Friday, January 14, 2005

Feminism and Motherhood

I went to a private all girls school that had a very small enrolment of around 150 students. There were fantastic teachers and a very competitive grading system and it was my mother's Alma mater. We were young ladies being taught by Women who had fought for equality, and I'm sure a fair few actually burned their bras. The strongest message I received was that I had the opportunity to become anything in this world I wanted to be. I didn't have to be satisfied with any historically traditional woman's career like teaching, nursing or being a secretary; I could become a lawyer, judge, business-woman or scientist. All the wars between the sexes had been waged by these frontiers-women so that I could pursue any and all dreams and not be weighed down by marriage, children and a life of mediocrity.

I was a rebellious teenager, as predictable as that is. I rebelled against the feminist education I was receiving. As a former child, I really didn't appreciate feeling guilty for ruining my mother's life. My Mother was a very successful accountant and I'm proud of the hardships she overcame in order to provide for her family and create a career for herself. The downside was having to live in her absence. From infancy I was left with an elderly couple during the week while my parents went to work, at school-age I was a latchkey kid and ate many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watched long hours of television (I know every episode of Three's Company and Gilligans's Island as well as The Little Rascals and Our Gang) I didn't have friends because none of my neighbours had kids, and I wasn't allowed out to play until my parents came home. I then had to leave them alone because they were tired from working hard all day and they needed to rest. My Dad would lie down on the couch and watch the news. Mom would read a book and listen to the news. I went back to my television or Atari.

There I am, being told on all levels what a career gal I'm now allowed to be, I have my mother and professors as a role models, yet I was feeling lonely and isolated. What I wanted was some love, companionship and fun. Was I supposed to be sitting at home, nose in a book studying anatomy and physiology for the one day I might want to become a doctor? (Once I got a few boyfriends that came naturally), with all the choices now laid out at my feet, where should I start? I could never figure out what or who I wanted to be. I took the career development tests, but nothing really sounded interesting. Everything seemed to be hugely hard work.Intern ships where you earn no money and get a lot of experience at making coffee or typing up letters; sounds like being a secretary to me and that was a step backwards. The military were always very interested in me, which I found scary.

Ultimately, at the age of twenty-eight I found a very happy career working in international banking. I work with nice people, have a pension and a career path; something of a treasure these days. I've been on maternity leave for the past eight months with my second little girl. It's been a fantastic and rewarding experience. I was back to work by the time my eldest was three months old, out of obligation and guilt. Guilt figures a lot in my choices, but that's a story for another day. I felt everyone needed me; work needed me back and my husband needed my financial contribution. So off to daycare the baby went, and she was a happy little thing.

This time, I've had the luxury to be able to take care of my baby myself. This is not a mediocre life. I've been able to witness all her little milestones, and today, she took her first few tries at crawling. I never got to see that the first time around, the nursery did; they told me about it and I felt proud and guilty. I don't have the cleanest house, but you wont get ill and at least you know there's life within these walls. I'm able to walk my eldest to school every morning, and she never comes home to an empty house. My priority is to have these little girls grow up to be confident, strong and happy. I know one day they'll be telling me to back off, give them their space and even to disappear all together. It will break my heart, and make me proud all at once; at least I hope it will.

I still think the feminists gave me too much freedom and not enough guidance. I've shuffled from job to job, and had a few majors in university, but no degree. I learned how to groom and train dogs, but will now never own one due to allergies. I've learned how to invest money, but have none to invest. I had a lot of fun managing a Gap, and I can now manage my home and family. I'm learning how to design web pages, I'm writing a book and I'm keeping the plants in my garden alive; a pure miracle. There's plenty to learn from being a wife, mother,and home-maker. Why did I have to find it all out the hard way, and why doesn't my spell checker include the word Mom?

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