I strongly believe that a longing for significance, a desire to matter, is one of the basic characteristics that makes us human. As people, we search for significance in so many different ways. Specifically, as women we have so many different choices and options than ever before as well as advantages that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers never had. We can go to high school rather than spending an entire day hand washing the family’s clothing on an old metal scrub pan. Women can pursue a degree without the expectation that we need to be married off by the age of sixteen. Our daughters have the right to vote and participate in all levels of society. We can pursue significance in ways never afforded to us before and in ways that are not offered to women in other societies around the globe.
What hasn’t changed is that we still long for significance. Women have a buffet of pursuits to choose from now. Ways in which we can pursue our longings, passions, and interests and I consider that to be a very good thing! However, I’m horrified at the way in which all of these great opportunities and the ‘Feminist’ movement has developed into a culture that is turning in on itself and against itself. The very people who are supposed to benefit from Feminism are now being marginalized! I cry foul on that and I firmly rise and oppose both the sentiments and the rhetoric being employed.
During the 2012 election, Hilary Rosen, a Democratic pundit and former lobbyist, famously declared that Anne Romney had “never worked a day in her life.” That lead me to write an essay in response entitled “Motherhood & the Modern Woman.” Hilary Rosen’s arrogance was to presume that if a woman is not being paid to pursue her passions, in this case motherhood, then that woman isn’t ‘working.’ In that single swipe, a woman of no small political power denigrated legions of women who CHOOSE to stay home and raise their children. Alarm bells began to ring in my mind. I’m a stay at home mom and my very significance and relevance had been called into question by another woman! And to add insult to injury, this who purports to advocate FOR women.
Let’s fast forward two years; the overall situation cultural and political temperature has not improved. I was absolutely horrified this week when President Obama made statements at a fundraiser in Rhode Island about women and work. President Obama was stumping for tax payer money for universal preschool and laying out his case by saying that women are hampered by lower salaries upon returning to the workforce, which I agree with. (My resume would hardly lend itself to a high powered, high paying job after 16 years out of the workforce.) President Obama opened his mouth and spoke words that I believe are at the core of his belief system. He said, “And sometimes someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay at home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”
My instantaneous reaction was the think, “who the heck is WE?” This came from the President of our United States. He represents our nation and our collective ideals as a society (or at least he must because he was elected twice). How dare he presume that America does not value stay at home moms, although it seems increasingly as those she doesn’t. The leader of the very party that is campaigning against what it calls a “War on Women” just marginalized my life choices. He just said, out loud and in public, that America does not want women to stay at home with their children! Without asking my opinion, he just spoke for me and imposed his will and opinions on my behalf. He purports to make a choice for me and for other women who stay at home. How absolutely insulting!
First, let me be clear, not all women have the choice to stay at home. Second, not all women want to stay home and they do choose to work outside the home. I have friends from all walks of life: friends who have been widowed, friends whose husbands left them in a lurch and holding the bag. I also have friends who would rather chew their arm off than figure out how to stay busy at home. They need to work to stay sane, and I get it!
What I am reacting to and writing about is this: the idea that President Obama just floated to the nation is arrogant. On behalf of women everywhere, he is presenting the idea that our children would be better served by early pre-school. To begin with, this is a one size fits all solution to a problem that does not exist in totality. He also condescends to all women in these statements. He reduced the value and significance of women to whether or not they receive a paycheck. MY relevance, YOUR relevance is presumed to be tied only to the amount of money that we make. MY children, YOUR children are better off being relegated to early preschool; their formative experiences and moments are better left in the hands of PAID employees, most of whom, ironically, are women. These ideas do not sit well with me and I reject them!
The underlying tone of the argument made by our President seems to be this: if a woman was better educated, she would make a different choice. Frankly, I feel condescended to. If there were a unspoken dialogue, it sounds like this in my mind: “There, there stupid woman. I know you aren’t as educated or as achieved as I am, but if only you were, you’d make a different choice. Let me help you make the decision that society needs you to make.” Another not so subtle implication is that women, in order to contribute to society, need to be contributing in a prescribed fashion. Women need to be out of the home and into a job. This is the very choice that “we want Americans to make.” Again, he’s taken a one size fits all solution and applied it not to your problem or mine, but to his. What does HE need? I’m not sure but it seems as though he is searching for HIS legacy and to do so, he really needs your vote.
What is my problem and what are my needs? My husband is in the military and he’s gone an awful lot. My problem is that my children need stability. You see, we’ve moved 14 times in 21 years of marriage. My daughter is in her second year of high school and she’s on her second high school; high school number three is next year. My son is spending his first year of Middle School knowing that he’s moving again in a year. They need to know that while life and locations change, there is one person who will always be on hand to help them with difficult transitions. They need to know they have a dedicated pit crew who will love them unendingly, hold them accountable, and make sure they get involved in life and stay involved. That’s my job and I take it seriously!
This stay at home mom has a college education. She knows what is best for her kids and refuses to sacrifice them on the altar of what ‘society needs’ in order to pay homage to a set of ideas that reduces her worth to the size of a paycheck. This mother, this woman refuses to sit in the corner with a dunce hat on just because feminism has folded back on itself and now seems to be doing the very thing they say is being done to them. I will not raise my glass to a society or a set of ideas that does not love and can not possibly love my children the way I do!
What’s my point? Ladies, take it back! You are more than money and your significance is greater than your job title. Don’t let others condescend to tell you what is best for your family or for your children. God himself has given me this race to run and I will not turn aside from it. He has given me the privilege of these two beautiful children and I will not let society dictate how they be raised. My paycheck, you see, is eternal and I’m not going to know what my final amount is until I get to heaven. My significance is that I am God’s daughter and I’m made in His image. Any other set of ideals that tells me otherwise is a lie that I refuse to accept.