2/26/2007

Beating a dead horse

Look at me, posting twice in less than a week. I don't think I have done that since I was all knocked up and what not.

I promised I would go back to some of your comments from the SAHM/working mom discussion, and as it leads nicely into what I want to discuss in my next post anyway - mothering a daughter when you are all kinds of fucked up about the woman you are.

I think about the working mom issue all the time, thanks in part to my MIL who still clearly disapproves of my decision. The other day The Dude, The MIL and myself were talking about P.'s schooling options once she reached that age. The MIL mentioned that standard preschool was a half-day, but "P. can't go to that since Pru wouldn't be able to pick her up." You know, because I'll be working full-time like the bad, evil mother that I am. No mention that her father can't pick her up either due to his working schedule, but that is of course expected given that he is the man, and the man works to support the family. Me woman, me stay at home and make the babies.

Why is there this imbalance? I know there is a recent trend of stay at home dads, but the onus is still largely on the woman when it comes to child-rearing. There is pressure from all sides - pressure to stay at home and be a perfect mom, pressure to go back to work, and pressure to balance the two. It seems regardless of the decision you make, you are still judged.

I was watching an episode of :::cough::: Oprah :::cough::: the other day (don't judge me bitches) which covered this very issue. It was basically faction vs faction, which doesn't do much to help the cause, now does it Oprah? The underlying and rather depressing subtext was the question of whether women can have both a family and job successfully. Some of the SAHMs featured expressed confusion at why a woman would have a child(ren) if they did not intend to take care of them full-time. I must admit this line of thinking upsets me, because my impression of parenthood is not that a complete surrender of self must occur once you are a mother. I would say "father" as well, but when are they ever told that they should spend more time raising their children?

I don't think that a woman who decides to stay home is betraying feminism, but I do think the implication by a SAHM that other mothers should stay home is. As it was pointed out in your comments, feminism is about choice. Being told that I am not fulfilling my duty as a woman if I do not choose to stay at home with my child is offensive, because last time I checked, just because I'm a woman does not mean that "mother" is my sole purpose.

I would like it to be explained to me why women are still viewed as the primary caregivers. I've asked The Dude in the past if he finds it offensive that culturally, his role as a parent is diminished because he is a man. He is very devoted, caring, and responsible, but in the eyes of the culture at large, he is a peripheral figure. It annoys him as well that he is never expected to be the one to stay home with P, to take her to doctor's appointments, or contribute much to the woman she is to become. That is, unless he is not feeling well, in which case I might as well be a single mother.

There were 30 comments on my post, and there were so many different experiences and opinions which brought a whole new dimension to the discussion. I do think it's funny how many of you thought you had a clear idea pre-kids of what you wanted to do, yet changed your minds once it happened, whether it was staying at home, working part-time, working from home, or working full-time. It is wonderful that we do have these choices, but I still maintain that all this responsibility is overwhelming.

I think I've talked about that as much as anyone would possibly want to read. My apologies. On a completely unrelated note, P. has a follow-up appointment to check the status of her heart murmur on Thursday, so wish us luck. I just hope they don't put us in the Dead Babies room again, or else I will start to imagine the very worst just like before. The bastids.

9 comments:

Sarah said...

Good luck for Thursday - let us know how you get on.

With you on the mothers/fathers thing - we've found that too since J arrived three months ago. I am more linked to her in practical terms at the moment because I'm breastfeeding and on maternity leave. But once I go back to work I imagine the unbalance will continue, even though I work longer hours than the other half. Ah well.

Must go - by the look on her face, J has done another stealth poo.

Oh dear, I seem to have turned into one of those mothers who discusses her child's nappy filling - despite promising myself I absolutely would not do such a thing. Pah.

susie said...

Good luck on Thursday! Thinking of you.

Molly said...

Your mother-in-law sounds like a dream come true. Didn't you know, dear Pru, that when you gain a baby, you lose your brain?

Hetty Fauxvert said...

First, good luck on Thursday!! Hope that murmur has resolved by itself already.

About the SAHM issue ... I do think it's unfair that moms are generally expected to do MUCH more than dads are. But. I also think that it's much better for babies and toddlers to be cared for full-time (or mostly full-time -- allowing for weekend jaunts away to keep your sanity or whatever) by one of the two primary caregivers. My SIL is a university prof and can only take so much time away from her job, so when her semester off is up, her husband is going to take a couple of years off and be a SAHD. I guess it's not politically correct, but I think babies do better when someone who cares a LOT about how they are doing is taking care of them. Daycare may be competent, but it's not Mom, Dad (or even Grandma). And I think that makes a difference to babies' emotional development.

JMO, of course.

rockmama-in-waiting said...

I don't see how people expect children to become individuals when their parents lose their identity the moment children are born. I think children who see their parents both as parents/caregivers AND individuals have a much better chance of becoming well-rounded people themselves, so it stands to reason that mothers should make the choice that's best for themselves and that in turn will benefit their children. Just my two cents!

rockmama-in-waiting said...

Interesting that this topic should be big on the BBC today!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6402933.stm

Lut C. said...

My husband wasn't too keen on kids, because he realised all too well that he'd be taking up a fair share of their care (maybe more).

Staying at home is less and less of a feasible option for families. So the discussion isn't that ardent here.

julia said...

Interesting stuff, Mrs. P. I may have to post on this subject. It's been getting under my skin a lot lately.

Good luck Thursday.

Kristi said...

I couldn't agree more with what you've written. I've always contended that feminism is about choice: if you want to return to work after having a baby, go for it. If you want to be a SAHM, more power to you. Unfortunately, society's definition of "woman" has been conflated with that of "mother."

"Good mothers" don't work. "Good mothers" subjugate their identities, senses of self, time, energy, etc. for the good of their children. "Good mothers" are self-sacrificing to the point of machocism.

I watched that episode of Oprah too, and one of the working moms summed it up nicely. She said something to the effect of, "I know plenty of moms who stay home and who are mentally checked out all day long. They're not good mothers because they're miserable and depressed at being stuck at home with their kids. On the flipside, I know mothers who work who are the most loving, involved, energetic mothers I know."

So, just because you're a SAHM, doesn't mean you're the "good mother" society tells SAHMs that they are.

Let us know how P's appt. went yesterday.