Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 24th interview...

My 24th interview is with Phd in Yogurtry who lives in Texas. She is in her mid-to-late-40s. She is married with 3 children and works outside the home. She has a blog called CoffeeYogurt.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? It means that women have equal opportunity as men, that women are treated equally under the law, and that considerations be allowed for biological differences, such as pregnancy.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes.

Would others consider you a feminist? Yes. There may be a few people living under a rock who don’t know. No, I don’t broadcast in every situation. But in conversation, I do advocate the feminist viewpoint and I try to be subtle if I suspect someone would recoil from a strident view.

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? Yes. But I’m not overbearing. I believe mostly in starting with my own life, first.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? Bra burning. Fish bicycle quotes. Harsh judgements made by misogynists who don’t understand feminism or are threatened by it. The feminists I know well are great at self-advocacy and taking control of their bodies which also includes insisting on quality sex which usually translates into more sex for the men in their lives. Hello? Pay attention! But I also think about moms and dads sharing roles and living more fulfilled lives.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? Children getting to know their dads better, having more quality and quantity relationships with their fathers.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? Neglecting to promote mommy issues: child care and flex time for example. I dropped my NOW membership when the president sent out a letter instructing members to vote for ANY woman that ran for office. Um, no.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? Worried. Frightened for my daughters. Sad. It’s a trend that doesn’t empower women so much as influence boys / men to see them as playthings born to satisfy their own desire, rather than a trend that encourages men to appreciate the complexity of women as a human beings with minds, and their own preferences and needs. It’s reductionistic and that doesn’t promote healthy understanding, healthy sex, healthy appreciation of the sexiness of women who don’t have 20 inch waists and 38 inch bust lines.

Did your mother work outside the home? No.

Was your mother a homemaker? Yes.

How did that affect you growing up? She was always there, she ran a dependable household, healthy meals always.. But she was also too dependent on my dad. She abdicated so much of herself. She didn’t understand my assumption, in college, that I would work after I had children, and we argued about that and it started a rift that we haven’t fully put behind us.

Did your father respect your mother? Yes and no. Yes in that he demanded we kids respect her and most of the time he treated her with respect. But he often badgered her and insisted on having it his way, was emotionally overbearing and talked to her in a way that was disrespectful.

Did your mother respect your father? Yes.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? Teachers. I mostly remember a nun who taught me Science and Religion classes. She dared to move a little beyond what the priests would have preferred being taught. She was this subtle rogue nun who taught “God is Love” and preached a slightly hippie message. I admired her willingness to answer my sticky questions in a way that allowed me to doubt.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? For a short period, a nun. A librarian. A grocery store checker. I loved the click, click, click of fingers on cash register keys. I did eventually work a cash register, so at least I achieved ONE dream.

What do you yearn for? A vacation getaway with my husband. We don’t have family close by who are willing to step in for a week. And travel in general. I yearn to be a world traveler.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? I always knew I wanted to be married someday and to have kids. I was in two long term relationships where I assumed we would marry, but held off. I didn’t focus on it until I was dumped at age 28 and suddenly worried that I might miss out on marriage and kids. Even then I was the reluctant bride. I had a fear of that looming negative forecast (the 50% divorce rate). So I think the answer is no. Marriage wasn’t something I consciously and stridently focused on.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? My father’s angry rages. I think he stifled my adolescent development.

Have you ever dieted? Is the Pope Catholic?

