Keep on Fighting

July 7, 2012

in therapy in session

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?

 

{ 23 comments }

Ameena July 21, 2012 at 6:21 am

Love this. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. I can’t think of anything more isolating than being a mother. Especially when you find it damn near impossible and nobody else can understand or relate. Or at least they pretend not to.

You are a fabulous writer my friend. Especially love the witty “Now STFU and make me a sandwich.” I’ve been there.

Absence Alternatives July 22, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Awww thank you for the kind words… I like to think my blog posts are my mental puke… 🙂

Velva July 17, 2012 at 11:52 am

So this was the article that prompted your facebook status comment..which prompted me to think that you were pregnant…Forgive me.
Velva´s last blog post…Fresh Grilled Pineapple Crush Cocktail

Absence Alternatives July 22, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I will forgive you of course, but you need to come to Chicago again to buy me a drink. 😉

Because I am NOT pregnant. LOL.

BigLittleWolf July 12, 2012 at 8:15 am

Yeah, well… What we don’t know would fill an ocean, right? What no one tells another living in a dream world, because to do so would be shattering…

That myth of motherhood? The key word – myth. Then again, those of us who are mothers – can we really imagine life without our children?

Likely not.

As for the article on the Atlantic that you reference (and many others), I think the fact that Prof. Slaughter wrote it was very brave. She touches on compromise which we don’t like to talk about, women do too much of, but men compromise as well (and talk little of what they miss in terms of family life). Does that make it easier when you feel your own dreams siphoned off?

Hard to say.

(And I ranted on this for two days… http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2012/06/21/women-on-women-and-the-war-continues/ and the day after, taking up the “Feminist” charge, or trying to take it apart – a bit.)

There really is no “winning.” So maybe we should look for something else. A means to not lose quite so much…
BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…Wishing You Were Here

Absence Alternatives July 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm

You were on fire!!!

I am not going to say that I agree with Elizabeth Wurtzel. I admit though the phenomenon that feminism by now seems to mean everything and therefore nothing as long as a woman seemingly made the choice does bother me, a lot.

I can see both sides and I can argue from both sides. I have not been able to come to A “conclusion” yet. What you said though, that we are all in this together, is true.

Secret Agent Woman July 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Hey, being a mother IS somebody… okay, just kidding.

Yeah. I had my kids in my early thirties and let me tell you, that route is fraught with its own set of perils. Especially if you happen to find yourself divorced and older, but still with kid schedules to work around. You can, of course have a career and raise kids. I have. But it’s achingly hard and you probably get a double load of guilt for not eing fully invested in either. It’s hard. So hard.

Absence Alternatives July 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I often think of what you have accomplished and I could never figure out how you did it. A lot of strong will, definitely. 🙂

Secret Agent Woman July 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I think it had more to do with not feeling like I had any other options. But thank you.

Absence Alternatives July 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Like I love to say, “The absence of alternatives not only clears the mind marvelously it also forces us to accomplish many things we did not think we could.” 😉

p.s. You’re being too humble. imo. 🙂

Mother Chaos July 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

“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?”

And why do we drop all those “expected” on our kids in the first place? Why do we allow others to do it to us? Why don’t we look such a person in the eye and say something along the lines of, “Really none of your dang business, now, IS it?” – and MEAN it, and let that be an END to the whole thing?

But that isn’t how it works. Easy to say, not so easy to live up to when it’s YOUR OWN MOTHER giving you the hairy “why aren’t you more perfect, don’t you CARE about ANYTHING?!” eyeball. And of course, we worry about our children…we want them to have EVERYTHING and for them to have NO REGRETS and thus we start spackling the pressure on them until it’s four-feet deep and they can barely BREATHE.

Ugh, it’s such a load of horse poop. IMHO, what we SHOULD do is…our humble best. We should look for our own joy, and follow THAT – not chase our tails around and around and around trying to be what we “should” be per somebody ELSE’S vision.

I hope I’m making it clear to my own girls that what I “expect” from them is simple: Find and pursue what makes you happy, what makes you feel valuable, what makes you feel at the end of the day that it was a day well-spent. That’s it. (Now watch, they’ll go and pick up SOCIETIES expectations. GAH! I CAN’T WIN! I CAN’T WIIIIIIIIIIIIN!!!!!!!)

Absence Alternatives July 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Lol. I’m sorry. 🙂 I shouldn’t lol because this whole thing is frustrating as hell, but I love your comment.

On some days, indeed, I know we simply need to, and can, only do our best. On the others though I throw my hands up in the air… Saying ayo…

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/i-throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air-sometimes-saying-ayo

Dufmanno July 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

I used to always wonder, as I sat in a chair nursing a kid at 4 am, how in the hell I was ever going to claw my way back up to civilized living with the rest of the human race. Now that I’m here, looking like an unhinged lunatic, I’ve realized how many years just vanished into the vortex without my realizing it.
Some choices I made, I regret. But others I’m glad I went with. When I get to those crossroads (or IF I get there) I hope I’m a little better equipped to start down a new path than I was in my 20s or even my 30s.

Absence Alternatives July 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I’m honored to serve in the battalion of unhinged lunatics getting back our missing years from the vortex with you.

Alexandra July 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Wow.

How this makes me miss having a real person in my life to talk about these things with.

I’m glad I found you on the internet and your post here just left me feeling as if I just spend 2 worthwhile hours of my life with a very, very good friend.

xo

Absence Alternatives July 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm

The feeling is mutual. 🙂

Jill July 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I had my girls at 21 (not the brightest choice by a long shot, but it was the choice that I made). And for the longest time, I thought that was all I would do: make choices. Nurse or pump. Let them crawl for the stray Cheerio on the floor or pick it up. Stay home or work. Keep a child home sick or see how school went. And then they went off to college. I realized then, at the tender age of 40, that I could have it all . . . but just not at the same time. And I fear for them now because they’ve never grown up in an era in which they felt limited based on their gender. I’ve given up on the guilt trips because it never takes me any where fun . . . not even remotely.
Jill´s last blog post…Ballad of John and Yoko

Absence Alternatives July 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I actually have come to the realization that there are two ways of doing this that would probably make it easier: either having the kids when you are really young (which you did!) or when you are over 35. The former allows you to start pursuing your hopes and dreams when after they are independent (Think: LESS GUILT!) which you are doing right now! The latter allows you to shift your focus to your family once you have been established in whatever that is you do. Let’s all be honest: Sheryl Sandberg is able to leave at 5:30 pm every day because she is high up on the food chain. When you are in that position, you make your own rules.

Absence Alternatives July 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm

“I’ve given up on the guilt trips because it never takes me any where fun . . . not even remotely.”

hear hear!

I am trying!

Jill July 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm

It took me a good, long time to get over the guilt trip thing. And if future me would have told 21-year-old me that things would be fine, I’d ask if I developed some kind of drug habit.

Here’s to making our own rules . . . it’s high time we started doing it!
Jill´s last blog post…Ballad of John and Yoko

Absence Alternatives July 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Hear hear!!!

Elly Lou July 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

That first paragraph? Yeah. There’s a reason I’m not writing right now…ok two.
Elly Lou´s last blog post…This Week’s Tweets

Absence Alternatives July 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Ohhhh sweetie. {{{{{hugs}}}}} You are not alone and you are not the only one that feels this way. And yes it does get better. xxxxxoooooo

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