Monday, August 23, 2010

Motherwork as an oppressive state

I really didn't think I would be a stay-at-home-mom.  Ever.  

In fact, if I were to have gone to a fortune teller as a twenty-year-old, have her look in her deck and tell me that I would someday, very soon, be a stay-at-home-mom, married to a man who worked full time bringing in all the money, I would have demanded my money back.  Or punched her in the face, or both.  Obviously, I think my son is the most amazing human being I have ever met (and, for the record, I'm not the only one) and I consider my role as a mother one of sacred trust from the universe, however I wasn't really expecting the reality of this society's lack of appreciation for the work I'm doing to slap me in the face so.. hard.  I'm actually pretty upset about it.

As with everything in motherhood, it's too complex to completely explain, but other mothers have an intuitive sense of what I'm talking about when I say, "I've had it!"  Trying to explain it to others has been met with perplexed and apologetic responses such as, "But isn't it great that you get to raise your kid the way you want?" or "And you're doing such an important thing!" as if that's enough to shut me up and make it okay that I'm volunteering so much time for the benefit of society at large.  This is why the whole "cute baby reward" argument doesn't chalk up to me.  It's not okay for me to sacrifice paying work (believe me, if I got paid for my motherwork, I would shut right up) for a cute baby to cuddle with every night.  That's not the point of it for me.  It's hard work to consciously parent and to be bringing this kid up as a person who values the people around him (his mother included).  The U.S. minces no words in its value on this work.  And it's a hard pill for me to swallow.  Every.  single.  day.

I try hard not to resent my partner.  It's really hard!  The important thing with that is my compassion for his experience.  He would rather be parenting than working.  And I would rather be dragging the meat home.  This is why I married him!  I realize that he, too, is a victim in this nuclear set-up.  I wonder how this happened- is it just that easy to fall into this kind of situation for people?  Is it that prescribed?  The most difficult part of it is that I'm the one who's in charge of finding yet another solution.  And while I understand that any revolution or change comes from the ground, or those at the bottom, it just makes me wonder how much of that contributes to any sort of oppression.  How are the burnt-out expected to make their own lives better?  Where is the support?  I'm expected to schlep my car-seat-hating baby around town, find free childcare every week, feed him with my body, grow my own food, go to class, get good grades, AND organize that childcare co-op with all of the other isolated mamas in town that will magically solve all my problems? 

Again, I don't expect anybody without children to grasp this reality, to be fair.  It's also hard to hear things like, "I'm so glad I don't have kids", when I am asked how I'm doing (because I tell the truth).  Obviously, I don't have a single-handed solution, so I can't script the support, but hearing those types of things further undermines the great job I'm doing, and my contribution.  And right now, I'm out to make it known that my motherwork is a contribution to society, and that all mothers (and papas doing motherwork) are currently providing a free service in raising the next generation of rabble-rousers.  And it's damn hard work.  The last thing I need is to have some child-free privilege flapped in my face (intentional or not), because I value my work.  I just wish I wasn't so alone. 

1 comment:

DoulaHara said...

Yes mama! I twinkle. Although I haven't been a stay-at-home mom, my partner & I both have worked part-time so that we could try to equally parent. But guess what? It's not equal. I brought Ramona with me to work everyday from age 4 days to age 6 months, so we could nurse. I was never more than 1 room away from her until she was 4 months old. I've been nursing on demand for 24 months and 1 day.

Things have mellowed out a ton in the last 6 months, but for that first year and a half, I was absolutely honest when people asked me how things were. It made me sound like a terrible, intolerant, impatient mom, which is far from the truth. I was being an honest mom, and being authentic about the experience of motherwork.

I have one friend in particular who would always respond with comments like, "Huh...I've never felt that way with my babies. They must not be very difficult kids," or "Wow, I've never felt like my time was undervalued, my kiddos just love their mama so much." Which is a total dismissal of my honesty, and in reality, is a load of crap. Is she just that programmed that she has to be the perfect mom, that she really doesn't notice all the fucked up parts of motherwork?

Raising babies shows you the entire world in a brand new light, but that light isn't all a positive one--mostly, but not all. Raising babies lets you in on a whole new experience of oppression that you never knew before. Thankgully, babies are also really cute.

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