Archives for posts with tag: healthy relationship

Last week when I read about the comments to female Bernie Sanders supporters by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, I was surprised that their message was one of judgment and derision. I always thought that feminists tend to raise women up, not tear them down. Right? I initially shrugged both of them off as bitter and out of touch. I read an article today about Adele’s Vogue cover photo, prominently displaying a tattoo of her son’s name, and how she touts motherhood in ways that other famous women have not been able to get away with. I believe the author of that article suggested that perhaps she is not a feminist if her family has higher priority than her art. Really? So, naturally this got me thinking. Am I a feminist? Can someone like me be a housewife and a feminist? This is not a new question. I have struggled with this personally over the past 5 years, as have many others. I have always considered myself to be a feminist, I believe in equal opportunities for women, and yet I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. When I first decided to stay home, I was deeply conflicted about living on someone else’s merits. I always considered myself to be an equal partner, but once I gave up my earning power, I felt inferior in my relationship. I put that pressure on myself, this was not coming from my husband. Feminism is about achieving equal status as men in work, in politics, and in life. Feminism is deeply rooted in the notion that procreation is not the end-all for women. I understand what the movement was rejecting, but now that I somewhat embody those rejections, I have to say that I don’t think I am a feminist.  And I’m ok with that. However, I still believe in the basis of feminist principles and I’ve modified them according to my situation.  I don’t know if there is a word for this yet, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the post-feminist movement, but there has to be a place for women like me, women who elect to put others first and are equally contributing to society. I really do wonder if the movement is dead. It’s fascinating to me, that at a time when biologically I am the most feminine that I have ever been in my entire life, having given birth, that I feel the least feminist. Is that really the intention behind this movement? I guess I always saw feminism as advocating for myself, and making elbow room for my career, and not being willing to compromise. I never extended those principles into motherhood. Is it even possible? These days,  I have taken on a more holistic and conciliatory approach to my life and family in that everyone plays a unique role, and yes, sometimes it is gender normative, yet we are all equal and appreciated. I still advocate for myself, but the difference now is that my career is not in the public sphere. I know, a big feminist no-no.

When did I make this switch? I’m really not sure. When I first became a mother, it was a jarring transition: physically, emotionally, and in my marriage. Up until that point, my husband and I shared the load, and I had every intention of continuing that equality into our growing family. Something changed though. Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a completely female experience, there is no equivalent for men.  That experience was my first clue that the balance of power shifts sometimes and it’s not something to fear, but rather embrace. It is not and cannot always be equal. And that’s ok. If anything, having a baby was the first time, that as a woman, I felt superior to men. Yup, superior. That is a pretty awesome feeling.

So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I feel women should have equal say and equal compensation and equal rights, but also that we should be open to different interpretations of what it is to be a strong woman. I don’t feel like I am a subordinate for making the choice to put my family first. In fact, I feel the opposite. I find empowerment in bringing happiness, love, and order to my household. While I am home, I have also helped other working women by caring for their children, and I feel that I am helping them achieve their highest potential. I’ve elected to take on these roles because I thoroughly enjoy them, not because I was told that I should enjoy them. What would Madeleine or Gloria say about that?!

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My husband’s company just announced a generous maternity/paternity leave policy and I couldn’t be happier with the news. While I think everyone understands the need for a mother to be home with the baby: bonding, recovering from childbirth, nursing, childcare; to some people it is less obvious why a father should have a leave policy, too. (I’m just speaking in terms of a heterosexual couple here, same sex couples have their own leave policy/childcare challenges.)

During the first few weeks after giving birth, my husband did everything I usually do plus his own responsibilities: taking care of older children, taking care of me, preparing meals, cleaning, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, managing the household (visitors, bills, doctor appointments, pets, lawn care), filling in for me while I napped, etc, etc, etc. Did I forget to mention he had to hold down a job on top of all of this? I’m not even mentioning the lack of sleep. Let’s just say there is no time for sleep.

In the 17 years my husband and I have been together, I can honestly say that the most stressed out and ragged I have ever seen him was in the first year of both of our children being born. He would say the same about me. Those years were coincidentally low points of our relationship, there just wasn’t enough in the tank to take care of each other’s needs. Normally our priorities are: our relationship, then kids, and then work. During the first year of their births, it was: kids, then work, and then us. Not good for any relationship. At this point with baby 3 on the way, we have a mutual understanding that we just need to get through the first year and then reprioritize. The new paternity leave policy doesn’t change the order of priorities, but it will give both of us more time to focus on our relationship and make that first year a little more bearable. It will make him a better employee because he will be less stressed at home. He’ll also be more alert at work and mentally stable. And he will not be as distracted or feel guilty about not being present in the baby’s life as much as he would like to be. Win, win. Hopefully that is the company’s reasoning for extending the policy. It is a tremendous gift to have more time to be together as a family. I sincerely hope this is the start of a new workplace trend for everyone.

I read this article yesterday about staying relevant in retirement, which has some great tips for anyone really. The main point is to do what you can to stay healthy and connected. It got me thinking of how it also applies to stay-at-home parents, who are also transitioning out of a work environment and are desperately avoiding being overlooked. There is one major difference between the two groups: retirees have the benefit of more time in their day. Since I haven’t found many articles pertaining to relevance for full-time parents, I decided to come up with my own list.

  • Stay Sharp. Read, write, create, make time for your hobby, exercise, eat healthy, learn a language, take a class. The key to this point is that you want to maintain your identity outside that of your role as a parent. Find something that inspires you. It keeps you interesting. Your friends, family, and partner will appreciate that you have more to talk about than the everyday minutiae of raising a family.
  • Stay Sexy. You probably never thought you’d see the day, but it happens to the best of us. When you are suffering from exhaustion, you rationalize that sleep is more important than sex. But, you clearly aren’t thinking straight. You’ll never feel caught up on sleep. Make time for intimacy. Plan a date night. Don’t let the dry spells turn into the norm. For the health of your relationship, sex needs to be a priority.
  • Stay Positive. Keep the complaints to a minimum. Your job is thankless, non-paying, never-ending. I, and many others, can sympathize. But, nobody wants to hear it all the time. Find the silver lining and focus on THAT instead. If for no other reason, there are young, impressionable minds watching how you deal with life. Model positive behavior.

If you want to maintain healthy relationships and feel connected to others, especially your partner, implement all of these things into your routine. I know that the reality for most full-time parents is that your personal well-being is lowest on the totem pole, but I assure you that everyone in your family will benefit when you are in a healthy place. Find the time. This is how you stay relevant.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you currently do these things? Is there anything you would add to the list?