What Is Womanhood Now?

Two gifted writers took on the tough subject of womanhood this week. Go read these tremendous posts now. I’ll wait here and let my latest episode of “Downton Abbey” load.

Mel asked an arresting series of questions:

“We want to accomplish so much, we want to break that glass ceiling, we want to be seen as more than wives/mothers/daughters/sisters. And at the same time, we are limited by men…and we limit ourselves. We worry how others perceive us. Are we cold if we want to stay at work and not pick up a vomiting child? Do we seem uncaring if we don’t show up to school events? Offer to host Thanksgiving? Take care of an ailing parent? Do we seem like we don’t have our priorities in the right place if we take a job that requires a lot of hours away? Do we look like a failure if we can’t juggle work and parenting neatly?”

She astutely points out that no one sits around judging men for their various choices. This is true: if there is a dad at a school event, other moms often say: “Good for him for coming!” Why is that? I’ve never heard anyone say that about a working mom who shows up.

We have much lower expectations of men. We scrutinize men less.

Esperanza also has notes:

“How are we supposed to succeed when these roles are at war with each other? How can we ever be dedicated mothers and wives when our careers pull us away from our husbands and children? How can we take advantage of our education when we do so at the expense of our family? If we want, or are forced, to do all three we are setting ourselves up for failure.

And here is where the guilt comes in, and the judgement – the condemnation of ourselves that turns outwards in the disapproval of others. If we can never satisfy our own standards, we better find everyone else lacking as well.”

There is some serious wisdom here. About why we judge. About why we feel guilty. I think she’s right.

I personally feel like a loser all the time. I compare, compare, compare. Look at so-and-so who has five kids and works full-time as a lawyer. Look at her, the one who grows all her own organic food. Just being at a birthday party is often excruciating and painful. Look at X, who’s so skinny and works out. WHY DON’T YOU DO THAT?

WHY DON’T YOU DO THAT? might as well be the question that defines my life right now.

But it shouldn’t.

There was a job I once had. I thought I was a failure at this job. I looked back recently at the results of my tenure, and actually the company was terribly successful during my management. I had NO IDEA.

Have there ever been so many high-achieving women? Have there ever been women who put so much thought into being ready to be mothers? Have there ever been so many mothers who care so much and try so hard? Has there ever been a generation in history so consumed with raising their children to be happy and healthy adults? I think not.

So here’s the truth.

I had a very productive career. I worked many hours and climbed the ladder and achieved excellent results most of the time.

Now I’m a SAHM. My children are smart, happy and tremendously confident.

I work hard at my marriage.

I know you all give 120% to everything you do, too. I know you are superlative at your job, juggling life, managing your relationships.

We should feel RAD about ourselves. All of us. We rule. We really, really do.

What are YOU most proud of?

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12 Comments

Filed under Family, Parenting After IF

12 responses to “What Is Womanhood Now?

  1. And the choir says “Amen sister!”

    Fabulous post my friend.

  2. Esperanza

    Wow. I LOVE THIS POST! I have those exact same thoughts, ALL THE TIME. I’m constantly comparing myself to every mother I come in contact with and almost always finding myself lacking. There is so much shame, so much guilt, so much jealousy. I don’t know why we find it so hard to just be accepting of who we are and who others are, why we always have to judge everyone.

    You’re right, there has never been a time in history when women have done so much, or been expected to do so much. We have to change the meter with which we gauge success, otherwise we will be the makers of our own demise.

    WE ARE RAD! WE ROCK!

  3. Pingback: Womanhood: An unattainable ideal? « Stumbling Gracefully

  4. I so need this right now … I am beating myself up for not finding a new job, for leaving my old one, for being a crappy SAHM (because part of my attention is devoted to job-hunting and networking to figure out if I can make something else happen) … I actually felt much *more* successful when I was working, even though I beat myself up then for not spending enough time with my son. My mantra lately is: “I SUCK.”

    I even compare myself with more successful bloggers, Twitterers, everything … I feel like I’m being judged, and so I judge myself, too.

    I will try a new mantra today. RAD. RAD. RAD.

  5. Ooh. It’s so hard to answer that question. What am I proud of? I’m not an equal wage earner anymore. My house isn’t all that clean. My mind is always wandering somewhere else when I’m with my son. I guess I’m a pretty good wife, and I think I’m good at my job. And I’m pretty good at being patient with my son, even though I’m not generally a patient person. And I’m good at taking me time (does that count? or is that a flaw?). Argh. I think I’m just proving your point – must give myself some credit!

  6. This is so important. I had a really hard time adjusting to the life of my husband providing for both of us and in the beginning searched for jobs here in UK. But now I feel more content in being a Housewife. Um, probably because of the pregnancy, which is some sort of achievement for me.

    I have been thinking of these things a lot lately and being a Housewife and/or SAHM is something to be proud of as much as anything else. We do matter and our role is important. Why should we look down on that?

  7. Rachel @ Eggs In A Row

    When you are a writer for NYTimes, I will be your biggest fan.

  8. Mel

    I really do have a lot of things I’m proud of, though I’m drawing a blank at the moment. Isn’t that sad? If you asked me to pick out ten foibles, I could do it in a heartbeat. But if you ask me to pick out ten things I’m proud of, I’d have to think about it.

  9. I don’t know why it’s so hard to accept and praise the fact that we’re all doing the best we can. Even those of us that seem to be falling apart are doing the best we can. I need to remind myself of this more often. Thank you for this!

  10. The thing I’m most proud of is that as time goes on, I keep moving the yardstick by which I measure my success further toward me. I care less and less what a boss says (even if it’s my kid!) and more and more about whether or not I’m meeting my own standards. My aim would be to become impervious to what other moms think of my momming before my kids graduate high school Doable? I think so. At the moment I feel pretty RAD.

    But when my book comes out and people are judging, uh, check with me again.

  11. We are totally rad. You’re especially rad. Those organic-food-growing-too-skinny-fake-super-moms have nothing on you. You just remember that.

    I’m proud of my recent promotion, but scared to death of it, too. So we’ll see what happens and if I can continue to be proud of myself.

    (Wonderful post, lady. I’m sorry I don’t have anything more profound to say…but wow)

    (Oh, and sorry it took me so long to read it. I’m not proud of that.)

  12. Pingback: When You Are Not a Viking, What Do You Do? | Too Many Fish to Fry

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