Spheres of Influence or A House Divided (stands just fine)

Photo Credit: Riot of Passage

I’m a feminist who is a house wife. Live with it. Or bite me. I’d rather you just live with it.

I have a master’s degree from one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, I had a great career before I got pregnant, I was the breadwinner in the early years of my marriage, and I’m a bad-ass stay at home mom. I’ve read Bone Black, I’ve surfed the arguments of The Second Wave, and I’m quite read up on the Testaments, New and Old.

So live with it. Or bite me. I’d rather you live with it.

And yes, I have sons and I’d like a daughter. No, I’m not worried about what kind of “bad” example I’m giving them about women, their power, their influence, their intelligence and their usefulness. Seeing as I school their father every night in Jeopardy, can hold my own in any conversation on current events or politics, I average 30 books a year, and I write, I’m pretty sure that I can set a good example for my sons (and eventually, God willing, a daughter). And yes, I love Martha Stewart and Julia Child, and I’m happy to give you a consultation on curriculum development or education policy or the history of segregation, desegregation and the resegregation of this country while I make you a most excellent Lobster Thermidor.

Because that’s just how badass I am.

So live with it.

or bite me.

There is a lot on the internet about the mommy wars. Women who are terribly declarative about what other women should be doing with their time after they have chosen to construct a child from their own flesh. I am always amazed by the conversations that I have with other women, so laced with judgment either way, about the decisions that other women make.

My unmarried friends have been bouncing this interesting article among themselves lately. According to this article, some three-quarters of women asked said that they would rather divorce and possibly raise their children on their own rather than be relegated to the housewife position. Citing multiple times that housewifedom is a throwback to the 1950’s, women have decided that they are too good for that.

The key difference between housewife status in the 1950’s and housewife status in 2013 is choice. A woman has the right to choose. I choose to be a housewife because having been an educator for the past 6 years, I know that raising two boys of color and getting them through K-12 with any modicum of success is going to require all hands on deck. I understand that stability, consistency  and a little bit of magic is key to their success. I decided that their success, ultimately, is above and beyond more important to me than my own self-satisfaction given to me by a career. I understand that the “sacrifice” to my career that I choose to make right now will serve to propel my sons above and beyond anywhere I could ever dream. I made the choice that, upon the birth of my sons, my life was no longer about me.

That isn’t to say that other women who choose to work and also have children don’t make the same choice. I profoundly respect working mothers and I believe that our society makes it exceptionally difficult for women to make the choice to work and raise their children. Between the long hours, the expense of daycare, the stares and glares and snippy conversations with other adults within the child’s life, and exhaustion of doing the “second shift” at home after performing at work, working motherhood must be hard. Women who do it and do it well are amazing. Some of them also have enough money to have amazing nannies. But the regular women, the middle-class women, the women who are doing it by themselves or with a partner, those are the super women who are my heroes.

I recognize that I’m privileged and spoiled, and that there are other women, especially women of color (who have, historically, been given the task of raising other women’s children for little pay and recognition while sending their children to other places that didn’t/don’t care for their children half as well), who would love the opportunity to be with their children all day every day.

The thing that bothers me about the article is the lie behind it. That marriages should be 50/50, that for some reason a woman should expect a man to be capable of doing everything that she does and vice versa. This comes also, I think, with the lie that women can “have it all.” I don’t think that we can. I don’t think that is the way our society is built, and I think that the sooner we come to grips with that the better our individual lives will be. I love the fighters, the ceiling lifters, and I’m grateful to them. I just don’t, then, have a lot of sympathy when they turn around at 55 and are really upset that they can’t/never did have children or are severely held back after they choose to have them. I think you get to choose, and whatever the choice is, you can’t look back afterwards.  Choose and live. Don’t apologize either way. And if you are one of the women who chooses to throw yourself against the ceiling, I say thank you on behalf of my daughters and granddaughters, as you are doing for them what I choose not to and I am grateful.

The Husband and I are good at different things, and because we recognize our strengths and weaknesses, we work well together. We fill in the gaps as best we can, as any reasonable couple would and should do. I do the cooking and cleaning, yes, not because he makes me, but because I’m good at it and prefer the way that I do it. He’ often fixes things, squishes things, picks up heavy things, and builds things not because I tell him to but because he’s good at it (and also because sometimes I ask him to). If you walk into a marriage without any understanding of your individual spheres of influence, I don’t think that you can have a functional household. It’s not about man versus woman (or man v. man or woman v. woman, I’m inclusive!), it’s about function and the grand experiment known as life building.

