Thursday, May 08, 2008

In her time of need

In looking through some other blogs (my current obsession), I found this link to a new(ish) blog called Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog, and I'm linking to it here really for my own purposes, so I don't forget where it is. This is an issue that comes up repeatedly in my classes, even those not called Introduction to Women's Studies or some such title (huh...go figure!).

In fact, that brings up something I forgot to mention: I finished my spring express course (hurrah), submitting my grades 14 hours before they were due (perhaps a record for me--I usually forget the exact time and therefore am submitting them in the 11th hour almost always). And I must say, I am glad that teaching is almost behind me for the time being (yes, I know, I have two more classes, on each in June and July but I'm trying to forget about that).

You see, my grad school friends and I have long talked about the lie of feminism. Don't get me wrong and let me be expressly clear: I am undoubtedly a feminist. Do I believe in equal rights and equal pay for women? Check. Do I believe women should have all the material, social, economic, and political advantages afforded to men? Check. Do I think such advantages are still far from being equitable? Check. Do I work actively to try to secure those advantages for myself and for other women? Check. Do I believe a lot of what we think about gender is simply (simply?!) a social construct? Check, check, check, all of that and so much more, check.

However, my feminist beliefs do not stop me from seeing the lie, the (literal) man behind the (metaphorical) curtain. Well, perhaps lie is too strong a word. Perhaps delusion is more charitable. The delusion, to put it simply, is this: women can have it all. You've heard this before: we can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan; we can have kids and a career; we can do any and everything we want simultaneously. In fact, such is our right. And while that idea sounds good in theory, in practice the delusion becomes more clear, at least to me.

Because sure, I can bring home the bacon (and have for a lot of our marriage so far), but I am really often too tired to fry it up in the pan. However, I've been socialized to know that, ultimately, pan frying is my responsibility, if only (only?) because I have more experience with frying of all kinds (vicious cycle much?). So I feel guilty, because I've also been socialized to be a mistress of guilt, a guilt guru, if you will. And I can have kids and career, too, as long as I'm able to afford decent childcare, feel alright about turning my child over to said childcare, can handle the guilt of making the decision to rely on childcare, and can balance the demands of that career with the kids when they are not in childcare. In point of fact, my career, university teaching, is imminently kid-friendly, at least on the surface. I can arrange to have all my classes on two days a week, leaving me lots of at-home time; I have summers and long winter breaks more or less off and these vacations coincide with elementary/middle/high school time off; I have the flexibility and privilege to be able to go to doctors', dental, or school appointments without taking a sick day or un/paid time off, etc., etc.

The truth is, however, that working and taking care of Jacob at the same time has thus far proven so difficult I'm glad I don't have to do this to live. I have found childcare arrangements to be expensive, utterly complicated, and/or inherently flawed; teaching requires a lot of out-of-class work that I simply don't have the time or energy to do right now; I'm both a worse teacher (distracted, forgetful, unmotivated, lacking in creativity and compassion) and a worse mother (exhausted, busy, short-tempered, lacking in time and ideas) when I try to do both at the same time; and the guilt about all of my decisions at home and at school is by turns crippling and mind-numbing.

The truth is, you see, no one, man or woman, can have it all, if having it all means refusing to compromise and living without guilt. You can't do it all, at least not at the same time, and, in my mind, accepting that there are seasons in your life in which you play some roles but not others is not betraying your feminist consciousness (though there are many, many of my fellow feminists who would disagree with me vehemently about this contention). My friends, the delusion is pretty and shiny and bright but only (actually) exists in our imaginations.

1 comment:

joyful704 said...

well said. i just finished "what our mothers didn't tell us" i think i heard about it from you. really insightful. of course i gree with you on all this, it was so hard trying to work from home after calvin was born, i am sor grateful to be done, i had a friend comment the other day that working from home is the best of both worlds, but i had to disagree. i am guessing you have read president's faust message to his graddaughters, one of my favorites about this...

i miss you. love reading yrou blog, makes me feel like i get to talk to you a little bit! hello to matt & his little mini.