Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 2nd interview...

My second interview is with Holly, who lives in Texas. She is 39 years old, married, with 3 children. She is a stay-at-home mom. She has a blog called June Cleaver Nirvana.

What does the word feminist mean to you?
If I answer that now no one is going to read the rest of this interview. Can I come back to it later?

Has the meaning changed over time? Yes. I think originally feminist meant a voice for women. There were wrongs that needed to be righted. There were women who needed encouragement and support to realize that they had the right to their own life. There were laws that needed to be changed. There were traditions that needed to be examined. There was a conversation that needed to be started.

I think what happened to feminism is the same thing that has historically happened to just about any formalized group of people. Once the general objectives are accomplished (or they are making good gains) the extreme element in the group takes over trying to maintain the group’s relevance.

The problem is that there is no way to identify the accomplishment of the goals and there is no start to the extremist take-over. These areas blend together and work against themselves.

So, let me go back and answer what the word feminist means to me. At this point in time I see feminist as an extreme group of women trying to talk FOR me. Stop it! The very basis of feminism is that I have the power to talk for myself.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? No.

Would others consider you a feminist? No, because I have made traditional sex-role choices (and that is a choice!) so people tend to lump me in with the oppressed women of the world.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? The images start early with the black and white photos of sisterhood and transition into angry snapshots of women mad at the world.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? We are having this conversation.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? In an effort to elevate women we pushed down men, children and other women and weren’t very nice about it.

Did your mother work outside the home? Yes, part-time because we needed the money.

How did that affect you growing up? Mom was usually there when we were home. Most of her work hours were during school time. I think that proved to me that her first priority was her family.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? I never had a negative image about it. It was something that quite a few of my friends’ moms did because money was tight. I never really thought about it.

Was your mother a homemaker? Prior to being school age my mom was home with my brother and me although she usually was taking care of another child or two for extra money. She was a MOM. Hugs and kisses for everyone. I don’t think she considered herself a homemaker. The house was always clean and inviting, but we are not talking Martha Stewart here.

How did that affect you growing up? Home has always been a warm fuzzy place.

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? I saw the moms of my friends in the neighborhood. I saw how these women worked together to get what they needed done. I saw how they would send all the neighborhood kids to one yard for the morning so that the other moms could work or take care of something. I saw how these women socialized and provided support.

When I was 4 or 5 my great grandma came to live with us. She had Alzheimer’s (although that was unknown at the time). I saw how my mom took care of her even though she was ugly to her. I saw how family pulls together and does what needs to be done for family.

When I was in 6th grade my great aunt came to live with us. She had been single all her life. She lived in a little apartment attached to our house. She and I spent a lot of time together. She was a very sweet and loving woman that helped me through a very hard year. We never had deep discussions or talked about a lot of things, but when I would go visit her she would give me a big hug and let me choose what we watched on TV together. That sounds like such a simple thing, but that her unconditional support was invaluable to me during what was a pretty rough year. And once again, although I did not realize this at the time, my mom stepped up and brought a family member (both instances were members of my father’s extended family) into our home because that was what needed to be done.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? A pioneer, an astronaut, a missionary, a nurse, a writer, a pilot, the president, etc.

What do you yearn for? More of the same.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? Yes and no. I was not the girl that had a date every weekend. My very first boyfriend at age 16 broke up with me saying “you are the kind of girl I want to marry”. Hey thanks. I was crushed for awhile and then I realized that it was a gift. I spent the next 4 years being irritable because who are the “marrying girls” supposed to date until the guys decide to settle down? But in the end it was good.

I started looking at dates more as potential husbands. I horrified my college friends by stating that I was not going out with anyone that had less earning potential than me. GASP. A girl has to plan. I wanted to be able to make choices whether to work or not once I had kids. I chose a career that I could easily support myself if I didn’t find a husband or if he ever left me with 17 kids. I planned ahead so that decisions wouldn’t be forced on me out of necessity.

My sweeping statement also started me thinking about the guys that were just coasting through college. This lack of motivation started disgusting me. I was driven to do well and realized that I was no longer attracted to boys that weren’t.