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? Mostly no. I’ve never been skinny. Since 8th grade I’ve been trying to shed 10 pounds and now I want to shed 30 lbs. So no, never very comfortable with my weight. I did diet before my wedding and was at a weight I felt comfortable with, but I was also in that dieting state of feeling deprived, so I wasn’t comfortable with that, either.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I remember having issues with the ugliness of my feet when I was an adolescent. Then came the thunder thighs. Or, what came first were magazines glamorizing skinny thighs and thereafter I felt horribly unattractive. I remember sitting in movie theatres in my teen and college years feeling inadequate and un-sexy by comparison to those skinny-thigh movie stars. It was inhibiting sexually for a long time. Now that I’ve gotten regular with my orgasms, I chase away those thoughts and let myself feel sexually attractive when it counts.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish she had embraced my early feminist thoughts. I wish she had listened more openly and without negative judgments to my relationship complaints. I wish she had talked about her fears about my being sexually active instead of seeming so angry. I wish she had explained more about the politics of boys and how they view sex differently then girls.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He worked. He was a constant provider. He sacrificed for us kids. He attended so many of our athletic events. But he was also the scary-mad guy who I didn’t want to be around at all.

What was your relationship like with your father? Antagonistic. He supported my athletic and academic achievements but his anger was overwhelming and abusive at times. So I was afraid of him, mad at him, resented him, hated how he badgered my mother, and so I hated him a lot of the time.

How do you feel about aging? It beats the alternative. I do love acquiring experience and expertise. I very much dread being a lonely widow one day.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? It’s very undemocratic. Another example of the rich having access to the goods and the advantages that ordinary folks can’t access. But it also leads to looking ridiculous and monstrous, so THERE.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? My mom made a good faith effort. For someone coming from a house where sex was never discussed, she did a good job. She sat me and my brother down and had “the talk” but most of my information came from “the book” she gave us. I pretty much skipped to the Q&A section. I recall “Do you mean the man actually puts his penis inside a woman’s vagina?” and thinking the world would open up and I’d fall in. But the book was a good source of accurate information.

How was your first sexual experience? In these instances I think of the first time I had sexual intercourse. It was nice but no fireworks, of course. I was with a steady boyfriend who had been pestering me for a long time. It was in my bedroom, late afternoon. My parents weren’t home. I felt loved, excited, thrilled to be in the “club” who “knew” but scared at the same time, of getting pregnant. It was the first time for both of us and we were very much in love, so it was a shared joy. I remember it tenderly. I consider myself fortunate for this and hope my kids will be able to say the same.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? Mostly liberating. The reality for me is that my husband is the best lover after a line of mediocre to lousy ones. So my marriage has been sexually liberating in the extreme. But there is an inhibiting force of long term partnering. The newness and passion wears off. The seductress in me has gone into hibernation, replaced by a sometimes lazy, too-self-conscious lover. I used to be more adventurous. I recall a relationship where we weren’t public. We just had secretive, exciting sex. And I do miss that side of myself. But not often. I am mostly thrilled that I finally experienced orgasm, and multiple orgasms, and I am a happy woman for that.

What makes you feel sexy? Having an orgasm. Knowing my husband is pleased with our sex, despite my fear he is bored or tired of me. But “sexy” isn’t a feeling I often have outside of the bedroom. I’ve too long been focused on my weight, my larger than average thighs, whatever cellulite might be showing.

Do you have the energy/desire for sex at the end of the day? Often, no. A typical scenario with me: I get a glimpse of my husband where I am turned on (usually he has a manly power tool in his hand) and I think, “yeah, tonight.” But then by the time we get into bed, the tired or edgy feeling crushes out the sexy feeling. Our sex happens often when the kids aren’t home or are at school. The best part about self-employment, making hours convenient for sex.

What turns you on? A man with a toilet brush in his hand. A man who asks, “what else can I do to help, honey?” A man who asks, “Are you OK? Talk to me.” I am more realistically turned on by intelligence, humor, irony, sexual innuendo, a man who is determined to make a woman come, a man who listens, who tries to understand his woman (because that’s about as good as it gets, right? Trying?)

What would make your sex life better? A pill or wave of a magic wand that takes away my self consciousness. Oh, wait. Something realistic? I hate to sound like a shrink, but communicating better. Telling my husband exactly what I’d like at the moment. Or talking about it later, “more of this, less of that, add a taste of this to see if I like it as much as I think I would.” Going away alone together to the Caribbean. Now THAT would make it fabulous.

