Archives for posts with tag: homemaker

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?!

Advertisements

I started a post last week over Labor Day weekend, but never got around to finishing it. I read this article today on NPR and said to myself, ok, ok, I’ve got to pick this back up.

Any Masha and the Bear fans? It’s fabulous. I love the episode when Bear teaches her to play piano and she says something along the lines of, “I never knew how much music was missing from my life”. As I was painting my daughter’s room over Labor Day weekend, I couldn’t help but repeat those words over and over in my head. I was rocking out and dancing and it seriously brought me back to my childless days of music, concerts, weddings and parties. I miss those days. I can clearly remember moments in my life and what songs I listened to at the time. Some of my favorite memories with my husband are centered around music. I can’t believe we used to go to concerts on weeknights and still get up for work the next day. That is a foreign concept in my world right now. On more than one occasion, we’d wind up in a really bizarre venue with a not-so-great band and we just rolled with it and had a good time. Imagine this: we used to throw awesome parties with dishes we slaved over for hours or days, like our homemade pizzas and tamales, and we meticulously perfected our playlist to go along. And then there were weddings. We danced embarrassingly bad at many of our friends’ and families’ weddings. Sorry that everyone had to see that, but we had such a good time, especially at the wedding playing all 90’s music. I felt so old and so young at the same time.

All of this talk makes me realize that I haven’t listened to any new music in years. Kids music doesn’t count, except for Father Goose. That is pretty good music. Anyway, this situation is not good. I want my kids to see how music moves people. I want them to create memories around music and not just know all the words to whatever soundtrack Disney is churning out. I want them to feel confident to sing and dance however they please to whatever strikes their fancy. I have decided I am not going to play kids music anymore when they want an impromptu dance party. My husband decided this from the get-go, but I thought it would be good for them to learn easy nursery rhymes, so we could sing together. I was also trying to avoid obscenities or inappropriate topics for my toddler, but easy music is boring and it doesn’t challenge you. I need to get back in the game. Anyone else feel this way? Anyone have advice on how to find the time to seek out new music and incorporate it into family life?

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?

I recently moved to the exurbs. Generally regarded as a conservative enclave, exurbs are pretty far physically and ideologically from where I thought I’d end up. I’ve been thinking about my outward progression through the eyes of a geographer. I love studying the movement of people and I find it fascinating to see these changes happening on the ground, rather than through census data from 10 years past. This has been my perspective and is by no means representative of everyone. To give you some background, my demographics are: I am white, married with two soon to be three kids, four year degree, upper-middle class, I lean left, and I consider myself to be an old millennial/young gen X’er. In the past three years, I have moved from the first ring suburbs of a small city to the suburbs of a large city to the exurbs of a huge metropolitan area. My political tendencies have not changed. My ideal neighborhood does not exist. Or I should say, I can’t afford it and nobody my age, that I know of, can either.

For me, living close to a city meant diversity, access to the global marketplace, and top-notch food/culture/art. In the small city, I was lucky to have all three and the cost of living was much lower. Midwest cities are pretty great. When I moved to the suburbs, diversity fell by the way-side (New England is not the most diverse region) but it was a short drive to the global marketplace and food/art/culture. Now, in the exurbs I don’t have any of those things. So if you are asking why -the biggest driving factors for me was quality of schools and number of bedrooms. This is not unlike the reason my parents moved to the suburbs in the late 70s, but I think the difference now is that people marry/cohabitate and start families later today than back then. Cities have become effectively a playground and jumping off point for my liberal-leaning generation, often shaping our identity. And by the way, cities are also becoming the playground for empty-nesters, eager to start their second act in gentrified neighborhoods. Both of these groups are essentially pushing prices up and pushing young families out.

So, where am I going with this? I am anticipating a shift as millennials start recognizing that the housing stock and city schools are not suitable for their family, and the few city neighborhoods that are, are not affordable. I am hoping we’ll see more diversity and food/art/culture in the ‘burbs in the years to come. Maybe all my empty-nester neighbors will move to the city and the former hipsters, too tired from parenting to keep fighting for the urban life of their yesteryear, will set down roots across the street. I will be waiting with open arms. I am here to tell you, it is not so bad. I am making the most of it: composting, gardening, and bat and bluebird boxes. Word of caution, kombucha and craft (anything) won’t be anywhere in sight…yet.

Do you see this happening around you? What demographic trends are you seeing?

This post is dedicated to my brother-in-law who chided us about getting a mini-van this past weekend. Mind you, he is a DINK living it up outside the greatest city on Earth, and I am so happy for him. And NO you are not detecting jealousy. I lived the city life and I’m happy with the mini-van, suburban, wiping kids’ noses life that I lead now. We’ve all reached a point when we begin to do things for our kids that we never thought we’d do. At first it feels like you are selling out, but in reality you just don’t have the energy to fight it. You have to pick your battles. In our case, a mini-van was more convenient to transport 3 kids and 2 dogs on our trips to visit family. I fought it like hell for a while (“I was NOT going to drive a mini-van”) and then I thought rationally and it became an easy decision.

As I laughed off his chiding, I started to wonder if we each have, in our head, a line that we will not cross as parents? Something that will turn you into that ‘ugly’ stereotype you never thought you’d be. They’re pretty funny to think about. I feel like I have a few of them and I admit they are ridiculous. Completely arbitrary. I have no leg to stand on, I am completely and utterly a suburban mom (and if my kid wanted to pursue something I would normally cringe at, I’d oblige). BUT I am still very much me. I didn’t sell out. I just happened to trade up from my fast, yuppie sedan to a shaggin wagon, as my husband likes to call it.

