Monday, July 7, 2008

The First Post

I've been saying I was going to do this for some time - start a book, journal, blog, something about the tension of living in the implications of feminism. Of having it all, but not knowing what to do with it. Of reconciling what appears to be my innate need to be woman with the reality that I work in a man's world and that sometimes my husband and I have reversed roles - whatever those are. And now I find myself with two weeks left in my second maternity leave and about to go back to my 7th year of practicing law, where I will be expected to focus on making partner in the next year and I've decided now is the right time to start. I'm sure I'll have plenty of free time to keep this up. Of course, even though that was sarcastic, now is the time I need it most.

I am a mother of two - an almost three year old and an almost 11 week old. I practice in a large law firm in Lexington, Kentucky. Previously, I practiced in an even larger law firm in Southern California. I have been married for 5 years (well, sort of - we divorced about two years ago and annulled our divorce (only in Kentucky) about a year ago -I'm sure there will be more on that later). I grew up here in Kentucky, went to college in Anderson, Indiana, took a year off when I worked in advertising and sold cars, went to law school at the University of Notre Dame, moved to Los Angeles, met my husband, married and four years ago, moved back here to Kentucky.

I wrote the catalyst for this blog four and a half years ago. I've posted it on a friend's blog and shared it with several people over the years, but I've never gone any farther with it. Hopefully, there will be more than one post here, but here it is:

12/15/03 - I just got off the phone with my law school roommate. Every
time I talk to her, the theme is the same: how and when are we going to figure
out how to balance our lives as women? When will we no longer be the
bread winners? When will we get to have kids? Will we ever get to
stay home and raise them? Will we ever be as domestic as we would
like? Why do we feel guilty when we don’t have dinner ready, even though
we worked all day? Why isn’t our house clean? Why aren’t we super
woman like our mothers?

These are questions so many women of my generation
face. There is a lot of talk about how feminism has complicated
things. How we are all facing a crises of gender identities. I don’t
like to jump on that band wagon because I don’t want to be mistaken as
anti-feminist. I believe in the empowerment of women and I am inspired by
and deeply indebted to those who have forged the way for me to be independent
and capable of making my own decisions, of providing for myself and to be able
to choose whatever career I desire. I am moved to tears when I think of
how far this society has come in the treatment of women and of how far we have
to go. We are not yet there, but equality is in sight.

However, I am wrestling with the reality. I am living in the implications of
freedom for women. The responsibility. The choices. The tension. And the burning desire to be WOMAN is eating away at me. In my late twenties, I am finding that I have lost something very important – my femininity. And I have spent the last several months mourning that. I think marriage has been the catalyst for bringing my loss to light. My husband and I do not have traditional roles right now. We have been married for nine months. I am a lawyer in one of the largest law firms in
the country and I make a six figure salary. He is a student – going back to school to finish his undergraduate degree. And right now, he’s not working. I thought I would be OK with that – and so did he, but we’re finding out that neither of us are. He is struggling with what seems to be the innate need of man to provide and my biological clock is ticking so loud, I’m ready to throw it out the window. Never mind the guilt I
mentioned earlier. I still feel pressure to have a clean, put together house. To cook and bake and make sure my husband is well fed. To do his laundry and just take care of him. I don’t do very much of that – he does a lot of it for himself, and for me. I know that sounds like every woman’s dream, but for me, it’s filled with guilt.

Now enter God. I remember that in college, one of my favorite chapters of the Bible
was Proverbs 31. It describes the ideal woman. She cooks, cleans, takes care of the house, takes care of the kids, clothes the family, runs the household, and supports her husband. She is upright and pure – blameless before God. The chapter ends with the verse, “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” That woman always reminded me of my mom. And just as I wanted to be just like my mom when I was a kid, when I became an adult, I wanted to be just like the Proverbs woman – she was my biblical superhero.
Whenever I go home to Kentucky and watch my mom flutter about her immaculate house (you could literally eat off the floors), running errands, doing chores, going to work and taking care of me, my husband and my sister so that we don’t have to lift a
finger or want for anything – whenever I taste her delicious cooking or sleep in
her beds with the fresh sheets, or open a drawer to find everything organized, I
feel guilty. And like a failure. I’m not being woman enough. I haven’t lived up to my potential as a woman. I haven’t figured out how to be a true woman. My husband is missing out on having a GOOD wife. God wants me to be more feminine.

Lately I think my quest to find my femininity has appeared as a new-found (well, maybe a first-found) love of the color pink. I have red hair, and as a teenager, I didn’t think I was allowed to wear pink. It didn’t go with my hair. I think I read
it in a magazine somewhere. But, as an adult, I have discovered that not
only do I not care about those silly rules, but that I like pink. Really –
a lot. And I wear it. And I find myself wanting to put pink things
in my house or buy pink accessories. And it just dawned on me as I’m
writing this that this love of pink might come from my efforts to be womanly.

Now here I am, with two kids, my husband is out of school and even though I make more money for now, I don't consider myself the "bread winner." And we're back in Kentucky. For the past 10 weeks, I have been a stay-at-home mom (that's ending soon when maternity leave is
over), and I still don't have answers that are any clearer. I still struggle with the
tension. I have no idea how I'm going to work full time with two kids, but frankly, even though I love them more than life, I don't want to stay at home with them. Now, I struggle with the guilt of knowing that I couldn't survive with a newborn and a toddler at home all day. I wait until 5:45 to leave my house and pick up the toddler at the daycare just a few blocks away before the 6:00 deadline. Even though I'm home for these 12 weeks, I let him be at daycare for 10 hours. And my house still looks like a tornado went through the inside. The laundry isn't folded and put away and the dishwasher isn't loaded. We often eat take out and the toddler sometimes eats Chicken McNuggets two, or even three, times in a week. My mom and her immaculate house are now closer to me, so I have a constant reminder of how I'm not superwoman and I am confused about whether I even want to be. Despite the fact that I don't want to stay at home, I'm not willing to sacrifice my family for my career and I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible not to. I can't find anyone who has done it (taken the traditional professional path in their chosen career - i.e., no temporary reduced schedule, no delayed partnership, etc. - and truly not sacrificied their family), and as the prospect of partnership approaches, I don't know if I'm cut out to do what I need to do to make it AND to be the mom I want to be. So, this is the beginning of my sorting through that dilemma. I might be the only reader, or it might strike a chord with you. Feel free to share if it does.

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