Saturday, January 07, 2006

Saturday Soapbox

So for as long as I can remember, my goal was to be a stay at home mom when I had children. Oh, I flirted briefly with being a lawyer, a teacher, and at one point a famous actress, but they never quite seemed to fit. I don't know if there was some specific reason why I felt that raising children was going to be the thing I did best in the world, but that is how I have felt since I was a teenager.

I consider myself to be a fairly progressive feminist. But yet, in the media lately, and around the ever-chattering blogosphere, there seems to have been a resurgence in the us vs. them mentality. All I know is that I can only speak to my own feelings and experiences on the topic, and nothing I say is meant to bash or criticize.

The current tide washing ashore at this moment is the ever popular "it is beneath women to stay home" theory. Women who stay at home are abandoning the feminist movement, setting it back. How will girls ever grow up to believe that they can be scientists and doctors and engineers if all moms stay at home to raise their children?

I have a few thoughts on this subject, if you will allow me. And as this happens to be my blog, I will forge ahead.

It is my personal feeling that in choosing to bring a child into the world, that I should devote myself to his or her upbringing. Again, I am only speaking of my own philosophy. I don't think there is anything more important that I myself should be doing other than staying at home with my child.

I don't feel that I demean myself by not working outside the home.

In fact, I felt more demeaned in my former workplaces than I do in my current occupation.

I often thought to myself, is this it? Is all this crap that I am dealing with, from demanding bosses to company culture to generating reports, this is what I have to look forward to for the next 20 years or so?

I have a degree. I was a supervisor, I was paid well, I worked at an world-reknowned research facility.

But nothing is as rewarding to me as being with my child.

To me, saying that women who choose to stay at home with their children are regressive is the same as calling women who are teachers, nurses, or librarians regressive. Aren't those jobs considered "women's work" by many people?

The main thing I feel the feminist movement brought was the power of choice. But somwhere along the line, one of the choices became the "better" one.

If a woman chose to work outside the home, well all the power to her. Somehow, the choice of staying at home became the lesser, the easy way out. It seems there is a strange consensus that the women who leave their jobs to go back into the home are less ambitious, less intelligent, and make less of a contribution to society.

I wasn't aware that the women's movement required all women to follow the same path to happiness.

And I certainly wasn't aware that raising my child and not working simultaneously was considered a detriment to womanhood.

Does anyone really feel threatened that women will "lose their place" in society? That all of a sudden every woman who reports to work in the morning will be sent back home and forced to stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Do we see a revoking of our voting rights anytime soon? Is it the thinking that the reason that Roe v. Wade might be overturned is because of mothers opting out of the workforce?

I have an idea. Let's stop the infighting that women are so damn famous for, and most of the time, rightfully so. Let's not be like the Democratic party, all splintered and divisive and bickering amongst ourselves while the other side simply steamrolls over us. Ladies, we are the majority! If we could just get our act together and figure out the talking points we need to follow in order for our agenda to be implemented, we would be unstoppable.

Unstoppable, I say!

Since I was so late to the party, I stupidly figured that most people had heard about probably the most polarizing article by Linda Hirshman. But another one published in Salon recently didn't do much for me either, which is probably what promted me to finally write. It is worth it to click on the very brief ad in order to read the article.


Liz said...

Amen sister!

Staying at home was a no brainer to me. And since my kids have been in school I've had a part-time job. I am always home when they get home from school. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Anvilcloud said...

Congratulations on choosing what is now the less popular path.

heidi said...

Women are really arguing about this? WOW!

Well put Gina.

chichimama said...

It's always struck me as a silly argument. While I can see the validity of women being afraid that companies won't invest in the training and education of women if they think they are all going to stay home and have babies, you can't tell a woman she has to go back to work for the good of others.

While I'm not convinced I made the right choice for me, I would never tell anyone what they should chose or why...

Nice post.

Heather said...

Hear hear! I've always been a working mom, but I have lots of friends who are stay-at-home moms and we have loads of respect for each other. And we each are, in turn, a little jealous of each other.

My own little rant is that it should be EQUALLY easy and accepted by society for a MAN to stay home - Marcel likes being the stay-at-home parent and, quite frankly, I think he does a better job of it than me! That shouldn't say anything about his manhood - just that he's confident enough in it to make choices DESPITE what others think.

theyellowwallpaper said...

Wow...You read my mind. This topic has been churning in my head after reading The Times last weekend when both David Brooks and the Modern Love column discussed the ongoing "controversy."

Interestingly, when I worked and later stayed at home, I never actually met another person who was against one or other. Instead, I heard grumblings when a person went to an extreme. For instance, if a woman decided to choose a profession and then work 100 hours a week despite having kids, there were whispers. Likewise, if a woman wrapped her identity around her kids and husband, the whispers could be heard again. And as we've all learned the hard way, people like to whisper…grrrrrr…

I think all of us try to strike a balance. Like any vocation, there are some women, who have more a proclivity toward staying at home than others. Just like there are those that do better in sales, management, medicine, etc.

Admittedly, I do look forward to when my child steps onto that school bus and I go back to work. Being a stay at home mom has been the most difficult job I’ve had…

Suzanne said...

As a mom who worked full-time until her son was 3, I understand and support both the decision to work and the decision to stay at home (and of course recognize that the choice is nonexistant for a lot of women). I've felt attacked from both sides of this issue. I totally support your call to solidarity!

One thing that bothers so much about this debate/excoriation is the suggestion that SAHMs may as well have given up their professional lives FOREVER. Why on earth does a career have to be an express train that ceases only upon death or retirement? I prefer to conceptualize my career as a local train that I was able to disembark from and will climb back on again later. I realize that I might be sacrificing some upward mobility along the way and that I may have to get back on at an earlier station. That doesn't bother me too much right now -- it's a sacrifice that I think is worth it (need I add, for me and for my particular situation).

Elizabeth said...

I worked with a woman whose college photography professor wouldn't even look at her work because he explained (to the whole class) that women can't become photographers so what's the point in indulging them.

That was 30 years ago. 1976. Not really that long ago.

Don't think it could go back to that do you? Well, we'll just have to see what 30 years of opting out might bring us.

Like it or not, right or wrong, SAH moms have no power. Yes, I know. You have the power of the next generation blah blah blah. Ok, great. In 1900, after THOUSANDS OF YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS of women having the power over the next generation could women even vote? NO. Could women get accepted to any university they wanted? NO. Could women even get a smoke? NO. So, how the hell did things change? Did it happen with women staying at home? Did Susan B. Anthony affect change from her arm chair with a baby at her boob? I don thin so.

It's a complex problem with no easy answer but opting out of positions of power will not bode well for women in the future. If blacks opted out of positions of power would that be good for them? How about Latinos? If you answered 'no' to the last two questions but somehow think women would be immune from the pitfalls of being on the outside of power you truly live in a dream world.