Michelle's Front Page

Freud veered off course

April 25th, 2006

I’ve never been your typical girlie girl or nutty woman. I don’t get jealous. I don’t ask if these pants make me look fat (I make the pants look fat…I realize this). I don’t stop speaking to Steve if he doesn’t notice my new haircut/shoes/glasses/fingernail polish within the acceptable 3 ½ minute window. I don’t ask “What are you thinking?” randomly unless he gets quiet in the middle of an important conversation. I don’t try to discuss our relationship during the Super Bowl. And I don’t translate his remark about the weather to mean he doesn’t love me anymore and thinks I am ugly. I don’t know if that is truly the way “normal” women behave but according to sitcoms, romantic comedies, and my guy friends it isn’t too far off. Steve has always loved that I’m not a “normal” woman.

Steve is also not a “normal” man. He is self-aware and talks about his feelings. He “gets” my shoe addiction (or at least tolerates it). He doesn’t mind shopping with me and is actually a good shopping partner (time limited – he hits the wall before I do). He has good taste and actually cares what color we paint the bedroom (when we disagree I find this trait annoying…some days I want him to say “I don’t care…whatever you want honey” and mean it). He knows that he doesn’t totally understand women but has a better handle on women than most men.

Despite our both being a little off from the traditional views of normal for our genders, we have settled into some traditional gender roles. I traditionally do the cooking but this is mostly because I am a better cook. Steve takes out the trash. I clean the toilet. Steve carries in the groceries. I vacuum and dust most of the time. Steve mows the lawn. It bugs me a little bit that we automatically fell into these norms but not enough to go mow the lawn myself.

Our newest traditional gender roles? My upcoming role as stay at home mom and Steve as the breadwinner. Steve would love to be a stay at home dad but, unfortunately, my social work gig won’t pay the mortgage (well it would but then we wouldn’t be able to pay for the cars or eat or have electricity). It’s like rock beating scissors – computer geek wins over social worker in the pay division every time. Between day care and parking, exactly ½ of my take home pay would be gone off the top. Financial benefit won’t win out over mommy guilt with those numbers. Besides financial considerations, Steve and I long ago decided that one of us would stay home for awhile when we had children. At that time, Steve was self employed and thought he would be the one staying home. He’s a little bummed that I will have all the fun.

The weird thing? I’m excited at the prospect of being a stay at home mom. I NEVER dreamed that would sound even slightly attractive to me. I was anti-marriage and anti-kids into I was in my mid-20s. I got married but still wasn’t sure about the kid thing (mostly because my ex was a petulant child himself). Somewhere in my late 20’s my views on children being evil started to soften (but my views on my ex did not…hence his ex status). The theoretical idea of having children “some day” started sounding more attractive when I turned 30, even though I was in the midst of a divorce. Steve and I were engaged when I discovered that antibiotics really do lower the effectiveness of the pill. It’s amazing what seeing the word “pregnant” on a digital pregnancy test will do for your views on children. We were so excited and scared. Losing that pregnancy made me realize how much I wanted to be a mom and how much I wanted to have a family with Steve.

The message I received in the 80’s was ‘Woman can have it all but if you are going to give up something, give up the family thing not the career thing’ (all that and those really high spiked heels were in fashion…no wonder we were angry) went right out the window. In the 80’s and even to a large degree in the 90’s, it didn’t seem like making the choice to be a stay at home mom was okay. It was a betrayal of all the progress women had made. Men don’t give up their careers for children, why should we? I don’t know if societal attitudes have changed or if it is just my attitude that has changed. It now feels more important to me to raise my child well than to further my career. We’ve come a long way baby – now I can make a decision about staying home with my child or continuing my career while raising a child. If I am honest, I will also admit that my decision is made easier by the fact that my current job is sucking the life out of me.

I will admit that there is a small part of me that fears I will be dismissed in social settings. When someone asks what you do and you respond that you are a stay at home mom, you are immediately dismissed as having nothing to offer to conversation outside of poopy diaper and peas in your hair stories. I worry that I might have been guilty of making that sort of judgment in the past. Why do we forget that a stay at home mom had a life before she started singing potty songs and searching for ways to get dried Similac out of bottle nipples? That she had a career or at least a job? That she has opinions on feminism, politics, cars, religion, Prada bags, and quite possibly nuclear physics? I don’t want to lose my “status” as an interesting person because I choose to stay at home. Thankfully, most of our social gatherings are with friends who also have children so I don’t spend much time worrying about this.

I wonder how many women out there see staying home as a worthwhile sacrifice and how many don’t see it as a sacrifice at all. I wonder how many women wish they could make that choice for themselves rather than not having options because 2 incomes are required in this day and age to live comfortably. I wonder how many women are able to juggle it and do it well.

**Please note, this is not to say that working mothers are cold, uncaring, horrible women. I pass no judgments about this topic – it is a very personal choice to make. Some people don’t have a choice due to financial situations. Some people choose to continue working for their own reasons. I don’t think there is a globally right or wrong answer to this dilemma…I am simply thankful that I have the choice to make. I think children are happiest when their parents are happiest – so follow your bliss! And I think we (we being all of mankind but less optimistically we being women) need to support each other in our choices.

Damn, this turned into quite the long post…it honestly started out as a post about me decorating my cubicle and Steve refusing to take any personal items into his office. My Freud action figure sitting on my desk and the resulting questioning looks I get from co-workers inspired the post…but I got off on a very different tangent.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 25th, 2006 at 10:07 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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