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working while female

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?

 

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Shield

May 3, 2012

in random

Someone asked me today, quite bluntly but I appreciate her directness – she started our conversation with this question, “Are you happy in your marriage?”, whether I get hit on a lot when I travel.

Have you hung out at the hotel bar? Airport lounge? And nobody ever hit on you?

Frequently. All the time. Never.

Let’s assume that I’m totally hit-worthy. I believe the reason why I’m never hit on is because I always seem like such a regular at the bar, and I enjoy talking to old bar tenders very much.

image

I’m at the airport now. My waitress told me that I’m waiting for “someone” because she’s not supposed to bring me two drinks at once.

Another reason why I’m never hit on could be that I just took a picture of my drinks, and I laughed out loud at some posts on Facebook.

Alcohol consumption + Crazy friends on Facebook = Preservers of marriage sanctity. Who knew?

By the way, I think I may be playing my role of an uptight, reserved worker bee too well? I don’t understand why some people at work are so confused after seeing the two Vodka Lin. They’re convinced that I was drunk and needed to be reined in. Really, honey? You’ve never met people who behave differently at work and outside of work?

How do I convince them that what they are witnessing is the real me in all its glory?

Ok. Maybe I do get a bit self-grandiose after a couple of drinks… But maybe that’s just me, coming out of my insecure crab shell?

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Dear Blog,

I am very sorry for ignoring you for so long. I have not logged in for at least three days. I am so happy that you are still here.

Let’s see… It is 1:40 am right now. I am sad to say that I can at most spend 15 minutes with you. A quickie. And I will not even be able to cuddle afterwards.

My flight back home was delayed tonight so I did not arrive home until after 11 pm. I remembered this time to curb my urge to immediately pick up the house as soon as I stepped inside. I had a great conversation with The Husband about wine and wine glasses. Then I strayed: I thought, “Let me check work email for just one second.” You know how that turned out…

The Husband went to bed on his own. So I started feeling guilty. I did go upstairs to check on him and when he sounded really sleepy, I’ll be honest with you, I was relieved because I did not have to feel guilty about neglecting him. I mean, the man is tired anyway. I am actually being a nice wife for letting him sleep, right?

I rubbed his back for 3 seconds and he purred. That’s more affection than I have shown him most of the time. So, yeah, no guilt on that front.

I proceeded to pick up the bedroom and dragged the laundry downstairs because it would just be as easy as throwing stuff into the washer. It would be quick and easy so why not do it now rather than this weekend.

Turned out the amount of laundry will take about three loads…

I am now mentally calculating how much time it would take for me to clean up downstairs, put the clean dishes away (thanks to my trusted babysitter who comes every day after school), and do the dishes. I would like to get to bed at a reasonable hour, well, as reasonable as it could be considering it is now 1:50 am. I have to catch the 7:20 am train tomorrow to be in the office for a 9 am meeting with Da Boss.

So… why do I feel compelled to clean up the house NOW?

Why do I feel I would be a failure if I leave a messy house behind and go off to work tomorrow morning?

Why do  I feel so guilty about traveling for work, and now that I am home, about not being here to maintain the household?

 

I cannot form a cohesive thought right now so I am going to quote some passages from this article, The Bad Mother Complex that I came across around Mother’s Day. I have been thinking about it a lot, actually, ever since I became a mother.

The guilt had nothing to do with women’s actual ability to navigate competing obligations at work and at home; on the contrary, the study found that logistically, women were able to juggle the two spheres just as well as men. It’s how women felt about themselves while doing that juggling that set them apart.

Blair-Loy’s research centers around a concept she calls the work devotion schema — a kind of invisible, coercive mandate that permeates culture and requires us to see our work as a sacred calling, with meaning and value beyond just a paycheck… … it can trigger the uniquely moral emotion of guilt when family demands butt up against work allegiance.

The problem with the work devotion schema, Blair-Loy says, is this: While men and women both experience it, only women experience its mirror image at home. Blair-Loy calls it the family devotion schema; gender studies scholar Sharon Hays has termed it the ideology of intensive motherhood. Either way, it sets up a collision course of competing devotions for working women.

