“A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.” ~ D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterly’s Lover
Yesterday while walking, I listened to a podcast: “Be the Change” on The Hidden Brain. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Rather than being a telling of how someone started a non-profit, it was about a young couple who wanted to raise a non-gender child. Most interesting to me were the stories about the mother with her infant in a NICU who dressed her daughter in gender-neutral clothing and how people reacted to her newborn. Those who thought “she” was a boy, said things like, “Oh, he’s getting so strong,” and when the nurses (while the mother was home resting) dressed her daughter in head-to-toe pink, people said, “Oh, she’s so delicate and precious.” (paraphrasing here). Friends and family members struggled to know how to interact with this baby, and then child. At the end of the podcast, I wasn’t exactly sure I could name how I felt about the family’s story. I felt neutral.
This weekend in Atlanta, some friends of mine attended the Atlanta Pride festival. They made awesome signs and had custom made t-shirts saying “All Means YOU.” I’m proud of them and I am proud to say I am in full support of gay marriage and all things that support the LGBQT community. The most interesting picture I saw from a friend’s post was a picture of her in her t-shirt holding a sign that says (in Rainbow colors) Unity, Respect, Equality, Hope, Love. Directly next to her was another woman holding a sign that said on one side: “Feminists are Whor–” and on the back side, “Women Belong in the Kitchen.” OMG.
These experiences led to me to spend some time thinking about my personal life, especially my life as a woman.
When I was a little girl growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was terrified of war. The Vietnam War was happening and there was a lot of talk of war, the Cold War, bomb shelters, and the possibility of one day women being drafted. Chills. At that moment, I was not only worried about my older brother someday being drafted, but extremely glad and thankful that I was a girl. I was also extremely glad that my dad was married with kids and ineligible for the draft.
My dad served in ROTC and the US Army. He was also a PE teacher and hockey coach. He was and is truly a “guy’s guy.” Though he was a tough father and a strong man, he encouraged me to try every single sport known to mankind. Some I liked; others I hated (broomball). He brought home stop watches, skis, balls of every kind, and was always encouraging us kids to be active physically. I never once felt that I was hindered because I was a girl. I actually liked then, and to this day, physical activity. I must also mention that my mom worked full-time throughout my childhood. Yay, Mom! How you put dinner on the table Every Single Night still amazes me.
As I matured into young adulthood, don’t hate me for saying this, I wanted to be a teacher, writer, and very briefly, a nurse. I wanted to do these things because I loved to read and all things wordy, playing “school”( as long as I was the teacher), and was fascinated by the human body. But what did I really want? I wanted to marry someone and have kids and be a mom. (And if teaching fit, then that too). Well, I got what I wanted. I married a guy I loved and who supported us single-handedly for almost 20 years. Though I did work before kids, I stayed home until our oldest was in 8th grade and our youngest in 2nd. Even then I worked out of the home as a freelance proofreader. The point? This was my choice. This was OUR choice. Even through the years when “overdraft protection” and “no-cost weekends” were my best friends.
The bottom line is this: I love to cook, I don’t hate cleaning, and I do not want my husband touching my laundry. He doesn’t understand “this needs to be hand washed, this only on gentle cycle, and the most important—do NOT put this in the dryer!” I feel happy when I make a great meal and the house is clean when he walks in the door.
The second bottom line is this: this works for us. My personality is such that I get enormous joy out of taking care of people. I feel strong and able when I can look back and say my primary job was raising our kids and making our home comfortable, happy, and peaceful. I am not ashamed to say this. I also enjoy my current work and get great satisfaction out of it.
The third bottom line is this: be who you are. I have a daughter who is fiercely strong, independent, and a feminist. She marches to her own drum and will accomplish much, much more professionally in life than I ever did, or wanted to, to be honest. I have two sons who are wonderful husbands, nurturing, caring, share in household chores, cook, do laundry, take care of pets, and support their hard-working wives.
Women, whatever path you choose, embrace it! Do what you want. Have no regrets. Love where you are. You be YOU.