Monday, June 08, 2009

Feminists, avert your eyes

I might as well come straight out with the worst of it: I just spent nearly an hour scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees. Not pregnant and not barefoot (it's colder inside the house than outside), but it's still a capital offense, I know. And guess what else? Yesterday I spent two hours raking the yard, gathering leaves and sticks into four huge green waste bags in time for city collection. Sunday night, I finished a knitted top for Ellie. This morning (before the kitchen scrubbing), I signed up for a sewing class. Will the insanity never end?

Okay, calm down, ladies. There's a simple explanation for all of this: I DO IT BECAUSE I LIKE IT. The raking was tremendously satisfying in the beautiful autumn weather. I wish I'd taken before and after photos to prove the accomplishment. You have already heard much about my newfound joy of knitting. The sewing has been a long time interest, one that now feels more important since clothes are ridiculously expensive here and frankly (no offense to any Aussie readers) I don't like the styles or the materials. Ellie is horribly low on cool weather clothes, and I can't bring myself to buy her pants that cost $60 (or more!) or those that are cheaper but won't last for Stephanie too. And scrubbing the kitchen floor...well, I just wanted to feel like it was really clean, and now I do. At least it will be until Stephanie wakes up from her nap and smears her snack around, but that's a story for another post entitled "Cleaning with children in the house is like shoveling snow during a blizzard."

Several months ago, I received a letter from a friend who expressed her extreme distaste for how domestic I've become. I have a Masters degree, I've traveled extensively...and yet I spent my days in a way she cannot comprehend. Essentially, she accused me of chucking my brain along with my placenta. I'm still struggling with an appropriate response. I myself cringe when I read conservative mommy blogs by women who include phrases like "serve my husband and family" (shudder shudder cringe), though when I reflect on my days, that is really what I do. The difference is in the intent. I don't stay home because it is expected of me or because there is nothing else I could do; the truth is quite the opposite. Markus and I have made deliberate choices to put our young family first. He works hard so I can stay home with them and do work that makes our downtime much more like downtime. I have a wonderful partner who respects, appreciates and supports me fully. He does not come home expecting a spotless house and a smiling, freshly made-up wife. Sometimes he comes home to a total mad house and a wife who cannot wait for him to pack the children off to the playground or anywhere for just 2 minutes of peace I tell you I need to have some peace before I go get the idea. But I do try. Being a homemaker (not the most PC term but to the point) is my chosen profession at the moment, and (as with anything I give this much time) I want to be great at it. It involves many thankless tasks (such as scrubbing the floor) and tons of opportunity for personal growth. I don't regret a minute of it, even when I'm losing my nut. Will I do this forever? No, which is even more reason to work at it extra hard while I can. Making a home and raising a family is not about giving up (or worse, devaluing) oneself. It's about using all your talents to make it fulfilling and meaningful. I can cook delicious meals from scratch because I enjoy it and I really enjoy eating good food. I like creating with my hands, and I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labors. I'm pretty crap at spotless housekeeping, but our home is by no means unclean. My days are full of many tasks, many trials, and lots of hugs and love. It's a great life, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

All that being said, I must stress that I don't believe this is a choice that is appropriate for everyone. I'm not here to judge or say staying home is the best way to parent and I certainly don't believe it's a requirement for every woman. It's really not the best choice for everyone, but it is the right choice for our family. It's a gift, and I appreciate it as such.

Side note: By the way, for another take on the homemaking topic, this post makes a good read.


Anonymous said...

Feminists are supposed to believe in choice. You made your choice and you are happy with it. Any true feminist should salute and support you. I'm glad that you are happy and completely understand why you would be. Sometimes, I think that a lot of this sniping is simple jealousy. Many women are conflicted over this issue and (at least part of them) wishes that it was possible for them to stay home with their little ones. Goodness knows, children grow up, grow away, and move away all too soon. Enjoy every single minute!

schlelly said...

More power to you!!! I completely agree with anonymous above! You are an intelligent, beautiful, talented, creative and all around fantastic woman! You are an inspiration to women around the world. You never have to explain your decisions to anyone but I respect you for trying to make people understand. Making the choices you've made at this point does not prevent you from choosing to do something different when the time is right. I truly believe the type of criticizm you received comes from a lack of understanding. I'm trying to give your friend some credit and think they're just trying to give you advice they feel will be best for you but their criticism was so selfish it makes my Irish blood boil! It's your life - live it the way that works best for you!

All my love and support to a woman I have the utmost respect for!

Christine said...

As a Feminist... I believe all women should be able to make their own decisions, that includes putting careers on hold and spending their time, energy, intellect and creativity towards making their children's childhood a happy and stimulating time. Ignore anyone who tries to tell you what to do in the name of feminism - the whole point of which was to increase women's freedom, not restrict it.
I've made the same choices as you (although less talented in the cooking area) and don't regret it for a minute.
C x

Karly said...

I think you've had some wonderful replies so far. Feminism should be all about choice. Personally, I feel that it's just as bad to say that one is wasting talent, brains, ability etc, if they choose to stay home as it is to say that all women should stay home and something is wrong with them if they don't. It is supposed to be all about choice. I totally agree with anonymous that much of the sniping is probably due to matter what the sniping is about. No one should knock anyone's choice until they themselves have been there. Period. I also agree with schlelly that your friend's advice makes my blood boil, but I too, will give them the benefit of the doubt as I have no idea in what manner the advice was given or truly meant. And, I agree with both Christine and you, having made some of the same choices as you both, that staying home has been very rewarding for me and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

With that being said, I totally, 100% in every way support your decision that you have made for your family. I am constantly in awe of you and all that you accomplish. Whatever your decision now and in the future, I know that you will continue to do great things.

And by the way, while I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I tackle a hard cleaning chore and have a nice, peaceful home to show for it...I can't say that I enjoy it...if you could send some of the ability to enjoy it my way, I would very much appreciate it...perhaps then, I might get more done!! ;)

azure said...

I think that you should change the title of your post to "Feminists, Open your eyes" because your story is a great example of why the "movement" works. It all goes back to the idea of having a choice. I'm sure this blog would be ENTIRELY different if you forced to stay at home and be a homemaker.

I always find it curious when other women defensively questions the choices that other women have made, especially when it comes to stuff like this. Let me go on the record and say that I think the best response to the person is NO response because it's nobody's business but your own as to how you spent your time.

But if you feel a response is necessary, I would politely tell her (maybe it's a him) about the opportunities that domestic life has afforded you. For instance, how in the world you have dealt with all of the Katrina aftermath, a baby and everything thing else that happened during that time, while you were balancing a career? Also didn't you help to organize a toy drive, or some type of drive while the fires were going on? Is that not of value to the community in which you are in, just as much as working, if not more, some might argue because you have flexibility to do these things? I would then challenge this person, as to why working has the qualifier of satisfaction? Put it to you this way, I know some stay at home moms that needed to work for their own sanity, and some moms that if circumstances would have allowed needed to be at home for the same reason. It all goes back to the old adage, "If MAMA ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy."

Finally I say this, it's not just women that are choosing this life. I recently read/heard where more and more men are choosing to stay home with their children. So I think it's just so short-sighted to express "extreme distaste" for your domestic godnessness.

I apologize for the long post, but I could not just let this slide. It's your CHOICE and that's what matters. So happy knitting, sewing, kitchen floor scrubbing and on and on and on.......

Take care.