Thursday, January 3, 2008

To all the angry feminist partiers in my head

I've read about some SAHMs who complain that when the "What do you do?" question comes up at ######## parties and they answer that they stay home with their children, all they get in response is blank looks and condescending smiles. My response is, "######## parties? My formal dresses are dustier than the tops of my kitchen cabinets. Who goes to ######## parties?"

But just in case I ever have occasion to attend one, and I get asked the inevitable question, I've got my response all ready. Patronizing partygoers, prepare to be busted.

Don’t tell me that I am turning my back on everything good feminism has given us just because I choose to stay home most of the time. What feminism has given us that I embrace with open arms is choice. I want to choose, so let me choose. I don’t have to stay home with my children. I am educated, and I am smart. I could do lots of different things. But I chose to stay home. So I don’t have to throw myself any pity parties (or ######## parties). I may not be appreciated (much) and I don’t expect to be. That’s not why I chose to do this. There will be plenty of time later, when my children are older for accolades and awards. For right now, I am glad that I don’t have to stay home, but I am also glad that I can.

Don’t call me a traitor. Don’t assume that I’m a frumpy housewife with no interests outside the four walls. Yes, I feel disconnected from the world sometimes, but please, don’t make it worse by shutting me out. I still have interest in that world. I can’t keep up with it like I used to, but I want to maintain some connection. So don’t sever me from grown-up land completely. Don’t tell me I made the wrong choice and that I betrayed the thousands of women who sacrificed so much on my behalf. My children won’t be little forever, and I won’t be home with them forever either. I appreciate the choices you’ve given me. I recognize that without you, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the education I did. I wouldn’t even be able to take care of my children as well without you, because I wouldn’t have the knowledge to answer their questions about anatomy ("Do I have any bones in my ear?”) or physics ("Why can’t I hear you when my door is closed?"). I wouldn’t even be as happy about doing it because I without the choice I made to be here, I would feel like a prisoner in my house with no alternative but to keep doing this forever. When they are older and I can put some of my work inside the home aside, I can return to the work force because of you.

The mommy wars we still fight these days are so silly. Feminism and technology have both blurred the lines between stay-at-home mother and working mother. Some of us feel like we’re both, and all of us are in a sense. Some of us teach music lessons. Some of us work from home. Some of us take occasional work, perhaps as consultants. The point is, we love our families, and we also need other interests to sustain us. We are all different. We all walk that line different ways, trying to discover some kind of ideal balance between work and family.

So don’t make assumptions about me. You don’t know how much I’ve struggled, walking that line, trying to figure out what works best for me and my family. I don’t know if I’ll ever have it figured out. Maybe someday when they’re all grown up. In the meantime, cut me some slack.

If I ever dust off my dresses and get out to some kind of social gathering, I doubt I'll ever be invited back.

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