Does anyone else know/remember that old joke, poking fun at Women’s Lib? Something like this: Before women’s lib, a woman would get up, make coffee and breakfast for husband and children, make lunches for them to take with them, iron, see them off, clean the house, do laundry, grocery shop, make dinner, supervise homework, feed everyone dinner, kids off to bed, sex with husband. After women’s lib, a woman has to get up, make coffee and breakfast for husband and children, make lunches for them to take with them, iron, see them off, go out to work, come home and clean the house, do laundry, grocery shop, make dinner, supervise homework, feed everyone dinner, kids off to bed, sex with husband, AND have an orgasm.
Mmm hmm, very liberating indeed.
Is life better for the average woman than it used to be? I think so. There are more choices, more acknowledgement of compromises–hey, I can now be a feminist and still shave my underarms.
There are women who choose not to have children, women who choose to have children and stay home, women who choose not to define themselves by their marital or maternal status at all. Still far from true social justice, because these choices aren’t accepted without question, but analyzed, judged, and whispered about. Being a woman who is a mom, I’m going to focus on that choice.
I don’t know who first coined the term Supermom, or exactly how long it’s been around, but I think it’s fair to say easily 20 years. Conservatively, 20 years. Twenty years of cartoons, jokes, analyzing, and disclaimers. We know better. Supermom is bullshit. Every bit the work of fiction that Superman is. So how come we’re still weighing ourselves against this curvy little lie?
No one human being can fill all roles, be all things to all people. Not even the little people we bring into our lives, or the one person we vow to stay with forever (whether or not forever ends after 7 years or 37). We all wear many hats, juggle different roles and obligations–true for men as well as women. But somehow, we women expect and are often expected to do just that. Especially those of us who have limited budgets, so hiring others to take care of some of those roles isn’t an option.
Even little things. Like unexpected company. I am not a fabulous housekeeper. I’d like to be, but ultimately, once we get beyond the basics of a reasonably clean bathroom and kitchen, it just isn’t that high on my list of priorities. We’re in a small space. There just isn’t a place for everything. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do some extra cleaning and organizing if company is coming. I don’t like surprise guests for this reason. What does this have to do with feminism and supermoms? Well, let’s face it, no one is going to leave my messy apartment and whisper to her girlfriend, “Wow, that Husband is a pig. When was the last time he dusted?” No, the judgement would be more like, “Ugh, did you see that laundry hamper? I wonder when Mrs Fringe last found her way to the laundry room.”
If a mother works outside the home, somehow she’s still magically supposed to take care of all the hearth and home stuff, and be awake, alert, competent, and presentable on the job. And her kids are never supposed to get sick, or have any other needs that would involve taking time off. If a mother is a SAHM, she isn’t supposed to just take care of hearth and home, she had better be Supermom squared, to compensate for her lack of brain cells…err…value…err…income. She’s supposed to do it all perfectly, naturally, organic dinners that are gastronomic delights to children and adults alike, sandwiches on bread baked that morning, tastefully decorated home, never a stray sock left behind on laundry day, homemade and prizewinning Halloween costumes, and of course, oodles of time to volunteer at the children’s schools. Because, yanno, if you’re a SAHM, what do you do all day? You must be bored. *Do not confuse intellectual boredom with free time* Only, if you are bored, don’t ever say it out loud, because well, you could get a job and really do something. Never mind the mind numbing fatigue, and the fact you spend every single day being looked down upon and devalued, and there’s no such thing as a day off or quitting time.
So no, I’m not Supermom, and I don’t know one woman who is. Those who come closest are those whose annual income allows for quality, long term nannies/babysitters, full time housekeepers, and spouses who are also big earners and highly educated–socially progressive. We all know this, all make fun of the term, we judge ourselves and judge each other–but we all still beat ourselves up for not being this fictional character.
Great post 🙂 silly isn’t it. I think turning late thirty is the best cure. I so, know better now, but as a young mother it took a good year or so to feel comfortable in my sahm skin. Not helped one bit by my mil or hubbies comments and jibes. He grew up too and one day it all seemed to click into place and I was appreciated. Nothing beats it. What became of the mil? I fired her sorry arse a decade ago. Best thing I ever did 🙂
I’ve been at this mothering thing a long time, and at different points I’ve felt more and less comfortable with the choices I make.
Not to be all kumbayah, but I believe that as women, we need to support each other; remembering and respecting there are variables we don’t (and don’t need to) see in each of our lives, and the various women’s movements over the years have been (supposed to be, anyway) choices, freedoms, and justice, not wedging each other into tighter boxes. 🙂
I could not agree more. I do my best to live that way each day.
Those that belittle, nit pick and put down can’t be happy in their lives or secure in their own choices.
Exactly. Every mom I know does a lot of soul searching before making these decisions, and lots more second guessing afterwards. If we want to discuss the ramifications of the different lifestyle choices, great–be dissed and dismissed (and I’ve seen this on both sides)–no, thank you.
Well, you had me snagged at the title and photos you chose to accompany today’s entry. 😛 But really, this is a HUGE issue. As I look around what I can see of my house from my computer desk- I got a good amount accomplished today, but well. It leaves much to be desired. And I’m a little ok with it- I’m still sitting here, aren’t I? But not really. Juggling all the roles is a hard one for me to figure out, even 15+ years into this whole parenting thing.
I am definitely more comfortable in the company of other women/mothers than I used to be when it comes to defining my choices vs theirs. This comes with time and experience. However, what I do not like is the fact that so many choices have not been of my own making. And yes- thanks for making the distinction clear that you can be running like a madwoman and still be numbingly bored at times. No one doubts that this can happen when one holds a conventional job, even if it’s a job you usually like and find fulfilling. Why is there such difficulty admitting that (or for others to accept it) when this statement comes from those who are SAHMs?
