Saturday, September 04, 2010

Identity Crisis

I saw a bumper sticker on a car at the birth center that read "Who are all these children and why are they calling me Mom?" Welcome to my world. Everywhere I go, I hear "Wow you've got your hands full don't you?" And I've started to answer "Happily so yes!" The other day I got a nice surprise when a Walmart greeter said "Good for you" to H and I upon hearing that R was our fourth. It's nice to not always here criticism. Frankly, however, I am just as surprised as anyone that I have so many beasties.

As those of you faithfully follow my blog know, I struggle with this woman who bears children. I consider myself a feminist yet I can not deny that my happiest days are days spent surrounded by my little beastlings. I ADORE being a mom (note I do not say  housekeeper because I so do not ADORE housekeeping). Yet I feel as if I betrayed that fiery young feminist from so long ago. I'm raising fierce girls, I tell her. My son is sensitive and allowed to cry! But is it enough...?

With the birth of my fourth child, I am at a crossroads. I have completed my masters. I am proud of that accomplishment. Very proud. It was a long road and I feel that I created a piece of scholarship that is really mine (with the help of many great minds of could argue that nothing is truly one's own). Perhaps, I ponder, this earns me feminist points. The thesis is about women, their lives, and their struggles.  After all, I completed it as a mom to three. I worked outside of the home. Equally shared responsibility with my partner (who is a man..and oh what a man!). But lately I have even begun to wonder if this is what that young feminist envisioned.

When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to help. I wanted to do something magnificent that would make life easier for people. As I grew into that feminist young woman, I wanted that something to have an effect on the lives of women. Of course, I had to reconcile that desire with the reality that the academy doesn't seem to effect the multitude very much. And eventually I just has to accept that my desire for an academic life was selfish. I was good at it and I enjoyed it.

But I am a mother. An unashamed mother. I feel like the academy would like me to be ashamed. Would like to me meekly roll over and let childless women do what I'm doing. I felt like my pregnancy was seen as a big failure by so many of those I had just proved myself to. And now as I look at a PhD program, I know I will likely have to keep my family quiet. Secret. But I am not ashamed, and I wonder how much of myself I would compromise if I never spoke of my family to those I study under and with. It feels like it would be a betrayal of some fundamental part of myself. And you know what? My feminist young self would have hated that. It would have disgusted her.

I keep going back to the midwife idea. I would be helping women. I would be advocating for birth and women's choice in birth (something I believe in quite passionately). I don't think my many children would be seen as a liability. But there are as many doubts as there are things that make me excited. Am I too old to embark on a totally different career? Would I actually like delivering babies or is just the idea that appeals to me? Would I be bored without that academic life that I really do find stimulating?

My identity is shifting again, and at 38 I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.


ivymae said...

Oh Ginger, please move to Spokane and be my partner midwife.


P3 said...

I think that sometimes there are different places all within the category of being "grown up." We grow, we learn, we have different gifts to offer. There is no shame in letting a different part of yourself come to the forefront if that's how you feel called to speak right now.

You're still the same Ginger. Being a midwife wouldn't mean that your academic side disappears, just that it gets channeled in a different direction, and you know? I'd choose (and have chosen) academic midwives specifically because of the background they bring to the table.

*hugs* Good luck as you discern things!

Greywillow said...

I think as a woman there is nothing more empowering than giving birth. Any feminist should appreciate that. I see you as an extremely strong woman raising fierce women & an amazing boy who will change the world. Being a midwife would be an intense and amazing journey; it's never too late to decide what you want to be when you grow up. :)

John B-R said...

Hi, Ginger. Sorry I've been away a while. A few comments: if there's ever a contradiction between being a mother and a feminist, the world is over. Period.

As for keeping your family quiet if you go the PhD route, I can only say that my son-in-law's profs bring their babies to work with them ... but maybe you have to get to be a prof first?

I'm sure you would make a great midwife. I'm sure you would make a great whatever. I'm sure you are great right now.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Ivy: I'd LOVE that:)

P3: I am not all that excited to be a grown up so I hear you. I suspect that we're always in the process of growing up so to speak. I appreciate your words on looking for academic midwives and that has giving me a lot to chew over as I make this decision.

John: I agree. Motherhood should always be equated with feminism. And your sil is very lucky I think to see this. More students need to see this. I suspect there are many variables such as college, rank, and area of study. I know that where I am a lot of disparaging comments are made about having children and being in the academy.

XO to you...miss you!

The Fearless Freak said...

What you have done to change the world is bring in 4 fab people, who are being raised with your values and morals and sending them out into the world to spread that message. So while you might not be the person who took the action to change the world, you might be directly responsible for teaching someone the thing they needed to know to do it.

Remember that old shampoo commercial? You are doing your part to "tell 2 friends" :)