Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Motherscribe Interview Series: feminism, aging, parenting, identity and sex...

(NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW SERIES WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2009. There were more than 25 interviews with women.)

My first interview is with Stephanie, who lives in Washington State. She is 40 years old, married, with two children. She is a teacher. She has a blog called Bad Mom.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? To me, it means believing women are capable of doing whatever enters their imaginations and should be allowed to pursue their dreams. The meaning hasn’t changed to me.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? I do.

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? Sure.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? I think of women who picketed for the vote, went to work in factories, and burned their bras.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? I think it was a gift that the federal government recognized equal rights for women as a significant issue.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? I consider it a failure that some women discount the opinions and choices of those who choose a domestic role.

Did your mother work outside the home? Yes.

How did that affect you growing up? I was a latchkey kid and often cared for myself & little sister until dinnertime; it made me feel capable and trustworthy and strong.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? I didn’t know anyone whose mother didn’t work outside the home, so it seemed a normal part of life. I felt like it made sense for the family’s well-being, and it required all of us to have more of a role in housekeeping.

Did your father respect your mother? Absolutely.

Did your mother respect your father? Definitely.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? My maternal grandmother, teachers, older cousins.

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

What do you yearn for? I would love to be able to travel more – around my state, the country, the world.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? Not early, necessarily.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? Living next door to my maternal grandparents most of my childhood positively linked my identity with that side of my family.

Have you ever dieted? In high school, briefly.

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 would not describe myself as having body issues; I’ve always felt sad for people who constantly worry about their bodies.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? Sexualizing girls & young women is distressing to me – I feel the same about sexualizing boys & young men, too. They should enjoy innocent pleasures of childhood much longer.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish my mom would have talked about her first marriage, to my birth father – I have no idea how they met, what he was like, how he left.

What role did your father play in your childhood? My birth father was gone after I turned 4 – he wrote a couple of times when I was a teenager but I’ve not seen him since; the dad I grew up with married my mom just before my 6th birthday and immediately adopted me.

What was your relationship like with your father? Close – though he was strict, I knew he always had my best interests at heart and became increasingly easier to talk with as I got older.

How do you feel about aging? I got a little panicky as I approached 40, and still feel wistful about each passing year, but generally I’m cool with it; there is no sense in worrying – it happens if I want to be alive.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? Ugh. For me, I’m not interested for vanity’s sake.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? Not really; I was directed to a set of books and told to ask questions if I needed to.

How was your first sexual experience? Quick and without much discussion; not horrible but not as deeply romantic as I had hoped.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? Oh liberating.

What makes you feel sexy? Fancy underwear, listening to certain music, sumptuous food & drink, the way someone looks at me.

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

What turns you on? Music, food & drink, my man working, Edward Norton/Mark Wahlberg…

What would make your sex life better? I can’t imagine.

Why did you decide to be a stay-at-home mom? Before my oldest child was born, I decided to stay home until my kids were established in school because I wanted to get to know them well; I wanted to be their first teacher and expose them to as much culture as I could.

Do you consider it a job? Do you feel that you are valued? I definitely considered being a SAHM a job. I felt valued by my family & close friends; I ran into some people who thought I was “wasting” my potential.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Definitely.

Do you feel supported by other women? Most of the time.

What do you love about being a SAHM? I thoroughly loved watching my kids living & learning; I also loved creating my own schedule everyday.

Is there a dark side of being a SAHM? Sure – wanting/needing time alone in the middle of the day.

What was your career before you had children? Teacher .

Has it been hard to let go of that identity? Or you still identify with that role? It was hard to let go of my identity as a professional teacher, but I could still see myself as a teacher for my own kids.

If you had a choice to return to work, would you? I did.

What do you love about being a working mom? I love my job – I feel I do it well and make a difference in the lives of other people’s children; I think I’m a positive example to my own children in this role.

What are the challenges of being a working mom? Definitely balancing work time & family time – trying to take care of my job responsibilities and still have time to be with my husband & kids and do the things we want to do together.

If you had a choice to be at home with your children, would you? I do have a choice – I was home with them for 7 years.

Was the decision an economic one (e.g., your family requires two incomes)? No.

Do you beat yourself up for not spending enough time with your kids? I feel slightly stressed when I’m still in my classroom as my kids are getting home from school, but I don’t beat myself up.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes.

Do you feel valued in your workplace? Definitely.

Do you feel valued at home? Absolutely.

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, certainly – happy & fulfilled makes for a better mom, and a better example to her children.

How old are your children? 10 & 8

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? I want to be more open with our conversations, and I want to let them make more choices on their own – even the consequences are painful (though not harmful).

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? The importance of staying in touch with family.

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? We had not realized some key differences we had in child-rearing philosophies, but that has made us better communicators.

Do you have dates with your partner? Oh yes.

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

How do you combat stress? Writing, reading alone in my room, taking a bath.

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? Yes.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? Challenging, yes.

What do you do to facilitate that? Does your partner help make that happen? I usually need to be a mother in certain places and a wife in others – essentially, no hanky panky in places where the children are/have been/might be (hanky panky does not include PG kissing & groping). My man helps, yes.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? Yes.

Does your partner share in household tasks? Yes.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? I thought our house would be neater and mealtimes would be easier and neither of those things is true, but I feel like what we have is just right.

Do you see evidence of “The Mommy Wars” in your everyday life? Not really – occasionally at my kids’ school or a PTA function, I’ll run into SAHMs who clearly think I’m foolish for working outside the home.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? I am happy and feel generally fulfilled (I would like to travel more). I am surrounded by family, friends, & coworkers who are loving and supportive; I am comfortable with my lifestyle and love my job.

Can women do it all? They can, but it might make them miserable or resentful. I hope we choose to seek – and accept – help & support.

Thank you, Stephanie.

Comments are closed for The Motherscribe Interviews. For more about Stephanie, please find her on Bad Mom.

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