Monday, May 4, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 25th interview...

My 25th interview is with Painted Maypole. She is 34 and lives in Louisiana. She is married, with one child, and is a stay-at-home mom. She has a blog called Painted Maypole.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? The word has so many meanings assigned to it by society, so I do think my understanding of its meaning has changed over time. Right now it means to me someone who believes in equal and fair treatment of women and girls. (but oh… “equal” and “fair” are such difficult words)

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes

Would others consider you a feminist? Probably

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? It’s not a word I use on a regular basis, but I’m not uncomfortable with it.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? The feeling that staying home with your kids was not good enough.

Did your mother work outside the home? She did a little bit of teaching when I was younger, although was mostly home. I was probably a preteen before she started working full time in a school environment.

How did that affect you growing up? My mom was home when I came home from school, even for most of the years that she worked. And when she was home she was with our family… not doing other things for work, etc. Her presence was very important. As an adult my mom has talked with me about the whole quantity vs quality thing, and helped me to understand that presence is really important. As she puts it, most days when I came home from school I threw my bag in the corner and ran out to play and she didn’t see me again until dinner. But on the days when I needed to talk or needed to celebrate or needed someone just to be with me, she was there. She would have missed that if she hadn’t been there.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? I don’t think I thought much about it when I was a kid, but as an adult I understand the value of being home because of that. Also the understanding that you can work outside the home and still be very present when you are at home.

Was your mother a homemaker? Our house was always a HOME. Unquestionably. I think having a HOME is very important, and I’m learning to embrace the title “homemaker.” I don’t think that only parents who stay home are homemakers.

Did your father respect your mother? Yes!

Did your mother respect your father? Yes! My parents love for each other was always obvious, not only in their respect for each other, but in their displays of affections. Friends always conveyed their surprise when seeing my parents kiss or hold hands. But I’ve always remembered them doing that. They do disagree sometimes, as well.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? A marine biologist. And a mommy.

What do you yearn for? It depends on the day! Mostly I yearn for close friendships. Connection. Community. And artistic challenge and fulfillment.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? No. As a child I expected to get married, but I didn’t date much in high school or my first 2 years at college, and I began imagining my life as an actor who went wherever the work was until settling down sometime in the distant future. Then I met my husband, and as it turns out I got married 3 weeks after graduating from college.

Have you ever dieted? Not seriously.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? It has been creeping upwards the past few years, and I would like to creep it back down and then keep it there. I’m not overweight, but I would like to be a little leaner.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I am sometimes uncomfortable with my height (5’10”), which I attribute to being taller than all the boys in school. I think that intimidated the boys, which in turn made me feel like the odd duck out.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish I could talk more with my mother about the hardships of day to day marriage, but the strained relationship between my husband and her precludes that, because to talk to her about it would feel like a betrayal to him. I feel that loss, because I feel that she would have a lot to offer.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He was very active, even taking time to volunteer in the classroom and go on field trips. He was the only dad that did that, and I knew it. I always knew I was loved and cared for.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? I don’t think I’ll ever have it, but never say never, I suppose. I wish that we were allowed to age gracefully. I’m conflicted about the fact that I dye my hair to hide the grey.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? I knew a lot about the actual mechanics of it, and about birth control, but I don’t think I knew much of “what to expect” on a more personal level.

What makes you feel sexy? Dancing.

What would make your sex life better? If my husband would dance. It sounds so silly, but I really think it would. I cannot talk him into it.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? Hate, hate, hate it. It scares me, and I think we have to put our collective foot down and not allow our daughters to become easy victims to what media and fashion would have them be.

Why did you decide to be a stay-at-home mom? To be with my daughter. To raise her within my family. It’s as simple as that. (I am not strictly a SAHM as I do work about 15 hours a week, but that job is mostly done while my daughter is in school. I also do theatre (sometimes paying, sometimes not) that takes me away in the evenings and occasional weekends. My husband is usually home then, but not always. We do sometimes rely on sitters and friends)

Do you consider it a job? Do you feel that you are valued? I consider it a vocation. Most days I feel valued.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Usually.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes.

What do you love about being a SAHM? Being able to be flexible. Being there for the teaching moments… I love that when my daughter wants to read, I can read with her. When she wants to play or paint or whatever we can usually make it happen. Her life is not lived by a day planner. Her life is just lived.

Is there a dark side of being a SAHM? Loneliness. The lack of financial security.

What was your career before you had children? As an actress I did all sorts of odd things, but nothing outside acting that amounted to a career, and not enough of acting to really call it that.

Has it been hard to let go of that identity? Or you still identify with that role? I have had to adjust how much theatre I do, but am getting back into it more and more. It is hard to not have that be as central in my life, but I know I have the rest of my life to be on stage. I have only this childhood with my daughter.

If you had a choice to return to work, would you? If I could get paid a decent wage for good, consistent work acting in the theatre, I would probably do it. However, I have resisted the opportunity to apply for a full time theatre teacher job. I don’t want to give up being home for that. I would if I had to, financially. I know I would enjoy that job, but I think the other things I would lose would not make up for it.

Can women do it all? No. No one can. But women CAN work and be good parents.

How old are your children? One daughter, 6 years old.

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? Never a doubt that I was loved. Encouragement for the many different things I did.

Do you have dates with your partner? Not regularly, my theater schedule makes that too difficult.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? No. My time in the theatre is sort of “me” time, but it doesn’t always fill that need.

How do you combat stress? Wine ;)

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? No. I don’t have close girlfriends who live here, and that saddens me.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? My work as an actress is actually quite separate, so much so that sometimes I have a hard time combining the two.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? Not very well. When I know he is stressed (like now) I try to create a good environment for him to come home to, but I feel like I could do this better.

Does your partner share in household tasks? He does the laundry. I do just about everything else.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? I don’t feel as connected, as “this is life with my best friend” as I thought it would be. Sometimes I feel like partners, and sometimes I feel like we are just two adults living in the same house. Mostly, though, I feel committed, so that no matter how distant I feel I know that I am in this for the long haul, and so I work to close the gap and keep it together. I wish there was more honesty about that work of marriage in the media and within families and friends. I think sometimes we are afraid to not only talk about the struggles in our own marriages, but we are afraid to hear about the struggles in others. Because my husband is a pastor in our church, I feel this acutely, because it is particularly inappropriate to talk about personal issues involving a friend’s pastor.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why?
Yes and no. I’m happy with a lot of things, but want a lot of other things to be better. I’m OK with that, though, as I think it’s important to have things to strive for. I am working to, as Paul says, “rejoice in all things.” (I do not think that joy and happiness are strictly the same, and I’m working on figuring that out as well.)

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? I think a happy mom is essential to a happy home, however, I think our society has put too much emphasis on the lie that we can have it all, and it has led to much dissatisfaction in many areas of our lives because we feel like somehow we have missed the boat. Living our lives requires choices and compromises, and it seems that people are unwilling to do that, or are miserable when they do because they expected life to be a fairytale.

Thank you, Painted Maypole

The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Painted Maypole, please find her on Painted Maypole.

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