her house beautiful, care for her husband. For another, to have the right to marry her partner and not be discriminated against because she's gay. Ultimately, we all share something that regardless of color, culture or social status puts us in the same room. Yes, a vagina. More or less. ( I had to say that, it was getting too serious in here )
Very seriously, though, I was reading a blog by a SAHM today, and for a moment I started to feel vaguely guilty, and left out - as if she was part of some exclusive club that thinks I'm less of a mother because I work. And then I realized that NOTHING SHE SAID even vaguely intimated that she had a negative opinion of WOH Moms - she simply had a positive opinion about SAH moms. I realized the negativity I was reading into her words really came from inside ME. I understood at that moment that a great deal of the enmity with which we treat other women actually comes from within ourselves, from our own guilt and shame over all the things we are NOT because we aren't taught to value and celebrate all the things that we ARE.
Today, I AM a mother. I am a career woman. I'm proud of myself and I'm doing the very best job I know how to do, for my employer, for my children, for myself. And that has to be enough.