I believe we should all be treated equally. We should get paid the same if we do the same work to the same standard, we should be treated with respect if we act respectfully, and we should feel free to make whatever decisions make us happy. I don’t want my girls to feel boxed into anything by their gender (or anything else!)
Growing up I never wanted to be a wife and mother. I never held those things as important. There are a lot of reasons for this. I was taught men weren’t trustworthy and they didn’t love the way women do. Like most other young humans though I was attracted to romantic relationships anyway. I also seemed to do ok in them; I married two of three long term relationships and am now happily married to the second one. I also had that funny “wanna have your babies” feeling about him that some people like to deny can ever really happen to a proper independent woman. I’m not saying it will or can happen to everyone, but it did happen to me. I now have two gorgeous girls who are, indeed, my world.
I’m actually a better feminist than wife and mother in my day to day home life. I’d much rather read political blogs and Huff Post articles all day than take my kids to the park. But I’d rather take my kids to the park than leave them with someone who won’t put them first. I don’t want to leave my kids with someone who will ignore bullying behaviour from anyone whether it’s my kid or the other kid. I don’t want to leave my kids with someone who will reinforce gender norms and expect my girls to play princess instead of dinosaur, which they love more right now. I don’t want to leave my kids with someone who doesn’t think much about whether they are fat shaming or reacting too harshly and not being compassionate. I don’t want my kids to see time out never mind be put in one.
I’m not saying I’m perfect. Sometimes I yell when I shouldn’t and then I beat myself up about it. I won’t make decisions that aren’t the best for them though, if I can help it, unless it actually threatens my immediate mental health. So sometimes we watch a bit more television than I’d like and sometimes we stay in when they want to go out. But, they are not in an environment where they have to protect themselves from bullies and learn to act like bullies to do so. Instead they are with a loving mother who plays with them in between doing the dishes and reading Huff Post. As far as I can tell, it’s absolutely natural for me to want what’s best for my children. I think everyone does, we just all differ on what’s best, and believe me I know that it can be complicated and messy.
Why then do my values as a woman conflict with my values as a mother?
I spent my twenties with my first husband supporting him and his personal career crisis. I found myself here in the UK in my late twenties and once I turned thirty my second husband and I decided that although I hadn’t “achieved” anything yet, it was time to have babies. I know its quite acceptable to have kids into your forties if you’re busy achieving things but I don’t care, I knew that it’s more risky to have kids after thirty-five, so I wanted to be done by then. Logically you obviously still have time to work on dreams after kids whereas you can plug away for decades, not get anywhere and also not be able to have kids in the end because it’s too late. It happens and I didn’t want it to happen to me.
Now I have two small children, a part time job, a husband and two hours at the end of the day – sometimes – with which to work on any ideas along with my blogging. Sometimes I’m quite positive about it. Sometimes I take a look and realise I’m not getting anywhere and taking the next leap is just going to require more time and energy than I can legitimately find. I’m stuck right now and if I’m honest with myself it’s not looking good because my drive to do whats best for my kids first means I want to home school them. Sometimes it’s downright depressing.
And why does this matter? Why can’t I just be happy raising my family? Didn’t feminists fight for my right to do what was right for me? Why is it that I cannot rest or feel content or even respect myself for just being a good wife and mother?
I’ve absorbed the message of neoliberal feminism: “We need to show those men that we can do what they can do. If you don’t go out and achieve something you are worthless. If you choose family over your career you are not a progressive or interesting woman.” I don’t actually believe any of this of course when it comes to other women, but I’ve absorbed it and use it to judge myself.
Some hardcore feminists don’t want us to be able to choose whats best for ourselves. They want us to not have kids or have them and send them into daycare as soon as possible with formula and get on with proving that we are just as capable as men. The fact is we obviously are just as capable as men because there are successful women at every level of business, politics, entertainment, the military and everywhere else to prove it. I’d like to move on now to supporting women and men in whatever they do or don’t want to do with themselves. As a matter of fact how about we support everyone to follow their dreams whether that is economically productive or not? This means smashing gender norms so that men don’t feel emasculated to stay home with kids. Value in a human can come from many things including economic, caring, artistry, philosophical thought, emotional support and much more than that.
Anyone else have these thoughts? Let me know in the comments or on the Renegade Feminist Facebook page.