Being a stay-at-home mother and admitting a dissatisfaction with one's life in the all encompassing role of MOMMY is almost taboo in this country. Almost. There was a time when this subject was never talked about... A time when the only choice middle-class women had when they married and had children was to stay at home. There was not a question of loving it or hating it. It was just the way things were done. But, today we have that ability - to question our lives and the roles we play in it because of the groundbreaking women who came before us. It was 1963 when Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, was published.
"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night--she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question--"Is this all?"***
Betty Friedan talked of women feeling trapped in their role as homemaker, and it was as if a casserole exploded across every kitchen in America. Today we are free to talk about this, to question it, but do we?
I like to think of myself as being candid with my close friends, openly expressing both my struggles and joys in being a mother. Yet, I find myself hesitating to discuss my own feelings of dissatisfaction, when I have them. Something holds me back. Shame? Worrying that I'll be seen as a complainer? I am not sure. So, it is easy to fall back into roles like "the harried mom" or "the exasperated mom," putting the onus on my children and what aggravating hi jinks they've been up to this week. But, that is not really what is at the core of the dissatisfaction.
Is this IT?
Is this all there is?
Where have I gone?
Who am I?
I don't recognize that person in the mirror? Oh...that's me. But, IS it?!
Today we have online communities, friends a keystroke away, whom we connect with intimately. Perhaps because it is easier to reveal our own perceived inadequacies and shame to someone who feels safe...at a distance. Yet, someone who appears open and listens to our inner heart.
Being a homemaker is a valuable role. One that is often overlooked and undervalued - hence increasing a sense of loneliness and isolation in women. It is a complicated subject, with no easy answers.
I feel very lucky that mothering feels like a natural fit to me. It is something that I wanted for many years, and now I have the privilege of being a mother to two children whom I love with a passion and depth I could never have imagined. I am blessed that I had the choice to be at home with them. It was what I wanted. What I felt was most important for our family. And I don't regret the decision. But, I felt lost for a while. There are many things about mothering that feel cloying and suppressive. As if... you are one step away from the nearest psychiatric facility, or jumping on the back of some one's motorcycle and riding away, without looking back... Often, when I hear a story on the news of another mother who went over the edge, I nod silently, take a deep breath and feel lucky that it isn't me. But, I can relate...at least to some of it.
It is the writing that has saved me. Opened me up to a creative well that I had only dreamed of, yet never truly attempted - other than my private journaling and an occasional writing class. The irony is that if I hadn't gone to that dark place and muddled about in my own despair, I'm not sure I would ever have started writing. I'll never know.
Last night I saw a film. It will stay with me for days. Women, RUN...do not walk, to see Revolutionary Road. If you have ever questioned where American feminism came out of, or why it came to be...this film will turn you upside down. It is explosive, heart rending, and brutally honest. The performances are seamless. Kate Winslet is mesmerizing. Melissa Silverstein, from Women & Hollywood, writes: Revolutionary Road is a tough movie for a woman who grew up after the women’s movement of the 1970s to watch, but after watching it a couple of times I actually think that it should be required watching for all young women who think that feminism is irrelevant.
Seeing Revolutionary Road should have left me feeling depressed. But, it didn't. Instead I felt uplifted. And validated. Uplifted because we, as women, have more choices today. We. Can. Choose. Validated because being a mother is just a part of who I am. A big part. In the end, perhaps for me, the most important part. Yet...I am not only a mother, a wife, a homemaker. I am so much more...
***Quote from The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan - Opening paragraph, Chapter 1.
***"Fragmented Homemaker" painting by David M. Bowers