Monday, May 2, 2016
Working mom: an oxymoron, female liberation or slavery?
"I am a feminist. I've been female for a long time now, I'd be stupid not to be on my own side." Maya Angelou
It's dark and quiet outside, except for the lone voice of the frog in the pond by my window. My coffee is cold like my thoughts. Lately I have been asking myself has women's lives improved over my lifetime, stayed the same or gotten worse? I hear about young women with babies and children struggling to get everything done in their lives with both employment and home life. Statistically men do little or a lot less work around the house than their significant others. I wonder why we, women, under-value the work we do around the home. How many of us are up in the early morning hours getting ready for the new day: finishing dishes, gathering garbage, mopping a floor, finishing the laundry, making lunches? And how many of us have been up with a sick child or baby? Or up because the child or baby got up and won't go back to sleep? How many unpaid hours do we spend working for our families? If our partner's had to replace us, could they afford a 24-hour housekeeper, babysitter, chef and chauffeur? How many thousands of dollars do we save our families by doing all these things? But of course, we women, do these chores out of love because that is what women do.
Nowadays, not only do women do most if not all those household and childcare activities, but they are also expected to be employed. Because in our society our value is based upon employment. If you are not employed, then you are not a contributing member of our society. Women are never paid as well as men for similar occupations. Our society undervalues women and their contributions to society. We give our work, our time away for free because we have learned that that is what women do.
The amusing thing is that we believe that employment is about female liberation. The liberated woman gets a paycheck and joins the rat race. Women's liberation means that she works through her pregnancies until labor starts. And then she is back to work at 2 weeks postpartum. Because after all childbirth is just a vacation; and the needs of the corporation outweigh the needs of a mother and her baby. The employed mother will be expected to recovery rapidly even if she has had a c-section (major surgery). And she will be expected to separate from her baby without too much emotional trauma. And no one even considers the baby's emotional status from being deprived of close contact with her or his mother. Babies are just these blank slates that sleep mostly and must be fed on a regular schedule. Not believing this societal nonsense but having to live in a society that believes this nonsense is difficult for me. I feel sad for all the mothers and babies who are separated daily, weekly, monthly. I hear the sad cries of mothers and their babies. Of course we have postpartum depression. Separation from the ones we love is depressing. Why does our society do so little to protect the relationship of mothers and babies?
Female liberation seems based about moms separating from their babies. Babies have no economic value just potential value as workers. Babies like the elderly are considered economic burdens. Not all societies have viewed babies and the elderly as burdens. In some societies elders were valued for their wisdom. Babies and mothers were protected together, not separated. But a society that places economics above human worth creates the belief that separation of mother and babies builds independent children. Dependency has to be avoided at all costs.
For centuries women have always worked but they worked with their babies and their children by their side. It is only in this current society that we believe that the working mom is the employed mom. The employed mom with a baby pumps her milk because human milk is the best food and her baby gets the best food. Of course, the baby does not get the companionship of the mother because it has no economic value.
Economic survival is a struggle we all face. But for women, who are half of the human race, it is a struggle to be valued in a world that places money above human worth. It is a world dominated by men, corporate values and violence. This value system is putting us to the brink of extinction. Our society would rather spend its money on bombs and bullets than create a just economic system for women. Our society would rather collect free donated human milk and sell it back to women than support breastfeeding.
A working mom in this society gives her work away for free. A working mom gives her milk away for free. Out of love, working mothers give these gifts. But in a society of smoke and mirrors, the mom does not recognize her own contributions to the survival of humanity.
Copyright 2016 Valerie W. McClain
"The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls."
--Elizabeth Cady Stanton