Parenting Stories: Happy Thoughts
By Stephanie Olson
Well, a lot has happened in the blogosphere since my last writing! Let’s see:
I guess that we will never be able to have everything that was promised to us in the past. You can’t be a great mom and climb the corporate ladder at the same time. I am a stay-at-home mom and, therefore, I can no longer call myself a feminist. Plus, there was the discussion of whether or not I am a good parent because my kids both stopped breastfeeding before they turned 2. Or 7. It was some number, I can’t really remember.
In any case, they don’t sleep with me so I’m evidently not a good enough mom. And not only have I let my feminist sisters down, but I’ve also let my kids down by daring to have my own life and not letting them use me as a sippy cup for an extended period of time.
So, happy summer to you moms out there! How are we feeling? Pretty good? I think at least some of this blogosphere buzz has managed to slap nearly all of us in the face over the last few months. You can pick and choose which debate offended, enraged or hurt you most. For me, as a stay-at-home mom who loves what I do and also considers herself a proud feminist, the accusation that I’m not a feminist was my punch to the gut.
What about you? I guess there might be a tiny sliver of mothers who work part time or have a job with extremely flexible, non-demanding hours and also practice attachment parenting who can pat themselves on the back. The rest of us are left weeping, fuming or TYPING IN ALL CAPS ON OUR KEYBOARDS!
I started out planning to write a response to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Atlantic piece from a few weeks ago in which she declared that I could no longer call myself a feminist. Then I thought about emailing her a shot of my son in his “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt that he rocks with pride. Okay, he has no idea what it means. But I am proud when he rocks it. Same diff.
Anyway, I spent a few weeks trying to write a response but I realized that I couldn’t do it. I’m not really good at doing a point-counterpoint kind of piece. Then I decided that I just didn’t want to get into it. I am exhausted, people! I am so tired of worrying about who is doing a better job or if we can have it all or if our kids are missing out or if I am missing out or if I am letting myself down or if another mom is offended by something I said or if I am offended by something another mom said. ENOUGH! (See there? All caps.)
I do stay at home full time with my kids. Many of my friends don’t have a choice. They have to work and spend all of their time making sure that they can feel good about the jobs that they took or the daycare they have or the time they spend with their kids. I have other friends who would be miserable staying home full time. They love their kids, but the idea of being at home with them all day would make them twitch. They have jobs that they love where they feel smart, challenged and supported and which keep them sane and happy.
We all have different situations, but I have never had a time when another mom made me feel dumb for staying at home. One of my old neighbors was a physician in the middle of her residency who had recently had a baby and was juggling her crazy hours with daycare. We were talking about the fact that I was moving to a new town and she asked, “So…are you still going to just…”
As soon as the word “just” came out of her mouth she stopped and started the sentence again: “Are you going to keep doing the important work of staying at home when you move?” I was so appreciative that she did not want to belittle me or diminish what I did. She was taking care to make sure she didn’t insult me. Just as I always took care to make sure that she knew that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with her choices. She was a great mom. She also became chief resident within a year because she was a great doctor.
We don’t have to spend all of our time fretting and feeling like we’re less than. Isn’t that what high school was for? Haven’t we all moved on? My dear Irish grandmother was a mom to six kids. She also went back and finished college when her last child moved out. She was a great mom and a feisty lady who liked to say, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Can we drop the idea of being perfect and embrace the idea of being content? Can we stop implying that the fact that there is more than one way to raise a child automatically means that one of those is the right way? Can we please respect others’ choices and feel good about ours at the same time? Let me begin:
My name is Stephanie Olson. I stay at home with my kids and I love it. I am a proud feminist and I will never feel like I can’t be both. I am content with my life, and I hope that the other people in my family would say the same thing. I am not going to be embarrassed about what I do or don’t do, and I am not going to feel guilty. My kids are pretty happy. I hope they stay that way.
Can we all just take a breath? Try it, because it feels pretty damn good.
Happy summer to all you moms out there!
Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday. It has gotten us through pretty well thus far! Read more of Stephanie's work on her blog, Ma Swell Vie.Google+