So I was sitting outside the spawn’s acting class, trying very hard not to interact with the toddlers-in-tiaras parents, keeping my nose buried in my phone, when one of the moms leaned over and nudged me.
After the obligatory your-kid-is-so-cute thing, she asked what I do for a living.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
I have this conversation at least a couple of times a year, always with other women.
Most of the time, when I utter that sentence, the woman I’m talking to will react either by smiling genuinely and saying, “oh that’s so awesome,” or by doing that fake-smile, wide-eyed thing, their voice rising half an octave, and saying, “oh, that’s so awesome.”
And then life, and the conversation, goes on.
But every few months, I’ll get a different reaction. It’ll be anything from disbelief to disgust, as if my lifestyle was personally offensive to her.
Oh honey, you have no idea.
That’s what happened with this woman. She curled her lip and asked, “Are you serious?”
I was way more interested in the email and text conversations I was having on my phone anyway, so I just said, “Yep,” turned my body away from her, and buried my nose in my phone, using every body language trick I knew of to let her know that the conversation was over.
She didn’t take the hint.
“You know, that’s the problem with society today. We can’t move forward as a culture until we stop living in the fifties.”
I couldn’t help but grin. This reaction is by far my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, the “lazy” accusations, and the I’m-not-contributing-anything-to-society accusations, and the “I-have-a-full-time-job-and-work-out-every-day-and-still-have-time-to-spend-with-my-kids” comments are entertaining in and of themselves. But the “feminists” are the most fun.
You know the ones. The ones who find a reason at least once a week to declare loudly and proudly, “I’m a feminist,” and are quick to condemn any woman not living what they think is a “feminist lifestyle.”
Sure enough, she uttered those very words. She said, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be insulting. I’m just a feminist and I believe that women are better than being kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen by their husbands. I mean, you do know you’re contributing to the patriarchy, right?”
I had to laugh. Because come on, that’s funny. “Am I?”
She seemed stunned that I was laughing, and then seemed to get a little irritated. “I don’t know why you think it’s funny. Women have suffered for our rights, so we can live our lives the way we want to. And you’re basically spitting in their faces by supporting the patriarchy. That’s the environment you’re choosing to raise your daughter in. You think that’s funny? Is it a joke to you? Don’t you think your daughter deserves a strong female role model? Don’t you want to do right by her? Do you think teaching her to obey the patriarchy is funny?”
I couldn’t help it. I mean, I’m all about self-control and all that. But it was just too perfect. I couldn’t resist.
“I think it’s hilarious. I’ll make sure to tell my husband and both my boyfriends about it tonight so we can all share a laugh.”
And seriously, the look on her face was just priceless. Like, I felt like I was in a Mastercard commercial. But I took the opportunity to impart some knowledge. This is obviously not word-for-word, but I’ve repeated this lecture a few times now, and it’s always about the same.
There is nothing wrong with patriarchal relationships, or relationships where the man is the dominant partner and primary decision-maker. If that’s the relationship both partners want, then there’s nothing wrong with it. That’s not the problem. “The Patriarchy” isn’t evil. Men are not our enemies. There’s no reason to be hostile toward any situation where a man takes a position of authority over a woman. “The Patriarchy” isn’t the problem.
The problem is that you’ve become what you hate. The first feminists wanted women to be treated as equal, to be given the same rights as a man, and to have the ability to live their lives the way they want, without being ostracized for it.
You assume that my relationships are patriarchal, which you don’t approve of, so you become condescending, choosing not to see me as your equal, and you condemn the choices I’ve made regarding how I want to raise my daughter. In one breath, you acknowledge the struggle that the first feminists went through to give us the freedom to live our lives the way we want, and in the next, you condemn me for living my life the way I want.
My situation is the exact opposite of a patriarchy. I am the dominant partner and primary decision maker in all three of my relationships. There is no patriarchy. But even if there was, why should I not be allowed to choose that life for myself? Women aren’t allowed to think for themselves anymore, is that it? They’re only allowed to lead the lifestyle society deems appropriate? They’re not allowed to want to submit to a man?
Haven’t we come a long way in our attitudes toward women…
I am in charge and in control of every aspect of my life, including the raising of my kid. Hell no, I don’t want someone else raising my kid while I’m at work. I want to be directly responsible for every aspect of her raising.
And it’s paid off.
She was potty-trained before her second birthday. She’s 4, and she knows the difference between weight and mass. She knows the difference between mammals and fish. She knows what symbiosis is, and can provide multiple examples of two different animals having symbiotic relationships. She knows what sonar is and how whales use that to navigate. She knows what the biggest shark and smallest shark are, she can tell you the biggest fish in the world, she can tell you what that spike on a Narwhal’s head is made out of, and how tall the average male polar bear is (she’s been on a huge marine life kick for the last year or so). She knows what bioluminescence is, and can name a few species that live in the midnight zone that have it.
She can sit quietly in a doctor’s waiting room, a nice restaurant, or at an airport gate indefinitely (the wait at the airport was 4 hours). She hasn’t thrown a temper tantrum in public since she was a year and a half old. She constantly gets compliments about how well-behaved she is, and people are stunned at her vocabulary (even though she mispronounces some words. Like frost-er-rated, instead of frustrated, and tech-lick-ly instead of technically). She always says please and thank you, “yes, ma’am,” and “no, ma’am,” and “yes, sir,” and “no, sir.”
She recognizes her emotional state and will acknowledge if she’s feeling grumpy or having a bad day. Granted, she’s just a wholefuckinglot on the melodramatic side, so telling her she can’t have a second serving of M&Ms often gets the “I’m not having a good day” comment. But she can acknowledge it and has a few basic techniques to try and control it.
She can do simple addition and subtraction in her head, and while she needs paper and pencil to do simple multiplication and division, she can do multiplication and division. She can also interpret bar graphs and pie charts. Finding the mean of a set of numbers is still a little too difficult for her, but she can tell you the median, mode, and range without missing a beat.
While her weakness is English, and she’s only just recently mastered the concept of letters making sounds that form words (she knew that A makes the “a” sound, she had all that down by rote memorization, but if you showed her a picture of a dog and a picture of an apple, she couldn’t tell you which one started with letter A), she can write letters just fine, and loves having stories read to her so much, she’s memorized a couple dozen books.
She’s the youngest in her acting class by 3 years. The class is technically supposed to be for 7- and 8-year-olds. But she holds her own just fine, and the teacher often points her out, saying “Our 4-year-old can do this, so I know you guys can do it, too.”
Yeah, that happened tonight. Again.
So unless your kid can do all of that at 3 years old, I have exactly zero interest in anything you have to say about the way I choose to raise her or the environment I choose to raise her in.
I’ve got this, thanks.
Would I like to have financial independence, and not have to rely on Kazander for money? Hell fucking yes. Particularly in recent months. But I never planned on having kids, and now that I’ve got one, I want to make sure I do right by her. In my opinion, doing right by my daughter means staying home and giving her every possible advantage I can, using every tool and resource I can get my hands on. I’ve decided to make raising my daughter more important than something as petty as a paycheck*.
That’s my choice, and I’ve always lived my life the way I want to. I’m not about to stop just because it’s looked down upon. Being a stay-at-home mom is not the only lifestyle choice I’ve made that’s looked down upon by the bulk of society. It’s just the one that I catch the most shit for, because I’m around snobby, entitled, bored, sexually frustrated moms so often.
*This statement is always made for shock value, directed exclusively at the women who feel the need give me shit for my life choices. I do not think there’s anything wrong with working moms, and I certainly don’t think working moms are petty. I’m driving a point home, that’s all.