***As a forewarning to this post I want to fully disclose that I am sharing an opinion near and dear to my heart, to my view of the world, my gathering of knowledge that may be different than yours. Though I am voicing my beliefs and though they may differ from yours this in no way indicates my lack of respect for you as a person. For the most part I use this blog as a platform for encouragement, kindness and personal growth. I never intend to offend anybody however when it comes to certain controversial topics it is difficult to discuss them without the potential of upsetting or offending someone. My voice, though meaningful to me and my life is just one voice-feel free to disagree with my opinions and perceptions of the world. I think
we all have the right to speak our ideas and opinions and should not remain silent in hopes of maintaining this vanilla personality that appeals to the masses. You can be kind without being passively agreeable (:
This year I have been making my way through feminist classics in literature, titles such as the The Bell jar, The Handmaid’s Tale, Valley of the dolls, and more contemporary works such as Love InshAllah and even Lena Dunham’s “Not that Kind of Girl”. In conjunction with my experience as a nanny I have found myself more determined than ever to place value in myself for more than my outward appearance and the status quo life that prescribes marriage and motherhood as my future. To be a vapid pretty face in this world might be just about the easiest way to find love and acceptance but my responsibility (our responsibility as women) is to be more than beautiful. Our existence is not validated by desirability nor by fulfilling outdated gender roles that call for us solely to be mothers and caretakers. So many women in America question “why do we need feminism? What rights don’t we have?” Feminism is about more than the ability to apply for the same job as a man, it’s about the perpetuation of a system that places a woman’s value in being pretty over intelligent, being loved over being educated and being a mother before we can even properly care for ourselves. I want to be a woman who is eloquent and well read, who is up to date on world news, who can move you with her words not just her body and can take pride in myself as an individual before I ever begin raising a family as a source of fulfillment (and if I want to do all of this while wearing mascara and curling my hair, so be it! It’s neither here nor there).
All of this is not to say I don’t place value in the work of mothers, in fact quite the opposite! Working as a nanny for the past four years (and a babysitter as long as I can remember) I realize the long hours, hardwork, patience and dedication it takes to be a mother. I realize raising a child comes with more responsibility than simply ensuring the human doesn’t die and the enormous pressure it must be to bear the proper upbringing of a human! Over the years I’ve cared for children from birth to adolescents and built meaningful relationships with each family. Though my job is often scoffed at and belittled when I mention I am a nanny to my peers, nonetheless I take my responsibilities and the relationships I have formed very seriously. I love these children, I care about them developing properly and becoming quality humans, I want to watch them act in their first plays, I want to cheer them on at their dance recitals, help them learn to crawl, force them to practice piano so they don’t freak out when they are unprepared for their recital, I want to take them canoeing in the summer, play dress up, bounce on the trampoline, practice their spelling words, catch them when they fall attempting to cartwheel…I value these moments and experiences, I love these kids because the relationships mean something to me but the experience in its-self is not enough for me as a person.
Just as I would never claim my friendships are enough for me (and therefore don’t need other sources of fulfillment) the same can’t be said for me when it comes to raising children (as a nanny or as a mother). I’ve struggled the past six months in this place not because I do not care about the children but because I don’t find child care intellectually stimulating in any way. I don’t find helping a baby learn to grab rings intellectually fascinating, in fact I find it mind numbing! I don’t find playing with watercolors or driving kids to soccer practice of any benefit to my mind in fact I find it to be a complete waste of my intelligence. I can give all my love to these tiny humans but I still won’t find their first step overwhelmingly rewarding…and why should I? Should I feel satisfied helping to raise these little girls in the hopes that maybe they can grow up and patiently (lovingly) raise another little girl into a woman who can raise little girls? To me that isn’t much of a hope; to me that prospect is pretty dismal.
I used to be so sure that I wanted to be a mother because I loved children but now I’m not sure love is enough to be a parent. I see the rocky relationship I’ve had with my own mother and think…is that really worth the sacrifice? In a world that is already overpopulated, undereducated and filled with selfishness I see motherhood as the most selfish prospect I could possibly go after (for me). I see raising another human with my genetic makeup in a world full of unwanted children as incredibly narcissistic. I see wasting the potential of intelligence on mindlessly caring for kids as insulting but also useless to the world. Nannying has changed me and not in the way I would have suspected it would. Nannying has taught me that love is not enough, love is not the apex of self actualization. Love is a beautiful piece of life but are beauty and achievement one in the same? To obtain something beautiful…is that fulfillment?
I’ve traded thousands of hours of my life to caring for children and while I in no way regret that time (that’s like saying you regret the time spent with friends or family-no one regrets relationships) the thought of that being my job forever (predicated on the idea of becoming a mother) absoloutely horrifies me! Yet in 2015 it is still assumed subconsciously by society that a woman will be a mother and that she will place her family before her career (however that balance plays out) even if her husband does not.
I haven’t yet read The Feminine Mystique (though it is on my list of 30 before 30 goals) but the above quote really stuck with me. Is it wrong to want children? To enjoy caring for them? Certainly not! Yet for me, and for many others as well I believe life is calling for me to do more. Though the playing field is more level in many aspects we still see far fewer men deciding to stay at home and sacrifice their careers as stay at home dads. If it’s really equal and we really don’t need feminism why is that the case? Why is it then that women are funneled into more nurturing oriented careers such as teaching, counseling and nursing (which often pay less) than the roles men are funneled in to? How can we fix a cycle that often forces wives to be reliant on their husband’s income (after all it’s difficult to raise a child or two on the salary of a school counselor)! How do we either encourage women to pursue fields that enable them as financially independent or begin to value fields that are labeled as “nurturing” and typically associate with women? How do we stop glorifying motherhood as the ultimate sense of fulfillment when in actuality birthing a baby and rearing it (though difficult) is clearly an achievement practically all humans are biologically capable of?
I realize my position on “the status quo” of marrying, moving to the suburbs and raising children as my less than ideal life won’t be a popular view. Maybe I seem harsh, or naive or unaware of the emotional fulfillment a life centered around family can bring. All of those things may be true, all I know is that I used to believe whole heartedly that I wanted children but the more I read, the more I look into the future and more importantly the more time I spend around children the less sure I am that a life with a large portion of it dedicated to motherhood is the right life for me.
What are your thoughts on “the status quo”? What do you believe it means to be feminist? Why do you believe we need feminism in the world in 2015 (and beyond)?