What do you love about being a working mom? The adult interaction, developing a professional identity, the pride I feel in my work, the appreciation I get from those I am helping, getting out of the house, using my brain to solve complex problems. (Yes, I know parenting involves complex problems, but I get to solve those plus varied and different challenges that don’t involve cleaning up so many kids messes). I love earning a paycheck, contributing toward our financial security and MY financial security should something happen to him. This point is important to me. Also, the absence of guilt associated with splurging on myself (my splurges are laughably small most of the time).

What are the challenges of being a working mom? Oh, the worry about a sick child. Fortunately my husband has a lot of flexibility and my kids are almost never sick. Very lucky. Keeping up with something that resembles a fashionable wardrobe. Doing my taxes. Keeping up with filing. Ordinary tedium associated with work chores. Not working out as much as I should (and did more of when I was a SAHM).

Do you see evidence of “The Mommy Wars” in your everyday life? Not so much. I feel it around PTA moms occasionally. I occasionally hear the “I would never .. blah blah blah” judgements made about child care and decisions working moms make. I sometimes hear SAHMs phrase their decision in such a way that is sounds judgemental of working moms. “I wanted to be the one to raise my child” is a common one. As if working parents aren’t raising their own kids, setting the moral standards, teaching the important things we parents teach. It can be phrased, “I wanted to spend more time with my kids” and that works without casting a nod of disapproval to those of us who choose to work.

If you had a choice to be at home with your children, would you? No. I work three-quarters time, sometimes less than that, so I’m very very lucky to have work that allows me (or husband) to meet the kids’ school bus everyday. If I couldn’t be home this dependably and had to work a 40-hour week and didn’t have such satisfying work I would be tempted to SAH. If my husband earned a lot more, or if I won the lottery, or got a fat inheritance check, I would work less and do more self care for myself, preferably yoga classes, travel, art or photography classes.

Was the decision an economic one (e.g., your family requires two incomes)? There is an economic incentive, yes. To live in the house I’m in now? It’s a need. We could have lived off my husband’s income and stayed in our last house. But mostly, the incentive was about self-fulfillment, not economic. I worked very hard to achieve the degree and professional status I have obtained. I wanted very much to use it. I still do. I haven’t lost that drive.

Do you beat yourself up for not spending enough time with your kids? Sometimes. But then I talk myself out of heaping on guilt that stems from, in my opinion, a neurotic expectation that developed in the past 20 years as a result of too many experts trying to sell books. I believe in “good enough” parenting. I provide a safe home, three healthy meals (the occasional Count Chocula and hot dog nights, excepted) supervision, I check in when I see problems developing, I listen when they come to me, I am a highly present and available parent. I don’t need to hone in on every aspect of their lives. So I spend a lot of time giving myself the credit I deserve instead of worrying that I’m not more involved in their lives. I suppose I mostly believe I am adequately involved, I keep them safe, they know they are loved.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes. 99% of the time.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes. Most of the women in my life share my values.

Do you feel valued in your workplace? Yes. Very much so, by my clients.

Do you feel valued at home? I often feel undervalued, under-appreciated. You know, the kids complain about not liking a meal. And I don’t feel they appreciate my time and efforts. But they are kids so that’s OK. Normal stuff. My husband doesn’t complain, ever, so I don’t know how he feels, but he doesn’t often show a lot of appreciation, either, so who knows what is going on in that brain of his? The eternal question. But to be sincere, I would like it if he said more appreciative things. When I sit down to a meal I’ve made where I tried to be creative and serve something a little different, I find myself asking, “so do you like it?” And he says, “um hmmm” but why do I have to ask? But he shows appreciation by doing things around the house, by helping out, by doing the lion’s share of some household chores when I’m busy and he’s not.

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? Abso-fricking-lutely.

Can women do it all? No. Neither can men. Not a full time, ass-busting career and a healthy marriage and fully engaged parenting.

How old are your children? I have a teenage son and twin tween daughters.

