Friday, January 11, 2008

Stay-at-home feminist or Nostalgia gets the better of me

Last month, I got the great news that one of my best friends from college, Pam, is pregnant and expecting her first baby in July. She and her husband are great friends and great people all around and are going to be fantastic parents. I am so happy for them. I love it when people join the parenthood club. It's a good place to be.

Pam's recent announcement, and a conversation she and I had about child care, got me thinking. She and I have know each other for about 10 years. We met in college - we were both Women's Studies students and members of the campus feminist activist group. It was a pretty big group of women, and while I'm still in touch with several of them, I've only remained close with a few (Pam, Katie, and Miche.)

Anyways, it got me thinking back to Pam's feminist bridal shower - I think she got married like a semester before we graduated. Our friend Catherine (who I think is now in her home state of TX these days working on her PhD) wrote in Pam's shower card "Good luck fighting the patriarchy from the inside!" which, while kind of snarky, was pretty appropriate coming from Catherine. Catherine, who (in my memory at least) was funny and bold and fearless, who had no problem declaring that she hated it when her friends dated men, lambasted straight women who did not defend their right to choose while she, a lesbian with no motherly ambitions showed up at every pro-choice march, who once told me that being queer and being a feminist where inextricable for her. If I'm honest here, I have to admit that I kind of wanted to be Catherine, just a little.

So, here I sit, thinking about Pam and her baby, her bridal shower and my memories of Catherine the fearless feminist. It makes me think of Caitlin, who shaved her head my senior year (not actually an uncommon thing for a WMST major to do) and sparked this great debate amongst us all about the politics of hair for women - what it means if you have long hair, or short hair, or die your hair, or give yourself an intentionally bad haircut, or shave your head, or your legs or underarms for that matter. I miss that.

And I can't help but wonder, what would Catherine or Caitlin say about my decision to quit my very good and noble job to stay at home and raise my son (also a very good and noble job, but not in the same way)? Would Catherine call me a sell out? And, in truth, I do feel like a little bit of a traitor. The Jenni from the feminist bridal shower who debated the politics of hair never thought in a million years she'd be a stay-at-home mom.

Yet, here I am. Home and absolutely smitten with my bouncing baby boy. I've often felt the need to justify this decision - the cost of childcare, my daily commute, etc. - when the truth is, I just want to be with him. I'm cuckoo bananas for this kid and I love every second I spend with him. Being home with him is way more rewarding than my job. And way harder. How did I, a feminist, not realize that raising children is incredibly hard and important work? And I LOVE it and I'm good at it, really good at it. I'm raising a person who's going to respect women and crusade for justice and be hilariously funny and exceed expectations and write the great American novel and change lives and run marathons and climb mountains and vote democrat and be a fabulous feminist and a community activist and a global activist and recycle and volunteer and always get my jokes and be exceedingly happy in life and enormously successful and like a million other things I can't even imagine at this moment. What could be better or more important that that?

So, here I am, a ridiculously happy and proud stay-at-home mom. Who knows what my old feminist cronies would say. Probably "Wow, good for you!" which is what my current feminist cronies said when I told them I was staying home (although I wonder, how many of them mean it and how many are silently judging me?) I'll admit, this is not who I thought I'd be - but it's so much better.


Susanica said...

What a great post! It's strange to think about anyone silently or otherwise judging a parent who stays home with his or her children. I think a great majority of people would opt to do that if it were financially possible. Yes, even those "judgers" if they had any idea what it felt like to be responsible for a baby more precious than anything the human mind can even imagine!

I also just have to say that Su and I are DELIGHTED that whatever worldview you're passing along to Oscar, Danny can't help but "catch" too! Have a great day! -Monica

Amy said...

eh, screw anyone who is silently judging you. a true feminist knows that everyone woman needs to choose her own path, and the most important thing is that YOU CHOOSE.