If you’re curious about what lines I won’t cross, here goes: I won’t plan a vacation to Disney. I won’t be a dance mom (sorry Mom). I won’t plan extravagant kids birthday parties. I won’t convince my children that santa, elf-on-the-shelf, a leprechaun or the easter bunny are real. Go ahead, laugh. What is the ‘line’ you won’t cross?

The Five Things I Want to Tell Employers About Women Returning to Work

http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/mar/23/the-five-things-i-want-to-tell-employers-about-women-returning-to-work

I’m surprised they didn’t mention stay-at-home dads, too. Gentlemen, do you feel this represents your obstacles returning to work as well?

Who cares? What does it even mean to be relevant in today’s workplace? I’m still trying to figure this out myself, but I suspect my yearning to stay relevant has to do with human psychology. This is not my area of my expertise, but I am going to take a stab at it anyway.

I should back up a little bit. I wasn’t planning to be a stay-at-home parent. Here is how it went down for me. I worked my ass off in college and did what I could to stand out, particularly in my departmental studies. I did the whole, work for free for a summer because it looks good on your resume, internship. I took on leadership roles in different clubs to show I was well-rounded. I graduated top of my department and was ready to take on the world. (Mind you, I selected to major in Geography, a liberal arts degree, which I am wholeheartedly passionate about, but I admit has not lead to a stable career path). I found a rewarding career in non-profits and gave it my absolute all for the next eight years. In that short time, I relocated, was promoted, was laid off, was hired, managed a team, and was finally settling in for the long haul. My husband and I were ready to start a family and the plan was that I was going to continue working. At the time, I didn’t think much would change career wise. Amateur move! I went from managing a department to being a full-time parent in mere seconds (or so it felt that way).

So here is where the psychology comes in. At first, the rollercoaster of emotions after welcoming a child into your life overshadows any thoughts you have about your career (or pretty much anything else). But once the dust settles, and the little one is toddling around, you start to realize the more entrenched you are in baby world, the further away you are drifting from the professional world. It’s a very unsettling feeling, especially if you weren’t planning to be home full time in the first place. What makes it worse is that you are battling a corporate culture that looks down on the dreaded ‘gap in your resume.’ This is why I am so focused on staying relevant. I’m staring down the barrel at eight years of work experience and an eight year gap, which in reality might land me back in entry-level positions. (I have absolutely no regrets. I love being home. I loved working outside the home, too). Hopefully, when you are applying for positions, you get a hiring manager that sees past the gap, but if not, you will have to be diligent in crafting your experience.

Am I still boring you? I’ll admit this isn’t the most riveting topic, but it means a lot to me. I’ve spent a lot of time and money building my career and to watch it fizzle away (if only temporarily) is a hard pill to swallow. I am pretty sure I am not alone.

Do you have any suggestions on staying relevant? Am I the only one who thinks about this sort of stuff?

This is a really well written piece about the perception that Staying Home is a luxury. None of the stay-at-home parents I know are leading the glamorous life. I don’t run in those circles. Ha! We’ve each made sacrifices to our lifestyle and sometimes that means hard choices and going without, and naturally not-the-latest clothes and shoes. (Our kids dress better than us!)

http://nyti.ms/1BvqX2d

There are so many emotions I went through once I decided to be a full-time caregiver: joy and elation about witnessing my child’s every milestone, joy and elation about not having to drag myself back to the office, and on and on and on. It seemed only happy emotions early on. I am totally embarrassed to admit that I thought it was going to be easier to stay home than to be at the office, and that I’d be able to have time for myself throughout the day. Boy, that was a steep and painful learning curve.

So, after the sleep deprivation and reality kicked in, I started to feel fear that I was making the right decision, fear about cutting back our spending enough to keep us afloat, and fear that I would have a career to go back to once the little ones were off to school. After working in an office environment, I hadn’t realized how accustomed I had become to being given direction and praise from my managers. As a stay-at-home parent there are no managers, deadlines, annual reviews. Nothing. There is no road map. You are suddenly the expert on your child and family, and if you are like I was, you had no idea what you were doing and if you were doing it right. Once I started to think of being home as my job and giving myself goals and deadlines, I felt much better about things. To this day, I like to think I am sharpening my management skills. I even ask my husband/parenting partner for feedback on my ‘performance’ because, for me, it is a way to stay accountable and also stay open to receiving criticism.

If you’re wondering why I say ‘I’m Sorry’ in the title, it’s because once you make that transition to full-time parent, you lose a huge amount of respect from the professional world and in a way you become invisible. I struggled with it immensely at first. My identity was tied to my work. That was all I knew. Once I didn’t have work, I tied my identity to my daughter, but that was not sustainable. It has been a few years now, but I’ve learned the difference between the roles in my life and my identity, and I keep them separate. But nonetheless, I am sorry that our society does not value the role of the stay-at-home parent and that you are suddenly uninteresting because you don’t work outside the home. I don’t let it bother me anymore. I know I am working my ass off. I know I am still interesting. And most importantly, I know my family and friends value me.

What is/was your biggest learning as a new stay-at-home parent?