I think it is repugnant to raise a daughter solely under the auspice of her being a future breeder. The Husband has an aunt and uncle who have 7 children, 5 boys and 2 girls. The 5 boys all have college educations (except for 1, who is just finishing his homeschooling, but has plans to go). The eldest daughter was put into an arranged marriage to a man 15 years her senior without any education beyond the homeschooling that she got (that I presume went up to high school…). The younger daughter has finished her homeschooling, is waiting for her parents to marry her off, and has not college education (not even an interest. It wasn’t an option for her, never even broached to her). That, to me, is not ok. I know that there are women out there who believe that it is, I strongly disagree with them, but I respect that there are people in the world who see the world differently than I do.

So, no, I’m not “just a mom”, and I’m not going to use the cleaned up language of “homemaker” or whatever makes you feel good about yourself. I’m a woman raising her children. I don’t have a title, to suit your needs, but I’m not “just” anything. I’m a woman who made a choice. I’m a woman who understands her sphere of influence, and yes, I live in a divided house. The Husband does “man” stuff and I do “woman” stuff and we are happy and we live in 2013.

So my “blahs” from earlier in the week turned into “roar” today! Vacation is much needed. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Spheres of Influence or A House Divided (stands just fine)

  1. I LOVE this post! I love it with the intensity of a thousand suns. I, too, am a housewife. I made that choice when my little miracle was born and I don’t regret it one iota. We have a very traditional marriage as well and it is a beautiful symbiosis. I cook, I clean, and I can even work on the cars. My husband does the yard work and fixes items of seemingly disrepair. That doesn’t mean that I am a throwback of a 1950’s housewife that cooks meals and takes insults and could never leave because I was “stuck”. I actually hold a higher degree than my husband and while he made more money than I when I was pregnant it was such an obvious choice for us that I often laugh at people’s response when I tell them I am a stay at home mom.

    “You? But you’re so SMART. Why would you WASTE that being a housewife” (More than one occasion this has been conveyed to me with different variations)

    I stay at home because I prioritized my family and the well being and education of my child before my ego. I stayed at home because no one ever said on their deathbed that they wished that they had just worked MORE. I stay at home because I believe and stand by the sanctity of marriage and family and I don’t want to wake up one day (like my mother) and realize that my child is grown and I missed it.

    I don’t condemn working mothers in the slightest though, please don’t mistake me. There are days that I can’t fathom how they get everything done and still manage to sleep at all and some days I even envy them having some time to their selves outside of the never ending barrage of needs and wants. They are incredible women.

    It just confounds me that in this day and age people still think the only woman that are housewives are uneducated or lack self worth. I think it is quite opposite, actually!

    • Thanks a thousand times!

      I think that women who think that they are “feminist” because they aren’t staying home don’t actually know what true feminism is. People have hijacked the conversation and turned it into an “us against them” when it should be a “we” kind of thing. We’d be so much stronger as a collective in cultivating more rights and power in our society if we stopped bickering among ourselves and used our energy to fight against the persistent barriers that exist for us. It’s really too bad and utterly frustrating.

  2. Oh, and as a post script…as someone that actually studied interpersonal relationships in school I can say one thing about “traditional” marriages. It is a statistical truth that “happier” marriages are the ones where the roles are simple and predetermined. It is the sharing of everything that breeds feelings of frustration and contempt if one feels that they are pulling more of their fair share. In our home there is never an argument over who will do what. We do what it is that we do and that is just that. No one feels as though they do “more”.

    It is simple mathematics of relationships. Less arguments equals happier people and happier people don’t seek divorce. 🙂

    • That totally makes sense. I think that some women fail to understand that the predetermined roles can be whatever they want them to be. Work within your wheelhouse! What’s the big whoop?

    • And that is what I value the most. It isn’t about religion, to me anyway, it’s about the CHOICE. If a woman is part of a religion that encourages her to stay home and she actively chooses to embrace that, I think that’s great. The choice really matters. We really take that for granted (or ignore it, it depends on the vantage point).

  3. I’m also a SAHM out of choice and I consider it my job. I don’t laze around drinking coffee and chatting, I work hard. I also completely agree with your point about supporting other women whatever THEIR choice happens to be. Great post!

    • Thank you, thank you!

      I still struggle with my role as a woman who stays at home. It takes a lot of reflection to realize that I’m doing the right thing for the right reasons. I simply refuse to let other women determine what my narrative is. In the end, my sons benefit, and that’s what matters. 🙂 I’m sure you are in the same boat!

      Thanks for reading!

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