By now, I’ve written so many posts on women’s groups that I’ve decided to add a category. Why is it so important? As study after study has shown, we humans thrive when we have social support. We are tribal creatures. And the really freakish thing to me is that simply the number of friends we have is predictive of health and happiness. So it all comes down to being popular, which is what any middle school girl can tell you.
My middle school daughter, Vita, was having a conversation with her friend during an interminable car ride yesterday.
Friend: “Are you a girly girl?” Vita: “no.” Friend: “Are you a sporty girl?” Vita: “no.” Friend: “yeah, I think I’m a mix. girly girl and sporty girl and some other things. I’m kind of girly when it comes to boys…” My daughter is not answering, but her friend is working out her identity. She is categorizing herself in a way that fits her personality and that will promote conversation. Unfortunately for her, since Vita has little interest in talking about boys, the conversational bid was ignored. I worried about the silence for a while but they seemed comfortable with it–with the help of some electronic devices.
The night before, I’m having drinks with 2 friends, both working mothers. working mothers!? Just by using the term, I expose all manner of assumptions and cultural values. Of course, all mothers work, really hard, at something. Very few of us are sitting around on our duffs, indulging in bonbons, and watching the tube. Either we are making a living, or we are doing something else. But, sitting with my friends, we join as working mothers to complain again about the unfair demands of the schools and the all-too-ready collusion of the “stay-at-home” mothers. stay-at-home?!–see comment above. But, listen! Some SAHMs have actually advised my friend that her child would be damaged if she did not attend an event that was scheduled during the middle of the day: Graduation from Social Studies, Part 1, or something along those lines.
As per my conversation with my sister-in-law, I bemoaned the cultural values that cause women to compete with each other on mothering styles. Of course I have my opinions. As a militant but still conflicted UnMartyred Mom, I really resent the implication that hovering is the best mothering. But I know that if I did not have a career that reminds me of my effectiveness, I would sure put all my achievement needs into mothering.
What is mothering, anyway? Most simply, mothering means having a child. In that sense, we are all full-time mothers. But mothering also means the jobs that we do as mothers and home-organizers. We vary in how much we like or value those jobs. I like to clean, bake, and talk at length with my child, but I hate hate hate field trips. Why can’t we collaborate?
So many reasons.
At this moment in our civilization, we women are deeply divided; some of us breast feed, some don’t; some let our babies cry, some don’t, and on and on and on. And yet we have to stand together. The more value is placed on women’s work, the more we can exchange services fairly. If it is all legitimate, we can all feel good about what we choose to do. Until then, it really isn’t ‘choice.’
Let’s start here. We can stand together by supporting the right policies and politicians. We can stand together by noticing when we contribute to disrespectful criticism. We can stand together by learning to disagree openly instead of covertly. And we can stand together by supporting each other’s different paths.