Sunday, December 7, 2014

Marriage, Mommies, and Feminism

I've been holding it in for too long.

It's something I've known for quite some time, but admittedly, often refrain from speaking openly about.

I....friends....want to be a mom.

Not just a mom though - a  full time mom....a stay-at-home mom.  I realize that this might be surprising to a large number of people who know me.  I realize this might be upsetting to some who see my academic and professional opportunities as a waste of time by desiring such an end (though I would definitely argue it's not an 'end' nor a waste).  I also realize that some will be thinking 'oh good, and here I thought she was some kind of a feminist.'

To any of the former: This post is for you.  To any of the latter: I'll get to you later.

I do believe women can work and have happy successful families.  I do believe men and woman's academic and professional ambitions are equally important, and should be equally incorporated into any decisions made about how to raise a family together.  I do believe it will be a challenge to figure out how to compromise and balance their joint priorities, but I'm also sure that by acting as a team that respects and wants happiness for the whole, they will accomplish that balance and both be benefitted for it.  It will take a lot of trust, humility, and sacrifice, but good marriages always do.  I also believe that a couple learning to act as a team is actually more important to the health and happiness of their children than whether traditional roles are traditionally filled.

That being said, though I want to be a stay-at-home mom, I'm not saying I don't want to work outside the home.  In fact, I rather look forward to my career opportunities.  I'm only saying I want to be a 'full time mom' more than I want to be a 'full time anything else'.  To me, mommy-hood would be the greatest career I could hope for.  If the option becomes available, I want the opportunity to spend the vast majority of my time teaching my kids how to learn, love, and live life.  I honestly do think that any contribution I could make to society is dwarfed by any contribution I could make to my children's happiness and wholeness.  I do think working moms can still make those contributions, but time is not an adjustable commodity.  A sacrifice of time with kids is not replaceable.  You can work and have a career, but you are choosing to sacrifice time with your children in doing so.  That's just the constraints of physics.  You could have the best nanny or the best day care program you can buy, and your kids might even be more successful in life because of it.  I'm not trying to argue the benefits/problems of having a mom in the home.  I'm sure plenty of healthy happy adults spent most of their childhood in the arms of those not related to them.

What I'm saying, is that women need to be real with themselves, their priorities, and how they want to invest their time.  There is no way to 'do it all.'  A woman does have to deal with yearnings men don't face, because our bodies and minds are tied to our children in different ways.  Women who have had stellar careers often sacrifice them because their hearts ache every time they come home to find they've missed another milestone in their child's life.  They ache when the child cries out for their nanny to comfort them.  They ache when they get the call that the child is sick and had to be sent home.  The pain of missing out begins to outweigh the pain of sacrificing their career - so, if their joint income allows, they leave.  And I think that's okay.  This is not an ache that day-care or early pre-school is going to fix.  It's also not an ache all women feel, and that's okay too.

For me personally, I want to be a mom who fills her days trying to teach her kids how the world works.  I want to be a mom who does cool science experiments, sings and dances around the house without inhibition, accompanies her kids on adventures of their own make, and is there whenever they face disappointment, fear, anger, bitterness, sorrow, etc so that I can help them figure out how to navigate themselves and the relationships they will form throughout their lifetime.  I want to be a mom who teaches, by example, relentless curiosity, kindness, compassion, and courage.  I want to utilize my experience, my education, and my opportunities to teach them about possibility, how to work, and how to contribute to society.  My time as a nanny made it poignantly obvious that most learning is spontaneous, most heartbreaks, struggles, and triumphs cannot be scheduled between the hours of 5-10pm, and that kids find security from whatever and whoever is around and consistently there when they need them.  For some people, they are fine with that person being a nanny or caregiver.  I am not.  So if it's within my power/capacity, then this is what I would want to do.

My only caveat is that "within my power capacity" part.  I have no idea what it's going to be like to be a mom.  I have no idea what kind of boredom, angst, or depression I'm going to have to battle to accomplish that task.  There is a very real chance that my desires will change when reality hits.  There is a very real chance that I may need to work in order to maintain a healthy standard of living, my sanity, or continue to be emotionally available to my kids.  I've seen mommy-burnout, and it's not good for mommy or kids.

This is why I'm rather resolute on men and women working as a team in parenting.  When people are part of a good team and a member of that team is struggling to make a play, the other members don't sit back and curse them for not fulfilling expectations.  They adjust, adapt, and work to accomplish the goal at hand and adjust responsibilities in whatever way is necessary.  If that means switching positions because it makes them more successful overall, they do so.  Sacrificing expectation is often a key to success.  Adaptability and the courage to fail then figure it out are often more important and useful than even the best laid plans or patterns.

And in my eyes, creating expectations for another person is just a bad way to do marriage.  Men shouldn't expect women to stay at home, cook, or raise children, anymore than women should expect men to bring in six figures, always protect them, and anticipate their emotional needs.  Even if he feels it is within his capacity, there is no guarantee that it will continue as such.  He could have a stroke, get laid off, or become a victim of mental illness.  Expectations are easily obliterated by reality.  Strong marriages roll with the punches of reality, remain focused on what they want, and don't waste time being crushed by the inevitable downfall of expectations and thinking they know how to do life.  They can take a hit, reassess, adapt, and continue to flourish.  This is what makes humans so awesome.  This is what makes families so powerful and purposeful.  

Anyway, back to the point at hand.  These are my desires.  It seemed time to air them.  And while I may state my desire, I also acknowledge my desire is not my final decision.  The only decision I have made is to keep trying to prioritize my relationship with God first, my relationship with my spouse second, and my relationship with my children third.  That is the only family goal I have, and I have no idea what that will look like, let alone how to accomplish that.  Yes, it's ambiguous, and yes I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to 'figure it out', but it's all I can guarantee.

I've realized over the years, that the ambiguity of this goal makes men nervous, because many would like to know what to expect out of me.  But I'm a pretty dynamic individual.  I can be a lot of different things at a lot of different times, and actually, I take pride in that.  Even I don't really know what to expect out of me, and I would prefer to explore ambiguity then offer a false sense of security. That's terrifying at times to even me, because it often means learning by trial and error, or as my professors like to call it - 'discovery.'  But, scary as it is, I also see no reason to limit or constrain my capacities with expectations for security's sake.  The only thing I'm really sure about, is that trying to love God, myself, and those around me is the best way to go about living life.  One day, I hope to find someone who thinks that's enough, and is willing to figure out the rest of it with me.

Scary as that may be.

Coming Up: Modern feminism and my issues with gender issues today 

No comments:

Post a Comment