Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 9th interview...

My 9th interview is with Margaret. She is a 44 year old working woman who lives in California. She is married with two children. She has a blog called Finnegan Begin Again.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? To me, a feminist is a person who recognizes that certain historical, social, political, and economic constructs limit the opportunities for women to develop themselves to their full potential.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Absolutely.

Would others consider you a feminist? I hope so.

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? Absolutely.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinham. I think of generations of women who have raised important questions about what it means to be female.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? Continuity. The woman’s movement has had ebbs and flows, but it has existed since the early 1800s. The consciousness of those ebbs and flows is a welcome reminder that the search for justice doesn’t end.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? To over-identify with male values – the assumption that women will be equal when women can act like and have the privileges of men, instead of questioning some of those values in the first place.

Did your mother work outside the home? She began working when I was about eight.

How did that affect you growing up? I would have preferred having my mom at home, but she had to earn money and I did not hold that against her.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? It taught me that I would probably have to work and, that being the case, I better find something that I liked.

Was your mother a homemaker? At first.

How did that affect you growing up? I did like having my mom home with me.

Did your father respect your mother? I don’t think so.

Did your mother respect your father? I don’t know. I think she feared him.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? Probably other moms and women in pretty traditional roles like nurses and teachers.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? My parent’s divorce was positive in that my father was abusive, but it also thrust us into a life of near poverty for a long time.

Have you ever dieted? I stopped dieting when I was 18 and realized that whenever I dieted I began to obsess about food.

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

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I don’t have body issues. And I was a fat kid. I think I early on realized that if I defined my self by appearances I would be pretty miserable, so I cultivated other talents.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I learned everything I needed to know by seeing a bad marriage in action. I always knew I would choose my spouse carefully.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He was the cop. The authority figure.

What was your relationship like with your father? He was the general, I was the private.

How do you feel about aging? For the most part, ok. I like to think I’m getting a little wiser.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? I would never have plastic surgery, and I feel sorry for celebrities that don’t even look like themselves anymore.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? I think it is very sad and disturbing.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? No.

How was your first sexual experience? Positive.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? I really love my husband, so for me marriage is good.

What makes you feel sexy? A good hair day.

Do you have the energy/desire for sex at the end of the day? It varies.

What turns you on? Someone else cooking.

What would make your sex life better? Less life stress.

What do you love about being a working mom? I’m in a special situation because I work part time. I love the authority and respect I experience as a professional. In class, I get to talk and people listen. I get to be the expert – and no one questions my expertise. I also like having an interest that is not about me or my children.

What are the challenges of being a working mom? Again, my situation is unique. My challenges are more professional. I’m not tenure track, which is my choice, but it means I get paid less, I’m sort of an outsider in the academy, and I have fewer options to grow my career.

If you had a choice to be at home with your children, would you? I’m glad that I don’t have to make that choice. I really like what I do.

Was the decision an economic one (e.g., your family requires two incomes)? The money is great, but the decision was more personal. I’d been home for five years, and I was really beginning to drown. I found it easy to become self- and family- absorbed when I wasn’t working. It really wasn’t healthy for me.

Do you beat yourself up for not spending enough time with your kids? No. I’m home when they’re home.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes.

Do you see evidence of “The Mommy Wars” in your everyday life? No.

Do you feel valued in your workplace? I do in my department, but I’m very lucky and I might not feel that way everywhere.

Do you feel valued at home? I think I am valued, but I don’t always feel valued. I often feel like the Sherpa.

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? Yes.

Can women do it all? It will not be easy, but I think you have to try otherwise you will shrivel up and die. I think education is the key for a lot of women because in my experience the more education you have the more choices you make. There are not a lot of people with PhDs, so I can work in a great job part time. I know attorneys who’ve found the same balance.

How old are your children? 11 and 13.

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? Well I was physically abused by my father, and I decided when I was ten that I would never hit my children. And I never have.

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? I feel that my mother tried very hard to be there for us, and hope that my children will be able to say that about me.

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? I appreciate him more. In a crisis, I’m the chicken with its head cut off type, but my husband stays very calm and focused.

Do you have dates with your partner? Not very often. I wish we had more.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? It is not scheduled per se, but I try and meditate most days, even if only for 15 minutes.

How do you combat stress? I’ve been taking a great meditation class for a year, and I love it. I also exercise.

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? I try to have lunch with a friend most weeks, and I often walk with friends. It’s very important to me because I think I have hermit tendencies.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? No. It’s all integrated, and not in a bad way.

What do you do to facilitate that? Does your partner help make that happen? My work facilitates that, and so does my writing, especially my blog, where I try not to talk about my family very much.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? I try.

Does your partner share in household tasks? Not as much as he used to because he works really long hours. But he helps when he’s around.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? Generally, yes. I have a great husband, wonderful kids, and I love my work. I work part time at CSULA and I write, and I feel incredibly privileged to do things I like.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? A mom.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? Probably. We played house a lot.

What do you yearn for? A life without fear.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? I don’t know. I don’t think marriage it that hard because, in the end, I did choose well. I think parenting is that hard, and I don’t think I expected that.

Thank you, Margaret.

The Motherscribe Interviews are closed for comments. For more about Margaret, please find her on Finnegan Begin Again.

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