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? I want my kids to be more free with their self expression. I don’t freak out when they disagree or show anger at me (well, sometimes I do, heh heh). I don’t take it personally, or try not to. I hope that if my kid votes differently than me one day, I won’t take it so hard, but that could prove to be a major challenge, because my way IS the right way, after all (wink).

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? My parents took an interest, they were there for me, they attended my extra-curricular activities, provided for me, showed me financial restraint, taught me frustration tolerance. I knew I could call them in a crisis and they would respond. They provided what was important and denied me over-indulgences. They also paid for my college. I am sacrificing now so that I can help my kids as much as I was helped.

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? Um, no living room sex? No sex in front of the fireplace? Conversations that are interrupted constantly? But on the plus side, a deeper feeling of closeness. One of the things I hadn’t heard about or counted on was the thoroughly satisfying feeling of “this is my family.” MY family. I didn’t always have warm, comfortable feelings in my family of origin. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with my parents. As a teen I made myself as scarce as possible. But THIS family? I absolutely love my little unit. And love that my husband is such a good dad. He’s an excellent, hands-on dad and it’s one of the things I so appreciate about him.

Do you have dates with your partner? When I initiate them, yes. (Do you get my drift?)

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? Well, yes, in that I have scheduled tennis matches. That’s about as “scheduled” as my life ever seems to get.

How do you combat stress? Tennis. Walking. Blogging. Sex. Sitting on the back patio drinking cranberry vodka drinks with friends (wish you were here, Motherscribe!)

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? Yes. Semi-regularly. I used to more than I do now. I get out as much as I want to. I’m getting more homebody-ish lately, slowing down I suppose, so it’s my choosing.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? No. I don’t need to. He does a good enough job himself (again with the drift?). But not unreasonably. He gardens and takes on projects of his choosing. I don’t feel the need to factor in his needs in this regard.

Does your partner share in household tasks? Yes. He makes the kids lunches every morning, for starters. I wish he would do more straightening and de-cluttering of the kids’ stuff. I often feel that gets left to me and I’m not very good at it.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? As a kid I thought married life would mean sitting around the TV, watching the news with a cocktail in my hand. Instead it’s sitting around the TV, watching the Daily Show, with a cup of hot tea and computer in my lap. Maintaining a happy marriage, a functioning marriage, a marriage with healthy communication is hard. In my case, hard because he doesn’t initiate marital dialog. So I’m the one who feels like “the heavy.” I’m the one who brings up complaints. I often feel alienated and emotionally needy and sometimes lonely. I didn’t expect to feel lonely. But overall we have a healthy, loving, considerate, faithful, trusting marriage. This is what I had hoped for.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? Not really. I mean, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the demands of being a mom. But I have friends who don’t know my husband. I do, however, have a slight dependent streak where I defer too much to him, where I am overly considerate of his feelings to the point where I ignore my own preferences and then sometimes resent it later. So yes, on that score, I feel that I am overly identified as a wife, rather than as an independent woman. But I think that comes with the territory to some extent.

What do you do to facilitate that? Does your partner help make that happen? My husband loves an independent, thinking, doing-for-herself woman. He is a low-control-needs kinda guy (a psychologist confirmed that long before he met me) and that means he lets me set the pace of so much of our lives. Which means my own life. He also knows I’m easier to live with when I get out and work, exercise, and spend time with my girlfriends. What I do? I plan things, give myself permission to spend time with friends, to play tennis, and let go of guilt. But it is a struggle sometimes. I have to keep working at it.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? Wow. Jump right in! Yes, I’d say overall I am very happy and fulfilled. I have a good marriage, three wonderful, bright, happy, and healthy kids, plus a very cute little dog. At times I feel unfulfilled. At times I want more out of my life. I want to travel more, for example. But overall I think I’ve got a great life and keep it in perspective.

Thanks for taking the time to get to know me and allowing me to get to know other women.

Thank you, Phd in Yogurtry


The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Phd in Yogurtry, please find her on CoffeeYogurt.

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