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March 27, 2011

That annoying thing that women do

This is not so important, but it occurs to me that I’ve been doing that annoying thing that women in my situation tend to do. Making comments about professional tea-guzzling and reading with my feet up, and though these things are practically absolutely true, they’re not the whole picture. I have a tendency toward self-deprecation anyway (it’s just easier that way), and I also don’t find the demands of stay-at-home motherhood particularly arduous, mostly because I have only one child who sleeps a lot, and a small house that requires little maintenance (plus we keep our standards very low). Life for me is very good, though to play the role of the idle hausfrau would be disingenuous (though this does not change the fact that tedious maneuvering really is the story of my life. Let that fact stand).

I thought of an excerpt from a review I read recently of Shirley Jackson’s work (“Dye the Steak Blue” by Lidija Haas), and though I’m no Shirley Jackson, obviously, I can understand why Betty Friedan was annoyed by her, and I’m setting the matter straight here because I’m a little annoyed at myself. From the review: “Friedan called [Jackson] an Uncle Tom, one of those women who disingenuously portrayed themselves as ‘just housewives’, ‘revelling in a comic world of children’s pranks and eccentric washing machines’, affecting to find a challenge in the most routine chores and concealing the ‘vision, and the satisfying hard work’ which went into their proper vocation, as writers.”

So though my washing machine is terribly eccentric (in fact, it would be better termed a “kind-of washing machine” and it sometimes smells like it’s about to catch on fire), and though I do take pride in managing my household (which is no small task, as anyone who’s ever lived in a household realizes), I only do housework when my child is awake, and whenever she’s asleep, feet-up or otherwise, I am usually at work on something related to writing. I work very hard at this blog, on my freelance assignments, at reading thoughtfully and writing book reviews that communicate this, at writing fiction, at creating new projects and at being a part of a wider creative community. At managing to contribute to our household income through my creative work. And I absolutely love all of it. It is tremendously important to me.

So this is not to be the writer’s equivalent of those wretched Facebook statuses that made me hate mothers just as much as the rest of society does (“So you ask, do I work? Uh yes, I work 24 hours a day. Why? Because I am a Mom… I don’t get holidays, sick pay or days off. I work through the DAY & NIGHT. I am on call at ALL hours. re-post if you are a proud Mommy “). I just think I was selling myself short before, affecting a little too much, which isn’t surprising– there is unease that comes with being a stay-at-home mother. But I am also a feminist, and I’d never want to let Betty Friedan down.

Also, I much appreciate the friends who’ve been so supportive about last week’s news. Since the shock has worn off, we’re very positive about things, and even grateful that the right decision has made, in particular because it’s one we might not have been brave enough to make on our own.

2 thoughts on “That annoying thing that women do”

  1. Maria says:

    Seems to me that as women we are criticized whether we drink tea with our feet up, or wash dishes with our feet on the ground, or both, or neither, or struggle full time with kids, or don’t, or work at jobs and kids … or not. And we end up apologizing, then apologizing for apologizing, then apologizing for apologizing for apologizing. I think there’s more to be said on this matter. Any chance of more posts … or an essay?

    1. Kerry says:

      Too true, Maria, and usually we’re criticizing ourselves and each other.

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