Friday, April 3, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 13th interview...

My 13th interview is with Nora. She is 35 and lives in Washington State. She has one child, works outside the home and is married. She has a blog called Whopping Cornbread.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? Yes, I think it has changed. I think of it as a women’s rights thing first, I think. But then I remember all the courses I took in feminist theory about looking at the world through other than a patriarchal lens and stuff (I may be making this up) and I think that it is just a way of being in the world with a bigger lens than just money and power. A world view.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes, of course.

Would others consider you a feminist? Pretty sure they would, mostly. Probably the Dansko clogs are their first clue.

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

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? The black and white photos of the suffragettes, the bra burning photos from the 60s, my worn copy of Fear of Flying.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? Choice—our bodies, our jobs, our relationships, our legal rights.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? The women’s movement is finished? I think we have some pretty serious strides yet to make work-family choices more amenable to family life. In my dream world, there would be three years’ maternity leave, universal health care, and a culture where part time work is respected and normal, and where one can enter and leave the workforce as needed without fear of recrimination. I really believe that fewer hearts would break that way.

Did your mother work outside the home? Yes.

How did that affect you growing up? I was proud of her, mostly. She didn’t go back to work until I was in school, so I was busy then and really appreciated what she did in her professional life. I adored the time with her when I was younger, though.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? That it was normal for women to work, that my mother had the full human experience and life outside the family. Which was, in a weird sense, a great relief for me.

Was your mother a homemaker? Yes, until I was in school.

How did that affect you growing up? It just was. I remember a relaxed pace of life that was very child-centered during that time.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? My grandmothers (both divorced successful professional women), Mrs Nicholas across the street (Pennsylvania Dutch farm wife), my female teachers in school, my older sister and her friends.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? I wanted to be an obstetrician, can you believe that? Well, I should say that I wanted to deliver babies. OBs were the only people I knew who actually did that. I have always loved hospitals, as long as I can remember. They seemed places of such—this sounds stupid—healing.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? An interesting question. Dating certainly was, for real. I was always dating somebody. Eventually I connected it to wanting to be married, but honestly I never wanted to be married to the wrong person. I was terrified of it.

Have you ever dieted? Not really. Too much trouble.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? I’d say reasonably comfortable, on most days. It gets better with age.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish she had told me how to believe in what I need, trust my gut. That it is as real as the signals for food, water, or sleep.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He was a busy, reliable provider with little time for play.

What was your relationship like with your father? I trusted him, felt completely secure, and wanted more of him all at once.

How do you feel about aging? Depends on the day. Sometimes sad, sometimes proud. I feel sadder about the prospect of aging regarding my childbearing than about anything else. Mostly I love the wisdom that I’ve gotten so far.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? It’s not really on my radar. I can’t imagine I’d ever do it, but I have nothing against it.

What do you love about being a working mom? I love the break from parenting. The feeling I’m an adult, still involved in things. Having my own income also makes me feel independent.

What are the challenges of being a working mom? I miss my baby so much. And running the household is a whole nother job, and there just isn’t time.

If you had a choice to be at home with your children, would you? YES!!

Was the decision an economic one (e.g., your family requires two incomes)? Not really, no. More the work I do (research) there is this culture of “staying involved,” grants all overlapping and such so there is no easy way to just step away. Also everyone pretends that we all love it to pieces and would never leave it.

Do you beat yourself up for not spending enough time with your kids? Yes

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes! But he works his ass off so there is not much shared parenting and no shared household stuff during the week, and that is really hard on me.

Do you feel supported by other women? You know, I do. I seriously do. I’m humbled by it, then shamed at my surprise. It’s amazing.

Do you feel valued in your workplace? Yes. I have the blessing to be overemployed at the moment, and women mentors who understand my family situation and have made specific opportunities for me that allow me to stay involved.

Do you feel valued at home? Yes! Yes!

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. I am a firm believer in happy mommy/happy baby. I think no one knows how to judge another woman’s circumstances, and circumstances change, anyway.

Can women do it all? Not alone, no. Neither can men, might I point out. The women I know who have big careers have husbands who work less, nannies or au pairs, house care staff, or highly involved extended families. But with the right amount of support? Sure, why not? It can be done.

How old are your children? My son is two.

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? As the youngest of four born in 5 ½ years, I would like to be able to give more time and access to resources to my kids than I got.

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? So much, really. An appreciation of music and art. An intellectual curiosity. A questioning of the status quo. A sense of place and home, no matter what. Travel. The certainty that family matters and looks out for each other.

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? It’s deeper, more serious. And stretched more thinly because of the time constraints. We are seriously partners now, more than just boyfriend and girlfriend playing at marriage and home ownership. We also have had to acknowledge each other’s family issues more, since we both bring all of that to parenting. It’s been good, I’d say.

Do you have dates with your partner? Sometimes. We were never much for dates before, nor are we now. We really miss going to happy hour, coffee on the couch on the weekends, that kind of thing. We were never much into the dinner/movie thing.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? I wouldn’t call it scheduled. But most nights I get some time for myself after H is in bed. And most weekends Jeff takes him out for a daddy adventure and I can get some rest.

How do you combat stress? I write. I see friends. I exercise. The occasional glass of wine or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? Not as much as I should, but I adore it when I do. I’m hoping that increases as my baby gets a little older. I’m also hoping to have some more friends. My life has been in great transition lately what with finishing up graduate school, so my friendship circle has been in flux as people have moved away and I’ve moved on to other things. I have yet to really define a circle of fellow-mother friends. I’m sad about that.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? No. I’d say more that being a mother and wife has completed, enhanced, my sense of self.

What do you do to facilitate that? Does your partner help make that happen? I really don’t know the answer to this. But yes, I’m sure he helps, whatever it is. It helps that he is a kind, gentle soul that respects where I am most of the time.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? Yes. I consider it one of my jobs to protect his solitude. If I don’t do it, who will? Of course, sometimes the family needs his time and I feel guilty about that, but we have a decent balance, I think.

Does your partner share in household tasks? Not as much as I’d like, honestly. But his job makes it possible for me to cut back on work, so I’m happy with that. If he ever has a less demanding job and commute then I will definitely look to him for more help with things. And he does swoop in with a clean kitchen when the chips are down, every time.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? I think I had a fantasy of being taken care of, of never having to do manual work again. That is not how it has worked—buying a house, having a family and Jeff’s demanding job has created way more work at home than I ever would have thought. Other than that, emotionally it’s just as good or even better than I would have hoped.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? This one is a moving target. I am at various times blinded with gratitude for my very life and health, struck dumb with the good fortune I have to have a family, and cranky and whiny about what I don’t have. Overall, I think yes, I am quite fulfilled.

What do you yearn for? Family. Security. Recognition. A house in the country.

Do you see evidence of “The Mommy Wars” in your everyday life? I think I do. I’ve never had anyone be mean to me or anything, but it does seem like there are two camps of moms sometimes, the ones at home and the working ones, and I’m somewhere in between. Almost always when I get to actually talk to another mom, it is fine. But that seems so rare, that women reach out to each other, and it can be isolating. So like on the playground I sometimes feel lonely and it’s easy for me to turn that into “everyone is friends with each other except me.” I wish we all reached out to each other more.

Thank you, Nora.


The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. If you'd like to know more about Nora, please find her on Whopping Cornbread.

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