Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 19th interview...

My 19th interview is with Jennifer from Utah. She is 41 years old, married, with two children. She works outside the home and has a blog called Welcome to Schaererville.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? Virginia Slims cigarettes…tagline “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Back then it felt like a demand for accommodating the gender differences between men and women. Now I think it’s about recognizing that women can achieve just about anything they want to in life without special accommodation.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Not really. Maybe an equalist.

Would others consider you a feminist? I’ll have to ask a few people and get back to you. My gut says no.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? The ERA rallies, protests and bra burning from the early 70s. Recently, the shift from articles about “Top 10 Women in…” to women being included on “Top 10 People in…” articles in magazines.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? If you count the early 20th century, then I’d have to say the right to vote. In the past decade, the availability of family-friendly business opportunities for women – from working at home to corporations with flex scheduling, on-site daycare and paid maternity leave.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? Thinking that equality had to be legislated (ERA).

Did your mother work outside the home? No.

How did that affect you growing up? I probably didn’t respect her very much for being a SAHM. I remember being very driven and motivated to have a career as early as 7th grade.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? That it was an available choice.

Was your mother a homemaker? No. She spent time on activities for herself (sports like golf & softball, social groups, volunteer groups) and not much on the domestic front. We rarely had a family dinner together, and our house was never neat and tidy.

How did that affect you growing up? I didn’t prioritize being a homemaker, I guess. Knowing how to cook, sew, and run an efficient household were things I taught myself as I needed to learn them.

Did your father respect your mother? Nope. He was frustrated that she didn’t have a very strong intellect, which is a trait he’s always respected. He had an affair with another attorney mid-way through their marriage, but didn’t file for divorce until they’d been married 29 years.

Did your mother respect your father? No. She thought he had too much stake in being the provider and a workaholic and not enough in being a father and husband. She also had an affair mid-way through their marriage, with a family friend.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? My maternal grandmother (kind, thoughtful, a communicator and the glue in our family) and a neighbor (career woman, married mother of a son who was my classmate, simple but beautifully decorated home, strong personality).

What did you dream of being when you were a child? I wanted to be in the Air Force, like my dad.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? Yes. I always wanted to have a special someone.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? When I was in 5th grade, the small town elementary school I attended had a practice of “borrowing” a mature student from class to tend the school office on Fridays. I was chosen to do that frequently, and I think that’s when I started to see myself in a working environment.

Have you ever dieted? Yes. Now I call it adjusting my eating habits.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? I tend to gain 15-20 pounds and then *ahem* adjust my eating habits. I’m in an adjustment period right now.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I have perception flaws…my thighs are heavy, my chest is flat, my feet are big, I have ugly cellulite on my butt, and my nose is, um, roman. My dad’s side of the family has no boundary with teasing, and I remember being called Thunder Thighs and Sasquatch in my early adolescent years. I also distinctly remember my aunt telling me that I didn’t get the Miller Mammaries (big) but did get the Miller Nose (also big).

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? Ugh. A topic du jour in Schaererville these days as my 6-year-old daughter begs for anything BRATZ. I’m not a prude, but if I see anymore teenage cleavage (top or bottom), 12-year-olds wearing Tammy Faye make-up, or French maid Halloween costumes in size 6X, I will incite the revolution.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? Nothing really. She was sheltered and didn’t have strength of conviction in any area of her life.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He was a workaholic, so I figured out pretty early on that if I wanted to spend time with him, I should somehow wedge myself into his career. Aside from the Air Force, he was also an attorney and hobbyist radio broadcaster (that workaholic thing). I spent many summer vacation trips at the Air Force Academy with him, watching the cadets he had recruited graduate. I spent every hour I could with him in his law office from the time I was very young. I also teamed up with him when I was in high school to do some live broadcast coverage of high school sporting events (he did play by play, I did color commentary and live ads). I still pick a pretty mean March Madness bracket and know lots more about football than most people would guess just looking at me.

What was your relationship like with your father? He mentored me, admired me, probably set me free to my own devices a bit too soon. It was very hard for me to realize, about 15 years ago, that he is not everything I had built him up to be in my heart and mind.

How do you feel about aging? Bring it on! 40 is the new 20!

How do you feel about plastic surgery? Elective? Not for me. I’d like to remain 100% biodegradable.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? The day I asked The Question (which was in 5th grade), my mom handed me a set of books to read. End of story. Nothing about the morals, just about the tactics. I learned everything on my own, trial and error.