LOL, glad you were intrigued by the title and visuals 😛
I did not get a good amount accomplished in the house today, and I’m still ok with it.
You make excellent points; 1) comfort with the choices we’ve made does get easier with age–though I find myself revisiting this recently, and 2)they’re often choices made by necessity, by the complexity of each of our lives, our environments, the people we are entwined with.
As (primarily) SAHMs, I find we’re often on the defensive. We live in a society where we define ourselves and each other by work, success with socioeconomic status. If our work isn’t recognized, and is unpaid….
AMEN!!!! (I can’t possibly say that too loudly or too firmly.)
Yes yes yes yes!
I’ll have what she’s having. 😛
Oh no – I just realized what that sounded like – ha!
I love how your mind works & makes its way into your blog. Since I am further down the road than you, I can tell you that you are on the right track & keep up the good work. You are making a mark on the ones you mother that will shape who they are & stick with them while the things left undone fall into the deep pit of the Forgotten Zone.
Ooh, the Forgotten Zone, I like it! If things fall in and remain forgotten, they can’t have been necessary in the first place. 🙂
And, thank you. Your encouragement of my efforts means a lot to me. ❤ Momma Sue
LOL! Very clever (and I had never heard the joke)
Not sure who said this (Germaine Greer, in my memory, but maybe Steinem) — and I can’t exactly “quote” it — but I simply adore the sentiment, especially if you can expand the concept beyond “earning power” as the marker of success.
We shall have equality, ladies, not when a female superstar earns as much as a male superstar, but when a female schlemiel can earn as much as a male schlemiel.
Men are trapped within the paradigm too. I had a male client who WANTED to be the stay-at-home parent, with a wife who wanted to be the breadwinner – but they felt they couldn’t afford to make that choice because, though similarly educated, he could outearn her considerably, including the benefits package (their lifestyle, not lavish, was one they didn’t choose to “downsize” — but the point is WHY SHOULD THAT BE NECESSARY FOR THAT REASON?)
Another male client WAS the stay-at-home parent, and his complaint was that he felt completely isolated and alone. The “Moms” groups didn’t welcome him, he had little in common with the men he knew (who devalued his choice bigtime!). AND, his wife put in long hours “competing with the men,” was bushed when she came home, so not particularly eager to communicate (sound familiar?)
The goals of feminism would probably go down easier if we could rename it. I vote for “humanism.”
Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
– ADD Coaching Field co-founder –
(blogs: ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
“It takes a village to transform a world!”
“We shall have equality, ladies, not when a female superstar earns as much as a male superstar, but when a female schlemiel can earn as much as a male schlemiel.”
In so many ways, once children are in school, parenting begins to feel like we are the ones back in high school. Cliques, gossips, cool vs uncool, blech!
Parenting can be very isolating, if there is anything that makes your family “different” from the norm in your immediate neighborhood, or school. Whether it’s bc Dad chooses to stay home, age, socioeconomic level, special needs child, etc. The good part of this is that it is an opportunity to model for our children, being true to individual values and beliefs, hopefully making a dent in the next generation.
“Well, let’s face it, no one is going to leave my messy apartment and whisper to her girlfriend, “Wow, that Husband is a pig. When was the last time he dusted?””
It’s not limited to Moms, btw. I am childless, serially monogamous, yet the unconscious expectations have usually been the same, no matter how I tried to change them.
Engaged, working more hours than he, I went “on strike” – meaning I made it a point NOT to do the housekeeping things that I felt had been put on my plate unfairly, and stopped doing the things I had taken on voluntarily as well. Not so much as a dish! I said nothing about it, just stopped.
We were in couples counselling with a *female* therapist – and when fiance finally noticed that things were getting deep everywhere he complained in a session.
BOTH of them wanted to know what was up with ME — which didn’t stop when I told them I was on strike and had been for well over a MONTH. My response?
“Why is the “F” on MY report card? He didn’t do it either.”
Never got resolved. We chose not to marry for other reasons primarily, but my strike brought things to a head very quickly. (And this was a NICE man, btw, who considered himself a feminist.)
Absolutely, it’s a male/female thing, not parent vs non-parent.
A month to notice! Not shocking, and yet it still annoys me. Come to think of it, I think this should be a test for women to conduct during their engagements. Even in “traditional” relationships, life happens, and a man who will step up and do it without considering it a “favor” to his wife–that’s a keeper.
But don’t forget – our female therapist didn’t GET my point — at least not initially, and if she ever did, she wasn’t willing to get off her original position in the session. To his credit, “R” eventually DID get my point, I believe, but it changed little at the “housekeeping” level.
ALSO, to be fair, he *did* do a great deal to improve our surroundings in more typically masculine ways (carpentry, especially — I designed, he built — and he did, eventually, beat the construction mess back to relatively acceptable levels)
If I were to agree to live with a man EVER again, I hope I have the good sense to *insist* that a line-item in HIS budget be a weekly housekeeper – IN a prenup 😛 [you might prefer a laundress, however 😀 ]
Hah! Love the line item in the prenump 😀
But yes, sadly, women (credentialed or not) feed into the stereotypes of who should be doing what almost as much as men do. I’ve also seen many women create scenarios where men who try to help with cleaning give up, because the woman can’t accept the chore being done differently than they would do it.
Yeah, we love creativity when it’s OUR creativity 🙂
this is the first time I am reading this. I love it but for the record i am so relieved to find out that you shave your pits hahahah