Someone asked me the other day, what am I doing "other than being a mommy." It was a kind gesture, to be sure. But here were a few things that went through my head:
1. Um... What?!
The friend happened to be male, single, and living his dream career. Obviously, he was not a mom, or he wouldn't ask me that.
2. But how should I answer his question?
What do I do "other than being a mommy"?
Wow. I've got nothing.
3. Wait. Really? Am I just a mom?
4. Fine, but I'm not just any mom. I am a mom who cooks intelligent food.... and plays intelligent games... and makes intelligent decisions for my children.
5. You are absurd. And you say (and think) absurd things. Since when did intelligence become so important?
6. Since it became the definition of a successful woman, that's when! A strong woman. A liberated woman.
7. And that is what you want to be?
8. No... Yes... but...
9. And you were just teaching Emeth that being kind and patient is more important than being smart. Nice job at walking the talk, Mom.
10. Do they look like chains to you?
After all these years of trying to break free, I am still bound by what culture thinks about motherhood: being a mom is not enough.
Once upon a time, I worked for a feminist organization that educate girls to be "strong, smart, and bold." That was our motto. Girls can be whatever they want to be -- other than being "just a mom."
Lies that I apparently still believe.
Soul, you are very slow to learn.
Not so intelligent after all.
Here are some quotes from Chesterton that I often revisit:
(Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World, 1910)
1. Like the fire, the woman is expected to illuminate and ventilate, not by
the most startling revelations or the wildest winds of thought, but
better than a man can do it after breaking stones or lecturing. But she
cannot be expected to endure anything like this universal duty if she is
also to endure the direct cruelty of competitive or bureaucratic toil.
Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but
not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a
competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive
dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies;
she...may develop all her second bests. This is what has been really
aimed at from the first in what is called the "seclusion," or even the
"oppression," of women. Women were not kept at home in order to keep
them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep
The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped
paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and
protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six
professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays
at a hundred trades. But the woman's professions, unlike the child's,
were all truly and almost terribly fruitful; so tragically real that
nothing but her universality and balance prevented them being merely
morbid. This is the substance of the contention I offer about the
historic female position.
2. Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who
frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially
prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural
operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be
taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be
taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter
shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the
time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there
aren't. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a
3. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about
the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about
How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and
narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious,
but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never
pity her for its smallness.