Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 17th interview...

My 17th interview is with Lisa from Washington State. She is 38 years old, married, with two children. She is a stay-at-home mom and has a blog called Mama Milton.

What does the word feminist mean to you? In a few words: Equality and Freedom.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Here’s where I get wordy; there’s qualifications and disclaimers and I tend to ramble but I’ll try to be succinct: Growing up in the 70s and cutting my teeth on Free to Be, You & Me gave me the confidence to pursue a ministry degree in a conservative denomination (read: no women allowed) in the late 80s. My naivety was met with unbridled sexism yet I never considered myself to be a feminist at the time – it was a word that would have further alienated me from my family, church, and many of my friends, most of whom didn’t get why I was in the program in the first place. I also didn’t relate to the more strident posture the movement took on at the time.

Now I am a SAHM – by choice – and lead a fairly traditional lifestyle. Still, I now consider myself to be a feminist on my own terms. I believe worldwide, in big and small ways, women are still denied basic human rights.

Would others consider you a feminist? I don’t know that most would. That word is still scary to a lot of people.

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? Yes, although I don’t like labels all that much.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? I guess some of the images are stereotypically angry, media images but for the most part I picture the women in my life that are living powerful, joyful lives. I think the freedoms we have today came at a price.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? More options, more freedom.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? I think many women of my generation didn’t see the value of the movement. I wish there would have been inclusion.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? I am horrified by the early sexualizing of young women AND men in our society.

Did your mother work outside the home? No.

How did that affect you growing up? It was a gift in many ways. But I didn’t want to grow up and follow in her footsteps. She often seemed bored and restless.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? My mom was hostile towards working mothers. Her mother worked all the time when she was a child, and I think she is still bitter.

Was your mother a homemaker? Yes.

How did that affect you growing up? I often wondered if she ever wanted other things.

Did your father respect your mother? Yes.

Did your mother respect your father? Yes.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? Both of my grandmothers worked and were hellraisers. (One was married 8 times. No joke.)

What did you dream of being when you were a child? I wanted to be an artist when I was very little. I was always drawing and writing. I loved time to myself, wandering in the woods and dreaming about adventures.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? Yes, although I said it wasn’t…

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? I was hospitalized for an eating disorder at 16. I continued seeing counselors through college.

Have you ever dieted? Yes, I became anorexic on my first diet.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? Ah, it’s a tricky one. I am more comfortable in my chubby skin that I ever was when I was rail thin. Still, I am slowly losing weight for medical reasons.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I guess I am sensitive to body issues, scared for my daughter growing up in our society. My family was always obsessed with bodies and fat; dieting was a constant.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish my mom had been more open, about everything. Sex was never discussed in our household.

What role did your father play in your childhood? My father took me fishing and spent a lot of time with me, especially when I was very young.

How do you feel about aging? It sure beats the alternative.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? I don’t know if it’s for me but I don’t have a problem with others’ making the choice.

Why did you decide to be a stay-at-home mom? My husband began traveling each week so I became a SAHM by default. At least at first.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes, my husband and I work together.

How old are your children? 8 & 11

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? I am far more open and open-minded. I don’t shy away from uncomfortable subjects.

What do you love about being a SAHM? I love volunteering at the kids’ school, getting to know their friends. I love it when they come off the bus in the afternoon.

Is there a dark side of being a SAHM? I am often bored doing menial tasks. I trick myself into cleaning the house while I listen to books on tape, but it is isolating at times.

What was your career before you had children? I worked in Human Resources when my daughter was a baby, and later worked in a bookstore.

Has it been hard to let go of that identity? Or you still identify with that role? I was uncomfortable last summer when I went on trip with my husband’s company, feeling like the little woman. I then shrugged that off. I am who I am whether or not I have a job. Our lifestyle works well for my family, right now.

If you had a choice to return to work, would you? I’ve been searching for part-time work the past six months.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? No. We were an abstinence only kind of family.

How was your first sexual experience? It was with a long time boyfriend in college. It was awkward, but amazing.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? Liberating.

What makes you feel sexy? Summer and dancing and great wine.

Do you have the energy/desire for sex at the end of the day? Most of the time.

What would make your sex life better? No complaints here.

Do you have dates with your partner? I love dating Greg, even after 15 years.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? Yes.

How do you combat stress? I go for walks, read, have tea with friends.

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? Absolutely.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? I think I struggled with this profoundly, early on. It’s easier now.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? My life is full; I have a great family and supportive friends. I think I am making my life count, most of the time.

Can women do it all? I think it’s possible, but difficult. I like to think of it as seasons of life; we may not successfully be able to do it all, all at once.

What do you yearn for? Time to untangle the words in my head, while I'm savoring these days with my kids; time with my husband. I yearn to make my days count, to make my corner of the world a little sweeter.

Thank you, Lisa.

The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Lisa, please find her on Mama Milton.

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