Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On liberty and strength

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 them broad.

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 specialist.

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 the universe?
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.


Serenely said...

I can relate. I remember when I was on maternity leave. I received comments like "wow, so nice you don't have to work now!". Then barely a few weeks into new motherhood, one of the most common questions people asked me was "so when are you going back to work again?" which I understand may not have any malicious intention behind it, but somehow there is a subconscious idea that a woman always needs to be something "more" than just a mother in order to be successful and fulfilled.

Seda said...

Yes, definitely not malicious. Most of the time, they are asking out of concern. But the idea is in the air that we breathe.
I have a lot of mom-friends who are working (due to necessity), and I know what difficulty it is for them to stretch themselves in so many directions.

sherri said...

my friend recently posted this link. perhaps it will be an encouragement to you?

Seda said...

Sherry, (hi!!!)

Yes! Rachel is one of my favorite authors on parenting young children. Her book is really good too. (You can borrow mine when you need it!) =)

I felt little sick as I realized the fear that drives the abortion industry is alive and well in my own sinful heart.

May the Lord have mercy on us.