Was going through my hard drive today and I found this-written years ago.
I work in a bookstore. Last week a woman came up to me and asked me for help finding a book. She said she didn’t know the title, or author, however she had heard it featured on a television show recently, and it was about “How to make your husband happy, keep your house clean, and be a good woman.” One of the other things she remembered about it was that the book offered three different versions of the cover so that you could get the one that represented you best. I guess Happy Housewives is definitely getting a lot of publicity.
On a similar note, a few days ago a gentleman came up to me looking for a book that talks about why feminism is dangerous and bad for society.
Hmmn. We didn’t find the book he was searching for, but I wonder what that was…
Honestly, I have never really had the time to learn much about feminism or the issues, because I had children young. I married my high school sweetheart and was 19 when I had my first baby. And, I couldn’t work, because his job was far more important, and we couldn’t afford daycare. I couldn’t finish college because he decided we needed to move constantly. My job was to clean, cook and be a mother. I was not allowed to have a social life, or friends, but he could do whatever he wanted because he worked. It took many years of my life for me to realize that I deserved better. I deserved to be respected and valued for what I did. I deserve to be a person, not just a mother-wife.
But leaving a situation like that is not easy. I ended up alone while pregnant, and without a clue how to get along in the real world. Eventually I figured it out, but in the process I lost custody of my older children because I couldn’t afford to fight for them, or care for them alone, not to mention, losing my house and 90% of my belongings. And then I got to see first-hand what it is like to be a single mother in America.
I stayed with a relative, paying rent, and sleeping in her hallway with a playpen next to me. I worked 3rd shift with a newborn at home, for as long as I could manage. (Read: until she stopped sleeping during the day.)Then, I received assistance to put her in daycare just so I could work to make barely enough to eat with. I couldn’t save enough to get a place of our own; I couldn’t save enough to get a car. My income tax returns each year still go to paying off the student loan I took out for the education I wasn’t allowed to get. And the more I made, the more I had to pay towards daycare myself, so I never really got anywhere.
I did eventually meet someone who values me as an equal, and am currently sharing living space with him. That has allowed me to work in the evenings, when he is home, so that I am home during the day with my daughter, who is not yet in school. The vain part of me, would like to say I do this because I don’t want to have her in daycare all day long, but the fact is, I can’t afford daycare. What I make would pay for daycare and leave…nothing. So what is the point of it?
So I stay home during the day now. I clean (with Flylady), I cook, and I spend time with my daughter. (I don’t, however, vacuum curtains on any kind of regular basis.)
At night, I leave for work, working from 6pm to 12pm, generally. On these nights, I don’t get to see the person I have a relationship with. He gets home at 5:30, and I leave for work then. When I get home, he is asleep. On weekends, I work. I still don’t have a car, and haven’t for years. So I am trapped in my home, with a small child, every weekday.
Even though my life is significantly better now, I will never forget how everything was for me and the lessons I learned throughout this.
We should all be working together to make things better for all women. If they stay at home full time or work full time or have to do some thing in between to make ends meet, they need help. We all need help. The system here at least, I know from experience, sucks. Being a mother here is hard, and we have no support. Being a single mother here is nothing short of impossible. Yes, it can be done, and yes it helps to start off with an education, and skills. But, it’s damn hard. And it shouldn’t be this way.
I would like to help others. I would like to see more help for women who are stuck in situations like I was, or worse. I would like to see more support for those women who can’t leave their relationships because they can’t afford to live without them, even if their husbands/boyfriends are physically or mentally abusive. I know several women currently who would leave unhappy relationships, but cannot, because they cannot face the challenges of doing it alone, because they don’t have enough financial or emotional support. They stay for children’s sake or because they feel they’re supposed to, because society or their religion dictates.
You must be a good mother-wife, ever happy and uncomplaining. No matter if you chose to/have to work or not. There is this pressure to be Martha Stewart at all times. Pressure to have vacuumed drapes and perfect meals and well mannered spotless children. Pressure to have the perfect relationship, or to at least pretend to have the perfect relationship. Pressure to breastfeed exclusively and feed your children only organic health food that the average person can’t afford to even buy exclusively because it’s so much more expensive. It isn’t fair, or right that society and the media just add to that pressure constantly while still not offering support for moms and women in so many areas.
Who do we talk to when staying at home with three children under the age of 4 is starting to drive us insane? What kind of homemade cookie shape is appropriate for children with autistic sensory disabilities and gluten allergies? Where do we go when we can’t afford to stay home anymore, but can’t afford childcare? Who listens when we have those days where we feel like all we did was clean up poop and prepare meals? Are we not even allowed to vent because then it’s taken as us not loving our children enough to enjoy every second we have with them?
I suspect there’s more to happiness than just embracing the dusting. The problems run deeper than this. We need to feel like we have value to society and in order for us to do so we need to be treated like we have value. More value than just a trophy wives, soccer moms, second-rate employees, or maids. Value as human beings. And it needs to be easier for us to “choose” the paths we want to take in life, whether it is staying at home or working or some combination of both.
And frankly, its not just society, or men that make us feel undervalued, it’s other women, all the Martha’s and Happy Housewives out there make us feel like crap because we can’t all be perfect, but we feel like we should.
I have resisted the urge to edit this at all, despite the fact that my fingers are just dying to. This was posted at the old blog. I wrote it about three years ago, back before the sick, when I was still able to work. Things have changed a bit in my world, but it’s still not any easier for moms out there. The one thing I am thankful for is the ParentBlogger community. It’s nice to know you are not alone.