How was your first sexual experience? Meh. Fumbling. Teenage.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? Liberating – except my deathly fear of an unplanned third child because he’s deathly afraid of The Snip.

What makes you feel sexy? Eye contact. Intellectual banter.

Do you have the energy/desire for sex at the end of the day? Not usually.

What turns you on? Knowing that my husband knows all the right things to do for me.

What would make your sex life better? Having no fear of unplanned pregnancy.

What is your job/career? I’m currently a magazine editor. Before that I spent 15 years in product marketing, and I was a journalist and technical writer at the start of my career.

What do you love about being a working mom? Genuinely looking forward to seeing my kids at the end of my work day…fully appreciating the time we spend together.

What are the challenges of being a working mom? I struggle to be organized with their clothing choices, remembering supplies needed for school, and getting them fed and out of the house on schedule in the mornings. My husband (he does the pick-up routine for the kids) travels once or twice a month, so those days are definitely more challenging. I highly respect single working parents who have to do it all themselves every single day.

If you had a choice to be at home with your children, would you? If we were living the life of The Pioneer Woman, absolutely. But I really don’t trust myself to be their sole educator. Even if I were at home with them, they would be in some type of structured group learning environment for a good portion of each day during the week.

Was the decision an economic one (e.g., your family requires two incomes)? Not originally. I wanted to work outside the home after my daughter was born, and then we got ourselves into a retail business (which failed miserably) so now we need the dual income to dig out of the hole.

Do you beat yourself up for not spending enough time with your kids? No. I make it about quality.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Most days.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes.

Do you feel valued in your workplace? Immensely.

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

Do you feel valued at home? By my kids? Yes. My husband? Most days.

How old are your children? My daughter is 6 and my son is 3.

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? Be in their space. Really care what they think and feel and want to do. And to help them appreciate the wonders of nature (vacations and other adventures don’t always involve hotels or commercial destinations).

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? Giving our kids the freedom to make their own choices and learn from making bad ones.

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? Having kids is a good test of the theories and values you discuss as pillow talk before they arrive in your life. Our theories and values have been confirmed in a good way, and we do a pretty good job raising our kids as a team.

Do you have dates with your partner? Not often enough.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? Not scheduled. But supported when I ask for it.

How do you combat stress? Take action – manically clean the house, organize my files, write something. Seek out a girlfriend and drink a glass or three of wine.

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? About once or twice a month.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? I’ve never really understood this concept. My “self” is the same authentic person who is integrated into my roles as a mother and wife. I have a career, so maybe that is a separate sense of self. Even that is integrated with being a mother, though, because my daughter comes to my office with me at least once a month and loves it (so do I). I do take time to write and play in my paper crafting space, and that is something that isn’t necessarily part of being a mother and wife.

What do you do to facilitate that? Does your partner help make that happen? My husband offers to let me get away from it all, and if we could afford it I’d love to take off and spend a long weekend just writing and hanging out in a beautiful natural environment. For now he respects my hobbies and wrangles the kids when I want to work on something at home.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? If you mean so he can get away, I learned early on that this is critical for his mental health and our marriage so I set him free whenever he needs it. If you mean personal space in my life for just him, then I don’t think I do that well at all.

Does your partner share in household tasks? Yeah, I tell people that I married very well. He does most of the cooking, grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning. I straighten, organize, manage finances and handle paperwork issues. I’m also the social director.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? This is my second marriage. The first time I was young and married a man 17 years older than me. We had a very privileged and adventurous lifestyle with no kids or desire to have them. It ended after 9 years when he had his third affair and I decided not to put up with it anymore (I was 29). I spent the next 3 years being myself, on my own with no long-term relationships. My husband and I met on a mountain bike trail and were inseparable from that moment on. I knew when we got married that it was for the long haul, and I see us together in our golden years. I never saw into the future with my first husband.

Can women do it all? As long as “all” is self-defined.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? Yes. The things that may be missing are only that – things…material…dispensable and disposable.

What do you yearn for? Simplicity. Being free of financial obligation so my family and I can live where we want to and travel where we want to. A big piece of property somewhere beautiful and away from civilization.

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. This will be on my headstone when I die.

Thank you, Jennifer

The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Jennifer, please find her on Welcome to Schaererville.

submit to reddit
Copyright © 2007-2014 JCK.

The content on these pages is the sole property of the author and may not be used or reproduced in any manner without consent.

All Rights Reserved.