Sunday, July 25, 2010

If I Had A Blog, It Might Go Something Like This

Mad Men is one of the few television shows I enjoy and possibly the only show my partner and I both love. I'm excited for the new season and have been indulging in media hype such as this problematically summarized compilation of video clips in The New York Times.

Ah, the Motherlode column. By now I should know it's best to steer clear of this tinderbox unless I'm determined to ruin my own day, nay, week. In my defense, I clicked on the link seeing only its relation to Mad Men and not realizing that, as a Motherlode column, it is essentially a shit-starting talking point followed so immediately by readers' comments that it's hard to distinguish between the two. As someone who makes it a point to refrain from readers' comments on most internet forums, I will say that discussions appear to stay relatively civil and intelligent on the Times website. For instance:
If only women would respect that it is a choice. And by choice, I mean staying home with the kids versus working. I have a friend who looks down on stay at home moms, says that they're wasting their lives by not working outside the home. The previous generation (I'm not yet 30) fought for the right to decide how they live their lives, only to have society swing to the other end of the pendulum and make it seem odd for a woman to want to "just" be a mom.
Okay, good! Rachel from New York City seemed to nip things in the bud with comment 2. I should've stopped there. Instead, feeling heartened, I read my way straight into the toxic ambush of jzzy55's comment 7:
What's wrong with "just being a mom" is that a) you put yourself at great risk of being structurally unemployed and poor should you try to find work and/or get divorced someday, and b) the kids grow up & go away a lot faster than you would ever imagine, and for sure by age 12 or so they don't need you as much unless you have a special needs kid or a huge family.

Then what? It's much better to keep your hand in professionally, at least part-time, than to allow yourself to become unemployable. Now, if you assume you won't ever need or want to work again, that's another thing entirely.

I think many of the moms who didn't go insane at home raising kids in the 50s and 60s were able to keep it together because they were going to college part-time or had little jobs that eventually grew into bigger ones.

Anyone who thinks he or she can just hop right back into the job market when the last kid treks off to HS or college is delusional. We don't have that kind of economy anymore. You are taking a huge risk by removing yourself from the work world for years and years. A very huge risk.

We used to say, "You're only a man away from welfare" regarding the SAHM. And now we don't even have welfare in the old sense of the term! Unless you have independent means or you signed a prenup that guarantees you a big fat monthly alimony with COL raises for the rest of your life (and you're 100% sure your spouse will always be good for it, which is another risky assumption these days), boy are you playing with fire.

And you know who will suffer -- those kids you stayed home for.
Where do I begin? There's the use of words like unemployable, insane, and delusional. There's the fear-mongering, the overgeneralized worst case scenarios presented as reality, and the appropriation of some very real concerns to a decidedly limited outlook. There is the assumption that being a stay-at-home parent means having absolutely no professional life until the kids are in high school or college. There is the complete lack of creativity in this person's approach to cultural restrictions.

Right now I need to eat a very late dinner and start heading to bed. Nine months into parenthood, I still find it nearly impossible to go to sleep before midnight. In spite of exhaustion, interrupted sleep, and the nonnegotiable 7 a.m. alarm that is my daughter, I remain a night owl.

And in spite of being an unemployed stay-at-home mom with a breadwinning male partner, I remain a feminist. The decision to step away from one's career to be a full-time parent carries all sorts of complicated risks in contemporary American society - just the stress of dealing with people's weird assumptions, judgments, and statements is enough to break a person's spirit and drive them to start a blog, for instance - but this was my choice and I'm confident and proud of it. I am many other unglamorous and awkward things because of it, but confident and proud remain.

If that last sentence doesn't scream feminism, I don't know what does.

1 comment:

  1. Well put Lauren! I'm confident & proud of you too. You're blessed to have the freedom to make this choice, because ultimately, it's what's best for you & yours. - Jasmine Cataldo