“This has to stop, whatever this is. You’re a wife and mother and that has to come first.”
I was watching a television show based in the 1950’s and a man said this to his wife. In the generation of my mother the general culture believed and lived with the quote above. Oh the tension of the brilliant woman with so many gifts to offer the world. The priorities of an entire culture supported the idea that being a mother was work of merit. Now I’m not saying that women were given ultimate respect or accord for this, which is at least part of why feminism arose. Women wanted more, at least some women. And the ways in which feminism cracked open the opportunities for women of my generation were phenomenal. I was able to work in a field in which very few women ever went, allowing me to enter a world of brilliant minds accomplishing amazing things.
The challenge came, for me, when I had children. The birthing of my daughter dilated not only my cervix but also my entire way of understanding what might be possible in being a mother. The labor pains exercised anatomy that had never undergone such a rigorous workout. Having a child began the slow incessant exercise of a way of showing up for another human being.
And having a child also gave presence to a difficulty in my marriage. In this new feminist culture motherhood was not offered the same ‘protected’ status as a worthy ‘career’ choice. It was one more thing to do along with being a superstar at work. The Second Shift is an interesting read about that time period in which women were in the position of being expected to work and be the main parent in charge of taking care of the household.
Making a choice to be a full time mother was not easy. I was graced with the financial ability to not have to work. I was able to live out my belief that my children were more important than any of the projects I ever worked on. I am grateful that I was able to be a full time mother during a time in which there was lip service but not real respect given to the value of that work. Honestly, I missed the feedback about how important my other work had been and the difference was noticeable and big. I entered an invisible class.
I’m watching my daughter as a new mother and I see she and her partner and many of their friends finding ways to balance all of the richness of life with some skill sets I did not have available. I see the re-growth of the value of the place of mother in society. I see this including more value of father through shared parenting. Livelihood questions are more conscious and inclusive of the value of parenting. I see all of this as the slow pacing towards the balancing of masculine and feminine.