// Well, I’m nervous about this one. I’m barely dipping my toe into the pool of controversy, but I’m scared. I could write for days on end about my whiny, uneasy feelings about motherhood, but actually sharing my opinion on something beyond my personal experience feels so vulnerable. Bear with me as I work through these thought processes and please, please chime in when you feel I’ve misstepped. I need all the help I can get. //
My interaction with feminism has taught me to favor situations in which women are given choices, recognized for their agency, and respected for their decisions, their determination, the wide variety of hard work they put forth, their intrinsic goodness and worth. As a Christian, I have been taught to value women for their image of God-ness. I have been taught that women have value because all people have inherent value. I think the crossover of ideas is obvious here, and one could easily see how Christianity lead me down the path towards feminism. All of that to say: I’m here to confess that I have been a mistaken Christian, a bad feminist, a terrible ally.
During high school and my brief stint at college, I had no idea where my life was headed, but I had a pretty good idea where I would not end up. I knew, at the very least, that I would do something unexpected. I have always charged on with this sort of silent rebellion (I’m look at you, 8th grade Megan with the bleached hair, plaid miniskirt, and Dr. Martens) that simply will not allow me to fulfill others’ expectations of me. I just. Can’t. Do it. I get some sort of strange and very cutting thrill out of the power play.
My life has had a funny way, however, of thoroughly forcing me to swallow my pride. I found myself needing to drop out of college at 19 and move back home with my parents. I found myself dating someone I had resisted (you know I’m giving myself a lot of credit here if you know the story) for a lot of years, and then married to him a year later. I had a child before my 24th birthday. I have taken on stereotypical gender roles left and right. I am now, for all intents and purposes, a stay at home mother. Oh God, it’s hard to even type those words. (I’m crumbling here, folks.)
Feminism taught me that it is not so important that a woman become a mother or not, but rather that she have the choice to, and if she did or did not choose to take on that vocation, she was doing valuable work all the same. When I looked at the women around me–mothers, businesswomen, students, blue collar workers alike–I thought this was my truth for them. But then I dragged my feet toward the realization that it happened to work best for our family that I stay home and take on the majority of the child rearing while I support my husband as he takes yet another step ahead of me on the educational ladder. It felt embarrassing. And I realized that I did not respect stay at home mamas like I thought I did.
And for that, Stay At Home Mamas, I am sorry. I am so deeply sorry for ever having doubted you, ever for a second taking for granted your hard work and precious time. I have not given you the proper respect that you deserve. You (we) have an incredibly challenging job with the weight of tiny little humans on our shoulders. We, like the scientists who are researching new medicines, like the writers who are shaping our feelings about the world, like the teachers who choose perspectives from which to teach, we are forming the world around us. We must create people who can live harmoniously, who can see others in need and actually care, we must conjure up people who are not eaten away by laziness or greed. We endure the torture of sleep deprivation for months on end, we must come to terms with the isolation we feel when our old friends can no longer relate to our day to day lives, we have almost no choice but to serve with every last little drop in us and then a bit more. All of this hard work I can attest to and I have not yet even had to serve as the emotional support that my baby will someday soon need.
As for you, Stay At Home Papas, Working Mamas, Single Mamas, Single Papas, and all of you who find yourselves in these various different roles, I cannot (should not, will not) speak for you, but I applaud you. You deserve the world and I wish I could give it to you. You have my utmost respect. I plan on riding out the good feeling that comes from realizing how much self-sacrifice is going on by you in the world on a moment-by-moment basis for a really, really long time.