Call Me:

There are all sorts of intelligent, educated, civilized noises made in the world these days. All kinds of women write about the emancipation of the female race. Rights. Liberties. Freedom. Everybody wants to be a career woman. A lady with her own pocket. A girl with more to do than just her hair. A woman with more to oversee than just a family. And I can understand these sentiments. I used to be a feminist. I used to be a feminist unable to tolerate the housewife. I had housewife phobia, in fact. The idea of being at home, schooling my polite children and contemplating which vegetable to steam for next day’s meal gave me acid reflux. When I was younger, I would secretly pity these women; these real damsels in distress. I pitied them their average, boring, monotonous lifestyles. I imagined they dreamt of getting away, and sometimes I would be their girl-knight in shining armor, throwing books at them and shouting, “Wake up! Susan B. Anthony judges you!”

But that was before I had my son. Before I had to abandon a well paying banking profession, and be at home for him and our two daughters who followed suit. Often, I spent time contemplating which vegetable to steam for next day’s meal. I loved being a mother more than I loved being a banker, and this revelation took me (and everybody who knew me) by surprise. I am not speaking about the spiritual bonds of motherhood, of unconditional love, or a sense of obligation. See, I was good at my job. I was good at what I did, and I was constantly being applauded for it. Becoming a mother, on the other hand, was a constant exercise in recognizing my limitations, as a person, as a mentor and sometimes as a caretaker. I had to use my imagination, something I hadn’t done in years. I had to unlearn years and years of knowledge; knowledge that had dictated the kind of woman I was then. The independent kind. The no-nonsense kind. The kind of woman who conquered board meetings, and made everybody a lot of money. I used to derive a lot of pride from being that kind of girl. I was cool, and I was relevant in most “cool” social spaces. I contributed to conversation in an “intelligent,” way; not in the ways of some of my friends who couldn’t get through two sentences before a word about their kids. Inside, I would gag at the smallness of their universes. That was the woman I was then.

There are countless women who have been successful in balancing work and life. Their children are happy people, and their bosses are happy people and they are still cool. I’ve just come to realize, I’m not one of them. I’m terrible in fact, at that kind of multi-tasking. So I choose to be kind of un-cool. I choose to be the stay at home mom, the one “emancipated” women look pitifully at as they think, “Poor housewife.” Some days I get enough time to feel angry about this. Most days, I have no time, and if the thought crosses my mind I am usually able to put it in its place fairly quickly. Something in my soul still squeaks out, “I’m a God damn feminist.” Only, it becomes hard to constantly be justifying this thought. I don’t want to legitimize my beliefs by telling people tirelessly that I used to make more money than my husband, or that someday I might go back to my old job. Frankly, I find that kind of desperate. That kind of conversation is all about appearances. And when you’re a stay at home mom, nothing remains about appearances. There is no glorifying motherhood either, I find. No such thing as super mom. I live story to story, day to day, steamed vegetable to steamed vegetable. I raise my finger and my eyebrows to tell my kids off hundreds of times a day. I watch out for any unkindness in their character. I am paranoid about their appetite for reading. I read a lot of books to them, and I read a lot of books that I hope they will read in the future. I am always learning from them and this kind of education makes me happy. The ghost of my feminist past sometimes stirs and throws a book at my face, yelling, “Wake up!” I collect it calmly, raise one finger and my eyebrows, and in my best mother-tone, tell it never ever, ever to throw things at people.


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