Motherhood in the beginning is sickeningly isolating, especially if La Leche League gets their hold on your conscience. Your partner may be super duper awesome and really do the concept of 50/50 co-parenting justice. BUT. When you are up at night alone (because someone has to get up to go to work so you can pay for the diapers and shit) with a crying baby that simply will not go to sleep without putting up a fierce fight, yeah, it really sucks. You (ok, I) feel so helpless, abandoned even. Day after day. Night after night. Waiting for that tyrant who took over your existence to relent and show you some mercy.
I don’t think I’ve ever properly recovered from that trauma of isolation and abandonment. And I believe this psychological scar greatly contributes to my loss of faith in the myth of motherhood and my subsequent cynicism. Paying lip service to what a great sacrifice it is to be a mother is the society’s way of keeping our mouths shut: Yes you are all awesome superwomen. Without you, the civilization will end. Now STFU and make me a sandwich. Nobody in power (yes, balding white male I am talking about you) gives a shit about making it easier for women who maybe want to be mothers and something more.
By now you probably have heard of /read the article on The Atlantic penned by Anne Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All: The Myth of Work-Life Balance”. Dr. Slaughter is a professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. She served as Director of Policy Planning under Hilary Clinton from 2009 to 2011. Eventually she did quit the high-demanding job that frequently kept her away from her children, a fact that spurred the authoring of this article.
The premise of this article that has been shared and re-shared, lauded, debated, and of course, critiqued, thousands of times could be summed up in this:
Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating “you can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.
I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged—and quickly changed.
Although the article does not end in a despairing note, the hope it provides, the solutions suggested — necessary changes in policies, laws, representations, and cultures, simply seems too far to be within imaginable reach. Nevertheless, I actually felt relieved after I read this, that I have not simply been a whiner, or been less fortunate in terms of my choice of a spouse, or timed having children incorrectly, or not been committed enough. It is also good to know that “wanting to have it all” has been grossly exaggerated into “becoming a super human”
I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).
When in fact all we are asking for is to NOT to have to make compromises that our male counterparts in marriage/relationship (i.e. fathers of our children) are less likely to be asked to make, and when they do make those compromises, are less likely to be judged or criticized for it.
I have no wisdom to part with nor intelligent comments on the debate that has been raging on somewhere out there.
One minute I am all Let’s take over the world mother-f-ers. The next minute I wish I had never got into my head to be somebody when I grew up. [Please don’t leave angry comments about how being a mother IS somebody. You know that’s not what I meant. Take your mommy war and agenda somewhere else please.]
Why do we tell our girls to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, mathematicians, that they can be all that they want to be, if in the end, should they get married, they are expected to bear children, and should they become mothers, they are expected to become perfect mothers?
There are regrets that I would never dare to have, What-if questions that I would never dare to ask. If I get to stand at the crossroads of life, which would I choose, hypothetically? And which hypothetical answers will hurt whom and how much?