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Women’s roles

June 21, 2009

It seems like the most ancient debate and it doesn’t look like it is going any where soon. At every mom forum I see these posts pop up with women questioning if a woman can be fully satisfied by staying at home, whether a woman is just following “society’s gender role” or really doing what she wants, whether she is losing her identity or gaining it, whether she is turning her back on feminism or if she can still be a “girl power” woman, etc.

I don’t think it is abnormal to question yourself no matter what you choose to do when becoming a mom. It isn’t an easy decision, that is for sure. With women in the western world now allowed every freedom, and expected to make use of them, we have such a smorgusboard of choices before us and so many opinions being whispered in our ears that even when we have made our decisions there are many days in which we wonder if we made the right one.

What is surprising to me is how many of us women attack each other on the choices we make. We are so defensive about the choice we have made that when we hear (or read) another woman countering our opinion our stingers go up and we start striking. It is amazing that one woman is just looking for some support, the majority of us do not offer it. And not only do we not offer it, we attack her on either being too weak to be in need of support or we preach to her about the errs of her choice.

One post that I saw today included the poster’s experience with two women while in line at B&N. She said that one, who must have been close to her fifties, was saying that her oldest was a freshman in college and the youngest was two years away from going to college himself. She comments on how quickly the years passed and then said that she only have two years to figure out what she was going to do with herself once she was left without the role of being a mom. The other woman was young and had younger kids and bitterly commented on how much she resented her children taking her away from a job that she loved working at for ten years before having children. As you can image comments were flying, as well as some daggers and knives, in response to both of these women’s comments, as well as toward the poster who admitted to being brought up without her own title but instead with that of “so-and-so’s daughter, so-and-so’s wife, so-and-so’s mom” as opposed to being raised to find out for herself who SHE was as an individual.

I do agree with one of the responses that not all women are made to stay at home. Many are bored with just the thought and admit they have no idea what to do. Not that they couldn’t find happiness in it, but they see themselves as happier working so I say more power to them. As long as you show love to your child when youa re with them and spend time with them when you are at home, I commend women who work outside the home. Heck, most don’t have a choice. My SIL is one of these moms. She loves her job and wants to continue in it, but also admits that she doesn’t have the creativity to fill an entire day, five days a week, all year long, for her daughter to do. (These are her words.) I don’t think she made the wrong decision. In fact she seems very happy and very fulfilled in both of her roles. She also has a job in which she goes in at 8am and gets out before 5pm. I’m sure that helps. Plus, she doesn’t plan to get to the top, just to climb slowly, happily while still being able to see her children to bed.

And seriously, if you are going to resent your children for taking you away from your job, then you should probably go to work. As the old saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Then there are those of us who choose to stay home with our children while they are young, or maybe even longer like the older woman in B&N. I have to admit that there are many days in which I think (“worry” would be the term most often used, but I don’t like that word, so let’s go with contemplate), there are many days in which I contemplate what my work future holds for me once all my children are in school and I am free to go back into the force. What will I have to offer a company? Will I be able to find a job? Are the good opportunities passing me by? Should I continue my education while being at home, even if it would be hard, in order to stay modern? Should I just suck it up and go back to work now?

I, like my SIL in her own situation, am blessed with a couple different things that allow me to push these doubts away after a few minutes and reafirm my decision to stay home. 1) I consider myself a writer so while at home I can hone my skills through various medias and even make a bit of money 2) I can actively serach translation jobs when money gets tights or I am feeling the need to feel wanted 3) I love being a STAHM and watching the different stages in babyhood, toddlerhood, childhood and in the end I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts or that I don’t get frustrated many times. I agree that there is a double pull on women. Society expects us to stay at home, but when we do it stabs us in the back by calling us “old-fashioned” or claiming that we are “wasting our education”. I have even read many feminists scorn those of us who stay at home, saying we are reverting society back to the middle ages. Then those who go to work of course get the comments of “how could you let someone else raise your child?”

I doubt this will ever change. What could change though is our responses as moms to those who are expressing their decision or looking for support. We could learn to be nicer, to try to understand each other and why we make different decisions, to embrace the fact that we aren’t all the same and to encourage each other on whatever it is that we decide, even if we don’t agree. After all, it is usually women in this society that are causing these pulls, as far as I have seen. Much more then men. Maybe we could stop being so catty and learn to be nice. Then maybe the struggle to adapt all of these roles as women could come to an end. Maybe.

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