Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In Which My Brain Apparently Dripped Out of My Ear and I Was Unaware

The other day, my brother related a little incident to me between his roommate and his roommate's friend, or something like that. Very third-hand. Anyway. So, do you remember this?

Apparently my research on a (fake!?!) falcon mummy is still the most interesting thing to happen to the SWKT, because four years later, it's still there.  Recently, this friend-of-a-friend of my brother's took a picture of herself next to this poster of me and posted it somewhere, captioning it with something to the extent of "Stick it to the man, ladies! So proud someone has a brain and decided to get an education instead of get married and have babies!" Or, you know, something like that.

Hold on, I have to go make a bottle for my infant son.

Ok, here's the thing. I'm no stranger to this attitude. When I applied for Grad School a few years ago, the woman I thought I wanted to be my program director told me that I wasn't a good candidate because I'd recently gotten married and would probably be too busy having babies to prioritize attending class and writing a thesis. And an old boss once said something about offering part time work to moms because "otherwise they'll just be at home wasting their intelligence."  And there's this assumption that having kids means I have nothing to talk about but my children. I have so many interests. My kids are just one of them. It does hurt a bit when we introduce ourselves as a couple to new people and they always ask Sam about what he does and what he's into and where he's been. When people ask me anything they're just asking how old the kids are or if they're "easy."  The implication in these kinds of statements is that I've somehow squandered my existence by choosing this path. 

Why do we treat children like the new ball and chain? Why do we treat women who choose to have a child like they're some sort of brainless dunce with crossed eyes and a string of drool hanging out of their mouths?

Let me toot my own horn for a second.  First of all, I am one of just a billion examples of a woman who got a college education AND got married and had kids. Before I had kids, while I was married (I only mention this because of the similar stigma attached to marriage), I completed a BA in anthropology, had two research projects go to competition (and I won one, somehow...), supported my husband and myself with two part-time jobs, worked numerous post-college jobs, and took care of a demon cat (I really deserve credit for that). All through my pregnancy with Rosalind, all through her babyhood, and all through the first 7 months of my pregnancy with Remy, I was working at a couple different jobs. I started a side business on Etsy during that time. Oh, and I took care of my family too.

The point I'm trying to make is that getting married and/or having a baby does NOT mean you are compromising your life, your brain, your education.  In our society, typically, and fortunately, we have a CHOICE. I CHOSE to get married. I CHOSE to get pregnant and have two babies. I also CHOSE to finish college, CHOSE to work, and CHOSE to quit working after a while. And eventually, I'll probably go back-- maybe to work, maybe to school, maybe both. But in the mean time, I'm not stagnant. Over the past couple of years I have learned loads about nutrition, pregnancy, women's health, birth, early childhood development, etc. I've read dozens of books on a variety of subjects. I run the family budget and pay all the bills. I cook, and I really enjoy it. I've pursued hobbies and interests. I've travelled, with and without my children. I've learned and I've taught and I've been humbled and buoyed up. I've been an adult. If I had decided not to have children, cool. But I did. And that doesn't mean I wasted my life.

This is just a phase of my life. Little kids require a LOT of care. They're incapable of everything when they're born, and it's Sam's and my responsibility to teach them how to do everything, to keep them safe and healthy, and to teach them to be good humans who want to make the world a better place and help others reach the same goal. Where's the shame in that? I find none. It's a worthy pursuit, and for the time being, it's my biggest priority.  I'm free to do as I please with my life. When they're in school, I'll have a little more flexibility in how I spend my time and when, but for now I am alright with this stage. It doesn't last forever. And with every increase in frustration and annoyance (as far as their development goes) comes an increase in glowing pride or smiling at the cuteness and hilarity of it all.

No, I haven't compromised. No, I haven't given anything up. I made a choice. And while when I started this post irritated and offended, I'm just going to write off those people as na├»ve. I'm just fine. I don't need their stamp of approval on my lifestyle choices. Can we just stop with the stereotypes and get to know women for who THEY are, children or not? Not who society sees them as, or who their children are, or anything else?  People are people, and personally, I have found that absolutely everyone has at least one interesting story to tell, regardless of their background. Stop assuming X is better than Y. It's not. 

File under: feminism, cursed mummies, take a chill pill


Jim Allison said...

Not a good candidate for graduate school because you got married? Really? I can't believe she said that.

We really do need to update the display.

LP said...