I developed a plan. You know the “really nice guy” that everyone has in their class, but you can’t go out with because he is like a brother to you? Well, I decided to find that “really nice guy” from someone else’s class. And when I found him I married him. He really didn’t have a chance.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? I grew up within a sheltered religious community. It wasn’t a compound or anything extreme like that, but all my friends were the same religion, I went to a religious private school, my parents worked for entities within the church and we lived in communities where everyone was this same religion. I didn’t have friends that were not of my religion until graduate school.

I went to a religious boarding school for grades 11 and 12, but left mid-year in my Senior year because I just couldn’t handle it anymore. The rules were ridiculous. They didn’t make any sense. They were rules for rules sake.

I started realizing that at boarding school information was thought to be the enemy. Information was intentionally left out of my education to “protect me”. As a teenager that was averaging reading a book a night this didn’t fly too well. After awhile I ran out of approved books. After awhile I ended up reading non-approved books. I thought it was strange that I was sneaking to read Steinbeck and that my CS Lewis (I KNOW! CS Lewis?) Space Trilogy books got confiscated.

Have you ever dieted? Nope.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? Yes.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” No.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? My mom is not a preachy/teachy type. Now that I know her better as an adult I realize that she was probably just trying to figure all this out while raising me and my brother.

What role did your father play in your childhood? My dad is great. As we grew he became more of an influence. I don’t think he knew what to do with little kids and he was working so hard that he didn’t have time.

He was always playing games with us. When mom had to do other things and he was in charge it was always unconventional. For instance, I remember one day that we were in his care and he took us to the community golf course and rented an additional cart for us. I couldn’t have been older than 2nd grade with my little brother in tow. He played 18 holes while we explored the course ending up in one of the water hazards. He just laughed and pulled us out. That is how he is. Nothing is a big deal. Life is an adventure.

What was your relationship like with your father? Great. We are as close now as ever. He is the one I can talk into things like driving up for a poker tournament or taking the boys on a train ride just for the adventure.

How do you feel about aging? I don’t really think about it much. I am not a big fan of wrinkles and extra skin across my mid-section, but things could be worse.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? I think it is an option. I don’t feel like the risks outweigh the rewards at this point, but might think differently in the future.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? She gave me two of those “All About Me” type books. I think that was actually a pretty good solution since I read so much.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? I think that it is robbing our children of something wonderful. I think it is evil. No good can come from separating love from sex.

Why did you decide to be a stay-at-home mom?I always thought I would be a SAHM. In high school and college it may have been a little rebellion against the expectations of girls in the 80s to be strong career women. It is weird for me to look back and see that because I never did much babysitting growing up. The first diaper I changed was on my own child. I wasn’t someone who even considered having children until I was almost 30. I have no idea WHY I always figured I would stay home.

Do you consider it a job? No. It is life. It is a calling. It is a responsibility. It is a commitment. It would totally suck as a job.

Do you feel that you are valued? Absolutely. These poor people couldn’t live without me. I have “job” security.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes. I primed him before marriage and for the first 10 years we were married that this is what I was going to do. He relies on me for everything home and family related. I am in charge of all that and he appreciates it. If he starts forgetting how fabulous I am, I remind him. He calls me his buffer to the world. It works for us.

Do you feel supported by other women? For the most part. I haven’t run into any lately that question my decision. I did have a fellow female graduate school student in a very competitive program tell me I shouldn’t be taking up space in graduate school if all I was going to do is stay at home with my kids.
Several of my best friends are working mothers. We seem to get along and support each other fine. On several occasions they express that they wish they could do what I am doing.

What do you love about being a SAHM? I love being the tour guide for my kids’ lives. I get to be there and see every moment of interest, celebration of victory and hug and kiss away any problems. I get to see the people they are becoming.

Is there a dark side of being a SAHM? I think there is. I think that there are times of isolation. Women in general don’t do well with isolation and when you add the tremendous responsibility of motherhood mixed with hormones and lack of sleep it can be trouble. Big trouble.

What was your career before you had children? I was a Physical Therapist who managed multiple clinics.