“Just like our culture has constructed work to have certain meanings and obligations, it has also constructed motherhood to have certain meanings and obligations,” says Blair-Loy. “Mothers who work full time are still trying to live up to this ideal of family devotion; they just have fewer hours to do it in…”    From The Bad Mother Complex

 

The guilt I feel as a working mother does not subside as the kids get older. In fact, it gets worse: now that they are old enough to notice the other mothers and how the other families live, esp. those presented on TV and in the movies.

Mr. Monk often demands requests that I make him food from scratch. It is not good enough if we make pancakes from the box of powder. It has to be made according to a recipe. I don’t blame him though. I suspect that to him it is a sign that I care as a mother, wherever he gets that idea of an ideal mother from (seriously I have no idea where he got it…)  Perhaps it also serves as a reassurance that we are like every other family, just a bit different, but not too much, now that the mother, i.e. me, also makes food in the kitchen as it should be. I am the embodiment of the family. If I am normal, we are normal.

Or something like that…

When I say, “No. I am sorry honey. We cannot do that this morning because of ____________.” the look he gives me is enough to send me on a guilt trip 8000 miles away and back.

It feels almost like an indictment.

So here I am. 2:20 am.

Time to put the load of laundry into the dryer and start another load.

 

ETA: 3:30 am. House picked. Dishes put away. Laundry #2 in progress. Kind of unpacked by emptying the luggage and throwing stuff either into a laundry basket or my work bag. As I was doing all this, I also remembered something else: Why is finding a babysitter my responsibility? Because I want to work so I am the one that should solve childcare issues? Whenever there is a scheduling conflict, I am the one being pointed at to figure out a way to hold my job. You know, all because I want to work, so of course I have to pay the price. I should stop now. I am just going to sound more and more bitter.

 

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Narcissus: A Rambling in Four Parts

April 3, 2011 therapy in session

I saw these for sale when I made an emergency run for coffee at the store: a dozen for $1.99. I normally do not buy flowers, the same reason I do not make the bed: What’s the point? But I made an impulse purchase that day and I am glad I did. Whenever I pass […]

80 comments

Apology, Pet Peeve and Two Horses’ Asses

March 24, 2011 random

Dear Internet, I miss you. Yes, in these past two weeks, you still see me coming around once in a while, reading articles online, sharing random pictures on Facebook and Twitter, and flirting with my lady friends with my witty one-liner tweets. It has been still only Drive-by Interneting, which in my book does not […]

14 comments

A glimpse of the future…

March 11, 2010 no manual for parenting

This one will be short. It just happened, and I want to make sure that I capture this moment… I worked from home today as I have been able to do when my co-worker travels since there would be nobody else in the office but me. As I was lamenting internally how much my job […]

31 comments

The strength of not giving a damn

January 29, 2010 therapy in session

We have all been asked of this quiz question before: What Super Power do you wish you had? I still don’t know what my answer should be. Flying? Mind control? Teleporting? “The ability to eat as much as I want without gaining any weight”. Yeah. That’s what I am thinking right at this moment. You […]

48 comments

Sorry mommy can’t come to the school, but don’t grow up and murder people ok?

October 9, 2009 therapy in session

I was reading the article about the so-called Craigslist Killer, Philip Markoff, in Vanity Fair, and like almost everybody, I wanted to find out, perchance through this detailed article, WHY?! Stories like this, a bright young man from a well-to-do family with a seemingly normal upbringing make people especially anxious.  If you cannot explain WHY, […]

3 comments

Are we really at odds with each other?

June 11, 2009 no manual for parenting

This is an age-old debate and for sure I am opening an ancient can of worms. And for some, this is probably opening up some disappearing scabs from long-since-forgotten battle wounds as well… But I don’t know why something this trivial bothers me. It leaves my working-mother-core shaking. It makes me question myself whether my […]

I am beginning to empathize with Maleficent who wasn’t invited to Sleeping Beauty’s christening…

February 3, 2009 therapy in session

We all know the story of the Sleeping Beauty. The version I remembered has it thus: The Queen and the King gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. At the celebration party, the Queen invited only 12 fairies because she only has 12 place settings. (I didn’t make this part up. That’s the version I […]