One reason why I started this blog is because I wanted to share my personal experience of how feminist beliefs have played out in my own life negatively, and in the lives of other women (and men!) I know. I would even go as far as to say feminism nearly ruined my life. I can directly account my being divorced and a single mom to its poisonous teachings.
And it started even before I was born. My own mother was of the boomer generation, and while she herself did not follow the feminist path and choose to be a wife and mother instead, she always seemed to feel like she had “missed out” on the things her two sisters who did not have children were able to do. Most especially my mom was bitterly jealous of her oldest sister, the only girl in the family who went to college and then spent her life working as a high school teacher.
My aunt taught home economics, so she was still somewhat traditional, but she and her husband (who worked for IBM) were your typical dual-income-no-kids (DINK) couple. They lived in a fancy house that was impeccably furnished with white carpet and white furniture. They traveled the world on my aunt’s summer breaks, and basically spent their entire lives indulging their every self-absorbed whim. They didn’t need to think about anyone else, and so they didn’t. My mom didn’t hide the fact that she thought my aunt had it all, and she hated her for it.
My mom didn’t really seem to like being a mom, and she clearly resented the burden of having children. She tried yo pass this view of mothering on to me, doing her best to tell me at every opportunity not to destroy my own life by having kids (Implied: like she had done. Ouch.) She raised me to be a good little feminist, to put my education and career before all else.
Even after I married she advised me never to trust my husband to be there for me, but to always be on guard with him, to always have my own income, and to always be on the lookout for him oppressing me and holding me back. If I was unhappy or when things weren’t going well, instead of advising me to work on my marriage or saying that sometimes tough times just happen and this too shall pass, she urged me to divorce, to unburden myself of male oppression. Not exactly the best way to approach a marriage.
Likewise, because of the negative view she (and feminism in general) painted of motherhood, I was in no hurry. When I finally decided to have a child at age 33, I can remember my mom acting more like I had ruined my life than her being happy. Perhaps her only joy in my becoming a mother was that she finally had something to lord over her sister — a grandchild. She made a very big deal of that, making sure her sisters without children knew these were HER grandchildren and her reward for “suffering” though raising her own kids. (We largely raised ourselves actually and did all we could not to burden her further with our presence.)
Despite this big show, she rarely ever visits HER grandchildren despite living only 20 minutes away, and she never offers to take them or spend time with them. She prefers instead to show her love by showing up at birthdays and holidays, swooping in with lots of gifts, taking photos which she posts on Facebook, and then quickly departing.
Over and over again my mom has always qualified her own parenting and then grand-parenting by saying she “couldn’t give what she didn’t get.” She feels absolutely no remorse at all for her attitude, and feminism only supports her view that she is most important, that it is all about her, that being a perpetual self absorbed 14-year-old girl is perfectly OK. It’s her “right” to choose freedom from any familial responsibility.
I am not saying all this to bash or disrespect my mom, although I could see how it might seem that way. In reality I feel sorry for her. She’s been poisoned by feminism, too, and that point of view has led to her resenting her own family rather than seeing it as a blessing.
She’s missing out on so much, big chunks of her children’s and grand children’s lives. The opportunity to bond and create relationships with us. To belong to something bigger than herself. Rather than heal her own childhood lack by being or doing different, she only replays it via denying her own children and grand children any maternal attachment or nurturing. I used to reach out to her, to try and have a relationship, but after numerous painful rebuffs, I stopped. Now I leave our relationship up to her. I am happy to see her when she comes around, but I don’t ask for anything more than she herself is willing to give. And that is not much.
My mother’s attitude colored my brother’s view of women and family so much that he never married or had kids. He’s struggled his whole adult life, trying to reconcile all of this.
In real life very few people know that I have these feelings. Every once in awhile someone I know will ask where my mom lives, assuming it is across the country because they have never met her or heard me talk of us doing family things. It’s embarrassing to see the shock on their faces when they realize she lives locally.
Ironically, there are several women in my life who didn’t have children themselves who are my mom’s age that spend much more time with me and my kids than she does. We’ve all sort of adopted each other. These two women followed the feminist path themselves, and while they both accomplished much in life, they now seem to regret that they don’t have a family legacy but a dead end. The older they get, the more acutely they seem to feel it. One is a widow and in her late 70s. She really worries who will be there for her if she ever becomes ill or can’t care for herself. Besides her older brother who lives in assisted living himself, she’s literally all alone in the world. And she knows it. I tell her I would be there for her, and she seems to find great comfort in that. And I would be there for her, just like she’s been here for me.
While I was pregnant with my first child, I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of mother I wanted to be. I decided I wanted to be the mother I never had, to do my very best to give my own children what I didn’t get, to never play my own lack forward. I never want my own children to feel the pain of feeling like a burden, and I tell them often how much I love them and what a blessing they are to me. I tell them how happy I am to be their mother, how wonderful they are, and how proud of them I am. It brings me such joy to see their little faces light up at those words. It heals me to be the mom I wished I had myself.
And someday I hope that I will also be the grandmother I wish they had, that I can be there for them, support and encourage them in their marriages, encourage them to embrace family as a blessing not a curse, watch the grand kids so they can enjoy date nights, and to encourage them to put their husband and children first, to build their house upon that rock and not their careers.
When I was expecting my first I found a quote by Jacqueline Kennedy that I think pretty much sums it up: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”
Regardless of what feminism may say about that, I think truer words were never spoken. The older I get, the more strongly I believe that. And that feminism is at the root of so many of the problems we see in society today. Babies don’t belong in daycare, they belong in their mother’s arms. A society who teaches moms and dads otherwise is shooting itself in the foot.
Let those who have ears hear.
p.s. I know many women today would say they don’t have a choice to do the above, because their mate is unwilling or unable to provide for them so that they can. That “men aren’t men anymore.” And it’s likely true. Today women are raised to work and have a career, and men have been raised to expect and accept this, also. Again, I would say that’s the result of feminism. Women actually wanted that, demanded that. A pretty bum deal all around, if you ask me! But that’s a whole other post….