Shamelessly embracing Stay-at-home-mom-ness (version 2.0, though)
My favorite thing, so far, about the 30 Days of Shamelessness project is that it is very thought provoking. I find that many of the prompts do not immediately grab me with an idea for action or response. I am currently working with myself to improve discipline and impulse control (alas, this is still a struggle for me. brownies, anyone?) so I am restricting myself to doing the 30 prompts in order. I am so tempted to skip around and do the ones that appeal to me (read: are easy) first, but I want to take this more seriously and really allow the prompts to challenge me. So I wait and only move forward when I can deal with the one I’m on.
Prompt six asks us to “act “girly” or “manly” in a way you’d normally avoid.” Man I have thought about this for days. So much has changed since I’ve become a mom and I already have changed in ways I never would have before. I almost never went out without a little makeup on (being a fair-skinned natural redhead I always felt I was ‘invisible’ without makeup) and I never ever went out of the house without a bra on. Just yesterday I went to three different places with no makeup, a messy ponytail, and no bra (a tight tank with another shirt atop provided sufficient decency) and was not one whit embarrassed. I thought about just using that, because I do it so shamelessly! and never would have before my son. (As a side note, it is not that I think mom=undone and casual, but that my son’s absolutely unconditional love and infatuation with me has freed me from the continual stream of self-judgement I used to subject myself to. If he can love me just as I am, for the person I am and not my hair, or eyelashes or clothing, couldn’t I do the same?)
But this morning, as I was drinking coffee, listening to the news and whipping up some raspberry-bran muffins — at 7:00 a.m. — an idea popped into my head. Normally I get my feathers all ruffled at the notion that people should be confined and defined to acting gender-appropriately. I do think there should be some differences between men and women because we are not the same (though we are definitely equal and should damn-well be treated as though we are equivalently important to this damn society). Yet, I challenge and defy the notion that some things are just inherently feminine or masculine. Women should be able to be competitive and goal-driven without being a bitch. Men should be able to be kind and compassionate without being pussies or gay. I just can’t tell you how much it drives me crazy when I hear people ascribing value to societal gender-based stereotypes and chastising people for defying them.
It drives me so crazy that I really struggled with the decision to be a stay-at-home mom. I absolutely do not want to underscore the notion that the woman’s place is at home, and that men are the breadwinners and women the baby-makers. I am no fan of Ann Coulter and her ilk and really don’t want to add any fuel to that fire. Yet, isn’t feminism (and humanism, if I had my way) really about making the choices you need and having the freedom to live a life free from the expectations of what your sex “should” do? So, in my case, to put my child in day care and go back to work (so that I could support the notion that women can have children, love them madly, and still go to work) would have been personal torture.
My husband and I talked about him staying home, but I knew immediately that wouldn’t work because I would be insanely jealous. I had a child because I wanted to have a child – have all the hugs and feedings and bath times and play times and discoveries and firsts – and no job could have fulfilled me the way this does. But that was our choice – our personal, thoughtful, carefully reasoned choice. My husband does not like doing house stuff. He doesn’t enjoy cooking (which I LOVE with the passion of a thousand hearts), he doesn’t notice mold growing in the tub, or dust bunnies on the floor, and he could care less what is on our walls, hanging on our windows, or topping our bed. So I stay home and spend lots and lots of time with my child, and lots of time cooking, and cleaning, and planning, and crafting. I like planning meals. I like sewing. I like decorating the house. I do not like mopping, or dishes, or doing laundry, but I do those things because I do like cleanliness (and see prior note on dustbunnies).
And as I thought about it, the fact that I do this, that I stay home and am living the life of the house-wife-mom, is for me every day an act of girliness that I would normally avoid. Some days it gets under my skin like a splinter that my biggest accomplishments are doing three loads of laundry AND getting peach pie filling fixed and in the freezer. Did the 50’s descend upon my house?? I want to be out changing the world! Directing projects, pulling together presentations, running meetings, organizing!
But mostly, I am thankful that I have the chance to be the other person that I want to be – the one who gets local farm-fresh produce and then busies herself in the kitchen to make sure we can eat it. The one who mends her own clothes and alters clothes from the thrift store because we like to make things last and to save our money for more important things (like beer). The one who does, in fact, mop her floor so that her little man can crawl around and not get sick or choke. Yes, I will shamelessly embrace my role. Yet not as simply wife and mother, but as Queen Goddess and Chief Executive of the Home and Family.