This course has deepened my understanding of motherhood, not only for myself but for all of us. My family is not heavily structured by strict gender binaries, but compared to more feminist households, we probably look like we are trying to be The Cleavers. Anne Crittenden says after the first child arrives “traditional gender roles have a tendency to harden like concrete” (235). She goes on to say that a woman should choose her mate very carefully because it is the most important choice she will make. I have to agree with Crittenden’s assessment and pronouncements here. My husband is the breadwinner, and I stay home. But does this make us a 1950’s nuclear family? I do wear an apron and cook dinner most nights. Yet cooking is something I had to learn to do because I was never taught. My husband is a chef, and that is how I learned.
My husband helps me out with anything and everything, seeks my counsel in all matters, and values my opinion as much and more than his own. He wants me to work when I am ready and to be successful and fulfilled in everything I do, not just as a mother. He is kind, gentle, and is very supportive of my pursuing my degrees and of me in general. Despite the way society is set up, I feel that I have a hearty supply of equality in my personal life. Interestingly, he grew up without a father, who he has never known, and who does not know that he exists. He was conceived in one night and his father has no idea. This presented problems and pain, but on the other hand, he was raised by women and several uncles. Those men were kind and gentle, if very stoic and not expressive in the emotional sense. I was raised by grandparents and had many of my own challenges, and I feel that I use them to the best of my ability to be a more compassionate woman and mother. I did choose my husband very carefully. I love our marriage, but I know it is not really the norm if I take all women into account. In any case, the inequities that exist in the world still apply to me, as they do all women, working or at home. My guy does NOT channel surf while I carry in the proverbial rabbit food, and neither do our sons. (as written about in “Mothers Who Think”).
Adrienne Rich points out how things drastically shifted for women in the Western world in the 19th century, though I would argue that things were always drastically different if we are to believe the Christian creation myth in which Eve is responsible for the downfall of all mankind. I digress…..Industrialized society presents many challenges, both to individuals and families. The “concentrated supply of labor” needed away from home changed the family and relationship dynamics. (Schwartz and Scott 19) Men were expected to be the primary breadwinner, the “good provider” and not much else. I am personally so thankful for my husband and men like him because this patriarchal orientation would not work for me whatsoever.
As for occupational goals, I wanted to be a mother before any other thing. This is partly because I was abandoned, and so I embraced the homemaker role easily. I loved it and it suited me. While women still face challenges in terms of equality, there is hope, because many men are now stepping up and becoming nurturing fathers who participate in household chores and are more emotionally available. I think it is all about equality, in an emotional sense, and I think empathy is a great equalizer. In an empathic view, both people in a given relationship can be viewed more humanely. Additionally, continuing to propagate the idea that men must work outside of the home, and not be stay at home parents, creates more challenges. Income equality could shift the paradigm in a positive way, but so can emotional equality, where women’s feelings are treated as serious and important.
If women could earn what their male counterparts do, then more men could choose to stay at home, and women could work if they so desire. Perhaps if women were more equally representative of the “systems of social control and production” in society, gender equality and income equality would be easier to achieve (Schwartz and Scott 20). High quality and affordable childcare would be a great addition to our workplaces. In this way, if women want to or have to work, they can do so, economically and emotionally. Anne Crittenden wrote that conscientious mothers can produce incredible human capital in terms of their children. She states that mothers motivated by “compassion, love, nurture and train children for adulthood” ( 71). Crittenden goes on to say that mothers like Virginia Willaims could be viewed as tremendous sources of national wealth. She cites the World Bank’s 59% statistic that shows that over half of wealth in developed countries in embodied in human and social capital like educational levels, skills, and a culture of entrepreneurship (71). This is but one of my goals as a mother, and my husband’s as a father. We want our children to be a contribution to the world and to make a contribution, or several, to the world.
As for occupational goals, I wanted to be a mother before any other thing mainly because I just intuitively desired to do so. My goals now are to obtain advanced degrees in psychology. I feel lucky to be able to have been a stay at home mother, which I will be doing for a couple more years, and then start my second career, psychotherapist. I feel I am not “just” a stay at home mother, but I am a mother and ALSO a future psychotherapist. The women in our readings have elucidated a rich inner experience that leaves me feeling very much a part of the greater scheme of things.