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Oh Feminism, Where Art Thou?

November 13, 2012

It’s a rainy morning outside and I sit in my living room with a cup of coffee in hand and a baby sleeping in a swing. I don’t know if it’s the haziness of the clouds or the steam rising from my favorite lime green mug, but the morning feels calm and quiet. It feels like there is space in the day for me; a little space I can crawl right into and nestle up for a little bit of rest.

My rest doesn’t last long. As I wait for the weather report on my local news station, I am jarringly brought into reality by none other than a Hamburger Helper commercial. In this particular commercial, a woman is seen going to work, volunteering at a local food shelter, laughing with her children, and making dinner with the help of Hamburger Helper – all in the same day. Gross.

The absurdity of this commercial is evident on every level, but the message digs under my skin on my previously peaceful morning. Is this what women are expected to be in this day and age? Professionals, mothers, wives, chefs, and volunteers all in the same day? Do we have an indispensable amount of time and energy that I am unaware of?

As the start of my next graduate class and my return to work loom ominously on the horizon, I keep thinking of this insane idea that women can, and should, “have it all.” I keep thinking of this idea that, in today’s culture, women are supposedly able to live our lives boundary-less, extending ourselves in every direction so that we don’t miss out on anything the modern era has to offer. I keep thinking of this idea that women are almost expected to wear all our labels at once. Shame on us should we wear only one at a time.

I’ve surprised myself lately with my lack of desire to be back at work. It’s not that I don’t love my job. It’s not that I’ve lost my passion for education and working with teenagers. It has nothing to do with not appreciating the challenge and stimulation of working. It’s just that I love my son. It’s just that I look at him and feel joy swelling up inside of me. It’s that I can’t imagine being without him for more than an hour at a time. It’s that I really just want to be Mom right now.

Have I disappointed the Hamburger Helper people by loving this stay-at-home-mom gig? Am I a failure to modern feminism by starting a folder for e-recipes on my computer and having a new crock-pot as the only thing on my Christmas list this year? Have I let down my gender by not leaping for the car keys when requested to attend a mandatory staff meeting during my maternity leave?

If feminism bought women the opportunities to have, and be, anything they wanted to be without discrimination or restrictions, does that mean the modern woman is responsible for acting on it? Or is feminism simply the power to make our choices? Is feminism the ability to decide, for myself and no one else, how I want to shape my identity as a wife, mother, and working professional?

I always considered myself a feminist. I always considered myself an advocate for women’s choices and equality and abilities to participate fully in the workplace. I thought I’d always want to live out those principles in their truest form. I thought I’d always want to be working, to be contributing in large and obvious ways.

But now I look over at the chubby cheeks and mop of hair sleeping in the swing near me, and I don’t want the same things anymore. I want my contributions to be for him. If I get to make my mark, I want it to be in the quality and the character of the young man I raise. I want my son to be the one to yield the fruit of my blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice – not my job.

I know I will have to go back to work eventually. I know I will have to sit down and write that Master’s thesis in due time. I know I will have to start to compartmentalize the various demands in my life.

But today, I’ll give kisses and wash spit-up clothes and talk to my little boy as he squeaks on his play mat.

I’ll make homemade butternut squash soup and barbecue chicken and attempt to buy a new lamp at Target.

I’ll leave the daunting expectations of women behind, and focus on the only role I really want to play.

Maybe that’s really what feminism is all about – my ability to choose.

And today, I get to choose the pudgy belly with the paci sleeping in the corner.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2012 11:36 am

    Absolutely, it’s about your ability to choose. And I don’t think ‘having it all’ was ever the goal – at least not in my mind. No one gets it all – it’s not truly possible. I think maybe over our lifetime, we might, indeed, get most of it – but not at the same time. Not if we want to raise solid, self-confident, loving children. For at least the first 3 years of their lives, our kids should be priority 1, if at all possible. For single moms and others, this is not likely – but for those who do have options? Yeah, we should shoot for it. That doesn’t mean not working. But it does mean limiting how far we are stretched for a while. You will figure it out – and your will have some feelings of regret and loss no matter how you organize it all. It comes with the territory, I think.

  2. November 28, 2012 12:37 pm

    in a nutshell you are right–it is being able to choose, all or nothing, or something in between–you may not be old enough to be called a womens’ libber as I was –and I wore the crown proudly in the early 1970s–but the fight was for choice and nothing else–women should not be shoehorned into anything they do not want to be shoehorned into–enjoy being a mom–now that is liberation!

  3. November 28, 2012 1:36 pm

    This is soooo interesting, I love the idea of feminism including the wife/mother role and not just being a “working woman”. Our lives are our choice, and one choice is not better than another, they are just different. I really enjoyed this post.

  4. November 28, 2012 4:22 pm

    I found you thru your FP article on faith; believe me, I’m always thrilled when Christians make it to FP, and your post was lovely. But THIS post is the one that deserves to be freshly pressed. Beautiful and thoughtful.

  5. November 29, 2012 6:47 am

    I hated leaving mine so much that I became a teacher to be near them. It’s the eternal conflict women face.

  6. November 30, 2012 6:58 pm

    What you said was so true, there is an ‘ideal’ that we can have it all (sure of we want to be exhausted & not enjoy our lives), do your thing, follow your heart, ignore what convention says, they aren’t living your life………

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