Has it been hard to let go of that identity? I really thought it would be hard. I loved what I did. I was really good at it. I spent all day telling people what to do and they LISTENED. People came up to me and asked my opinion! It was much easier to transition than I thought it would be. It may be because I had been trying to get pregnant for several years and this was something I really wanted.

Do you still identify with that role? Not at all.

If you had a choice to return to work, would you? No. Never.

Do you believe a happy, fulfilled mom is a better mom whether her choice is to work outside the home or to stay at home with her children? I may not understand the question, but I don’t think being happy and fulfilled or the lack of it has anything to do with motherhood. I think that people that are generally happy and fulfilled are generally happy and fulfilled as moms. I think that people that are generally unhappy and unfulfilled are generally unhappy and unfulfilled as moms. I really don’t think that work or stay-at-homeness has much to do with it.

Can women do it all? No. I don’t – at least not all at the same time. I don’t know why we even want this. Who wants to do it all NOW? Why don’t we just choose proper times within our lifetime to accomplish certain goals? I think this may have something to do with our instant gratification society. Why would we want it all NOW – we don’t have time right now to enjoy it all. Slow down! Make a plan. There are some things we won’t have the opportunity to do in 10 years so do those now. The rest can wait. The amazing thing about waiting is sometimes what we think we want now will be very different from what we end up realizing we need in 10 years.

How old are your children? 3, 5 and 8.

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? Not much different. They did an amazing job. I had a great childhood. The only thing that I really want to do is expose them to much more knowledge. It is one of the reasons why my kids go to a Classical Education School. I want them to learn everything their little heads can hold. I don’t want to shelter them from knowledge. I want them to be able to put it into historical context and then pick a side and defend it. I want their quest for knowledge to know no boundaries.

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? Unconditional love and support…

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? We now have more entertainment.

Do you have dates with your partner? Yes. We usually get away for dinner at least once a week.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? I go to yoga 3 times a week. I have times throughout the week where I do non-kid related stuff. I usually just schedule a few hours with a sitter or grandma to get away and write or do something fun.

How do you combat stress? Yoga, a phone call to a friend, blogging, and laughing.

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? Yes, I have several groups that get together monthly that I participate in. I rarely miss a party.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? No. I really don’t get that. I am a wife and mother. It is part of who I am. But it is PART. It doesn’t change who I am at the core other than make me cry during Hallmark commercials…

What do you do to facilitate that? I don’t think of it as facilitating separation, but things that help me grow as a person helps me grow as a mom too. I love how yoga has helped me calm my mind and improve my body. I am surprised how writing everyday – even if it is just a silly mommy blog story can stretch my imagination. I keep my options open to try things that interest me. Through venturing out of my comfort zone regularly I have found my comfort zone expanding and opportunities arising in so many areas that I have to really decide what I am available to experience right now.

Does your partner help make that happen? He is very supportive of me. His absolute loyalty and willingness to facilitate my adventures is one of the things I love most about him. He works very hard so that I can stay at home. He often is relegated to living vicariously through me and he does it with very little grumbling.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? Yes, I mentioned earlier that he refers to me as his buffer to the world. He has helped me live this life that I love and I try to help him where I can. I try to make his life as easy as possible at home.

Does your partner share in household tasks? No. That is my job. I am in charge. If I don’t do it then I hire someone that will.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? I had the usual wedding-syndrome where you don’t think much beyond the dress and the cake and maybe the first apartment. I hadn’t really considered what it would be like. After 6 years in a girls’ dormitory I had found that there weren’t many girls that I could live with so I thought trying this out was worth a shot.

How do you feel now? Great. The first few years were hard because we were adjusting and growing (I got married at age 22) but as we adjusted and aged things have settled into greatness.

Do you see evidence of “The Mommy Wars” in your everyday life? No. I really don’t. I have run across other moms that were snobs, but I think they are just snobs and it is unrelated to their work status. In the 8 years I have been a SAHM I have never had another SAHM discuss the “evils of the working mom”. It just has never happened to me.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Yes

Why? It is MY life. I can look back and see how choices I have made along have brought me to where I am today. Where I am today is in a place surrounded by people I love.

Thank you, Holly.


Comments are closed for The Motherscribe Interviews. For more about Holly, please find her on June Cleaver Nirvana.

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