Monday, September 17, 2007

Will that Stuff ever go Away? ...on being a girl today

I remember the exact moment I discovered that I was going to give birth to a daughter. For a split second, while staring at the cloudy image of my little girl on the sonogram monitor, my heart sank. I instinctively turned to my husband and said, “Oh, she is going to have to deal with all that stuff”. He looked at me like I was crazy. “What stuff?” He was thrilled. Our three-year-old son would have a little sister to play with and we would get to experience the joys of parenting both a son and a daughter.

Seventeen years and two more daughters later, he now knows what I meant – he understands the “stuff”. As much as things have changed since I was a teenage girl growing up in the 1970’s so much has stayed the same: there still exists the emotional growing pains of female adolescence and the drama that so insidiously undermines all of our parental instincts, the enticement of the media to wear just the right clothes that adorn a perfectly shaped unattainable body and the peer pressure to be the most popular kid in school no matter how hurtful it can be to yourself or to anyone else who gets in your way, even your best friend.

And my daughters are yet to confront some of the biggest stuff, which I faced as a young woman growing up in the 1980’s: to stay home and raise a family, to enter the work force or to try to find to some perfect, impossible balance between the two? If they choose to work, will they find the best care for their children, and how about their salary, will they still be making less than their male counterparts? If they decide to step out of the work force will they find personal satisfaction without the societal benchmarks of job promotions and salary increases? Will they be able to come to terms with the fact that they are dependent on somebody else for their food, clothing and shelter?

I opted to stay home to raise my children and I love my life. I wouldn’t change a thing if I were to start over again. However, despite the voracity by which I have embraced my role as a stay at home mom, I sometimes wonder if I have done an injustice to my daughters. When they were younger they would tell me they want to be doctors and teachers and librarians - even a fast food operator at the McDonald’s window. I would wonder, why wouldn’t they want to stay home and raise their kids, don’t they think that what I am doing is important too? Now, as teenagers, as they think more seriously about their futures, they tell me how I have the best life - I have no boss, no schedule, and the autonomy to pursue causes and do work I enjoy on my own time.

This is all very true. I am lucky and very fortunate. And I love that I have been home all these years with my kids - to experience every part of each of their lives. There is not a moment that I look back with a touch of regret. Just sometimes I wonder. What if I had pursued a career in Child Advocacy? What if I had put in the number of hours my husband has put into his career? What would I be doing now?

So my daughters, all three of them, will face similar decisions sometime in their lives. Just like all of us, they will survive the absurdity of female adolescence and they will grow up to be contributors, in some form, to this world. The way I see it, that “stuff” will never go away and as women we will probably be forever trying to figure it out.


the individual voice said...

Whatever they do, mixing and matching, they'll find the balance that works best for them, which may change for each of them over time. And more dads seem to be making some of those choices, too, often because of layoffs, but that can work out well for everyone, too. Having sons, I think I've forgotten what some of the teen girl "stuff" is. I'll have to say though, as a rabid feminist, I was shocked to have sons and they have taught me what a very sexist feminist I was. Their classrooms, too, were often very discriminatory in favor of girls, terrible, mean little girls, or so I heard.

minivan diaries said...

Yes and yes! I agree that more and more Dads are choosing or being forced to choose to stay home and raise the kids. I believe if more dads did it, the workplace would change for moms, allowing more women to actually find a balance that works. Not enough men understand what it's like to try to balance family and work.

and Yes, those girls can be very mean... the insidious backstabbing, gossiping bullying that no one sees - unlike the boys who are physical in their bullying ways. It's still tough being a girl... in so many ways... yet, we celebrate it -- we are each very special.