It wasn’t long ago that I wrote to you, stressing the importance of a woman’s responsibility to do her part in overcoming the stigmas of her generation. I didn’t mention, however, the murkiness of such a task. The mainstream (female) media and society have many progressive goals in mind: to bury racism, fight for their reproductive rights and, of course, to break that glass ceiling once and for all. And, sure, these are all admirable goals. But what about a woman’s right to work or to stay home and raise her children? Or the validity of the decision to become a single mother? (note: this is often a choice, not always a consequence). These are issues that are wrought with ambiguity, with no clear majority sway amongst progressive-thinking women. It’s times like these, Eva, that we have to make tough choices. We have to put ourselves out there. Face ridicule. Risk the possibility of banter.
There was a point in my life that I was working daily amongst a group of women whose intellect was of the highest caliber. All possessed doctoral degrees from our country’s leading institutions of learning. Each was immensely respected in her field. I am certain that most of them would be disappointed in my decision to leave my field to stay at home with you. It would have been easy for me to defer to their point of view on this issue. But I don’t agree with it. And I have good reasons.
I am not sure when the feminist community decided that stay-at-home mom-hood is akin to unleashing a test tube of the bubonic plague on all the accomplishments the movement has
worked so hard to achieve. I am also not sure why they don’t see that the major accomplishment was in effectively fighting for women to have the ability to make this choice. Staying home with you, Eva, is both the most difficult and most rewarding job I have ever undertaken. It is the most grueling. The most unpredictable. The least appreciated and, yet, it is also the most joyful. Most importantly, it gives me a feeling that I have never experienced in my life: the feeling of knowing I am exactly where I want to be. If that isn’t empowering, well, I am just not sure what that word means anymore.
Eva, I want to be the one with you the first time someone tells you that you’re beautiful, and you understand what that means. I want to make sure that you say, “thank you,” not “oh, thanks, but my thighs are too big.” I want to be there, so that when someone tells your mommy that she looks great, you can hear her accept the compliment without a hint of self-deprecation. I want to be there at breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I can show you how to fuel your precious body with thought and care. Watch me, I’ll show you. I’ll show you by how I eat, not just by what I feed you. I want to be there for each game of your first soccer season, when you don’t score one goal. I want you to be there each time I walk out the door for a run, especially on the days that I am not up to the task. I want to be the one that decides when it’s best to allow you to get hurt, or when it’s better to protect you from a lurking danger.
You have become a major job. No, I’m not talking about the sleepless nights, the 24/7 hours or the constant test on my patience. I’m talking about the job of building a loving, intelligent and empathic citizen of the world. I’m talking about how this job not only requires a constant care and attention to your development, but the dramatic project you have created for me, for myself. I have never in my life felt so compelled to be a better me. And if by staying home with you, I can offer the world a vastly improved version of two very impressionable human beings, I can honestly say that I cannot think of a more admirable job in the world. I did not give up on my dreams to stay at home with you, darling. My dreams simply changed.
And, so, Evangeline, I will show you how to work your cute little tushie off so that you, too, will be able to make the most difficult choices of your career as a woman. Because that’s what this fight is all about. It’s about the availability of democratic choices. Mutual respect. You will have big, important choices awaiting you on your path to fulfillment. Just remember: if you decide to have a son or daughter of your own someday, leading by example as a feisty red-headed career woman and mama is just as daunting and just as admirable of a task.
With love and admiration for all mamas,