Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Been thinkin'

I've been thinking a lot lately about what society is doing to women--and how that hurts society in the long run.

As I see it, society has set up a continuum: on one end, the successful, driven businesswoman--busy, happy, fulfilled, rich, married but independent, highly educated, has a couple of kids (but only a couple) and a nanny to raise them, works out, using her talents, contributing to society.  On the other end, the 50's domestic diva--full-time homemaker with a handful of kids (3 at the most), a gorgeously decorated, spotless house that she takes great pride in and gets great satisfaction from keeping white-glove perfect, perfect cook, kids all look great all the time and are involved in all the "right" projects, has creative hobbies (like flower arranging), makes her husband happy all the time, lives to serve others--always with a perfectly organized whatever complete with a homemade card and matching envelope, plays piano and teaches lessons, fills every minute of her day making her family and home clean, beautiful, and happy; she reads Shakespeare and warm fuzzy Oprah lit, and puts Thomas Kincaide on her walls with cute pictures of her family that she framed herself--and always in the right places; she is dressed perfectly in clothes she made herself, is thin but not bony, always has perfect hair and makeup, and always has a comforting word and a freshly-baked loaf of homemade bread ready, along with a hand-stitched patchwork quilt that she willingly presents to each new baby born that she knows (and some she doesn't); she never raises her voice and sings while she happily scrubs the toilet.

And where do most of us fall on this contiuum?


That's the problem. Neither one of those is a real woman. So none of us can fall on that continuum because all of us are REAL PEOPLE.

But every one of us feels pressure not just to fall somewhere on the contiuum, but to hit both ends and do them perfectly at the SAME TIME.

The result of this is that all women everywhere are stretched too thin, trying too hard to do too many things, most of which are unimportant, and, regardless of how much they accomplish, they feel like failures and can only see their flaws and where they've fallen short.

This is not right. Unhappy, stretched-too-thin mothers are not good for society because the health of society rests in the health of the families. Mothers (even working ones) are the center of the home, the pillar of the family--and when they are unhappy, the whole family and all of society suffers. For a long long time.

What I wish is that women could embrace what makes us women (instead of being forced to accept the feminist ideal, which forces us to pretend we are men, or espouse this other, simpy, June Cleaver model that is equally unreal), value and be valued for motherhood, rejoice in marriage and being a wife, get WAY more help and coddling when pregnant and dealing with newborns, and have realistic expectations about what we truly need to do and what really is just too much (spotless house? Unrealistic demand. Eating something healthy every day? Probably a good idea to aim for, with the understanding the sometimes pizza days save our hide. And sometimes pizza months do.).

In fact, I think mothers should get as many accommodations in society as disabled people--not because we're disabled, but because we are doing the most important thing for the future of our culture and nation, and we deserve every help we can get (instead of the constant barrage of "oh you poor thing" and unhelpful suggestions and insistences we keep our houses cleaner/better decorated and criticisms and extra demands and "my wife likes to contribute to our family so she works full time AND raises our children" and pressure to be cute/do cute things/make little "stuff", etc.). (Actually, I have a serious issue with the fact that it has become culturally unacceptable for moms to stay home and focus on doing JUST that job to the best of their abilities. Why do we have to do the most important job poorly so we can be socially acceptable by working outside the home, too? It doesn't make sense!).

Anyway, I want to say "the solution to this is", but I don't know the solution. Our culture has such strongly embedded ideas about women, most of which are wrong, that I have no idea how to fix it. It's not sufficient to say, "Just stop thinking you have to do all those things."

Often the first step in solving problems involved with cultural habits and perceptions is LABELING. When we come across an expectation for women, we should label it as what it is. Perhaps realistic and unrealistic would be good labels? Maybe we should go back to that old Animaniacs mini-feature: "Good Idea/Bad Idea."

But, then again, so many of us are so brain fried from what we are dealing with every day that we may not be capable of looking at situations ("I need to spend $100 per kid on Christmas presents and they all have to be brand-spankin'-new and gasp-worthy") and even think, "Is this realistic?" or "Is this a good idea?"

I'm not sure.

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