Last week was "ski week". (Don't ask.) The kids were off of school.

On Wednesday, the younger two and I went to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. After walking down to check on the butterflies -- who left early this year, unfortunately -- they decided to head out to the tide pools. Normally I would send J with them, but he had opted to spend the day with friends rather than go with us.

So I went to the tide pools. It was low tide. To get to the best tide pool area, one has to clamber over rocks and small cliffs. (For those familiar with the area, we went from the base of the rocks at the edge of beach until just past the end of the point where the wooden house stands.) It's a distance of maybe a half mile (less as the crow flies) although it seems much longer, due to all the climbing up and down.

One place involved climbing up a vertical rock face of about six to six and a half feet, or a little over my head. I know this doesn't sound like much, but it really is vertical.

I am a very large woman. I have bad knees and ankles. And I made it all the way out to the tide pools.

I was rewarded by seeing sea anemones the size of small dinner plates, and beautiful jewel-like Pacific starfish, and a dozen purple sea urchins, all in their natural habitat. Not to mention untold mussels and barnacles.

On the way back, I was climbing down the vertical rock face (which is harder than climbing up: because of my knees, I couldn't jump, and it's hard to work your way down rocks when you can't see where your footholds are). K said, "You know, Mom, you could go around and wade back, the tide is low enough." I replied through clenched teeth "NO. I climbed all the way out there and I AM going to climb all the way back."

At which point K said "You are one extreme Mom."

Best compliment I've gotten all year.
pat: (Default)
( Sep. 20th, 2005 10:29 pm)
Just when I thought there had been a cease fire in the mommy wars, the whole damn thing -- courtesy of Steve Gilliard's rant about women profiled in the New York Times who choose to stay home after going to places like Harvard and Yale -- blew wide open in my face. Steve, who of course has many years under his belt as a stay-at-home-mother, wades into the fray, claiming that young women who think that having a Ivy-League degree doesn't necessarily mean one has to automatically foreclose life options enjoyed by women at lesser institutions are living in a fantasy land.

Oh, joy.

This is a subject of more than passing interest to me, since I am one of those women who are the object of Gilliard's scorn, having both B.A. (cum laude) from Wellesley and a J.D. (with distinction) from Stanford. I am, in his eyes, living in a "childish fantasy", parasitically taking up resources that could have been oh so better used by someone else, self-indulgently choosing to be a primary care giver to my children -- hell, too stupid to know that I'm not supposed to be bored senseless. While I did not set out on my educational path intending to be a stay at home mother (SAHM, as it says on my business cards), and while there are a whole host of issues which would affect my potential return to employment, many of his arguments apply to me. To which I say...

Grow up, child. And stop presuming you know about other people's lives. And show some damn respect for other people's choices for a change.

Look, just because you happen to find dealing with children mind-numbingly dull doesn't mean everyone has to. It beats hell out of reading SEC regs or the tax code and buddy, I've done both. And there are people who actually enjoy doing those things and old Stevie wouldn't presume to make snarky comments about them, I suppose. (Most kids are actually rather interesting, if you don't assume going in that they are going to be boring.)

And isolating? Yeah, it can be. So can working in a cubicle, depending upon the office. You can change that.

And it's interesting... people keep saying "nobody can afford to live a middle class lifestyle on just one income anymore." That may just depend upon how you define middle class: I see an awful lot of women doing just that. Do they drive BMWs? No. Do they go to Switzerland on vacation? Generally not. But they do get by without a second job in the family ? Yes -- it can be hard, but it can be done.

As far as the self-indulgent angle... I guess all the stay at home mothers (and fathers)out there who spend at least part of their time volunteering in their schools and in their communities, doing things as diverse as being room mothers to being school board trustees, really don't matter.

As far as the women who got screwed when they stayed home and ended up divorced -- yes, that's a problem. No doubt. Women need to protect themselves. There were also a lot of people who got totally screwed in the dot-com bust. Does that mean that no one should ever go to work for a start-up?

Life happens. It's hard.

And hey, don't you love the sexism of that "your man will resent you if you don't bring home a paycheck" argument? Men, of course, are too stupid to understand larger issues and the subtle economics of non-monetary contributions so they will of course act like petulant children when their wife doesn't "earn her keep."

There are a lot of women for whom not working is well and truly NOT an option for economic reasons. There are other women who are happier or for whom working outside the home just makes more sense. I would not in a million years second-guess those decisions. Each woman -- each family -- makes whatever decision is right for them in the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Unlike what Gilliard says, one size does NOT fit all.

But what infuriates me most is the utter contempt Gilliard has underneath for these women: how dare they presume to want to be educated! Unlike all those French Lit majors who need that degree to go to work at an ad agency, they don't need to be educated, they're going to be mothers!

I've got news for you, buddy.

Anything that makes you a better person, makes you a better mother. Anything that makes you a wiser person, makes you a better mother. Anything that gives you more resources -- emotional, spiritual, or mental -- makes you a better mother. Anything that makes you a better citizen, makes you a better mother. And when you refuse opportunities to women, or make fun of them, because they choose to exercise options that will make them better mothers, you not only shortchange them and their children, you shortchange the rest of us as well, by denying them the opportunity to be the best that they can.
pat: (Default)
( Sep. 5th, 2002 05:51 pm)
This is a letter I wrote to a friend who asked about being a mother. [ profile] brian1789 suggested I post it here...


I guess it depends on whether you think you are doing a good job being a mother. I am not by nature a nurturing human being, and I have little patience. Most days I feel I am doing a poor job as a mother. (Giving yet another generation of therapists a group of long term clients.) Especially lately I feel like have been put on stage with a group of plates and sticks and told to make them all spin, and I can't seem to keep them going.

It's hard because being a mother means doing the same thing over and over and over. You never have any accomplishments that seem to last, and sometimes it seems that the only feedback you get is from people willing to tell you what you are doing wrong (including your own kids). It means picking up the socks that you picked up yesterday (and whose owner was repeatedly told to take care of them). It means having people at parties more interested in what your husband does than who you are. (This is exaggerated in my case because my husband does such fascinating things : > ) In my case, it mean being out-numbered by young males who are doing their best to act like they are being raised by (as one button I saw had it) "psychotic wolverines". Somewhere there are children who don't know everything and who are willing to learn niceties such as manners and cleaning their room and helping with housework, but not in my house. Having an eldest child who is a borderline depressive (gets it from me), a second who has high functioning autism, and a third who we've not had fully assessed but who has a tendency to ignore constraints of safety and common sense makes the job harder.

And yet, I do love my kids very much. And they *do* need someone at home when they get back from school - especially David. And I see glimmers of the adults they may grow up to be (both good and bad) and I worry that I'm damaging them beyond repair.


PS. And I didn't even get into my rant about societal views of childrearing (along the lines that raising children is, when push comes to shove, treated by mainstream American society as sort of an elaborate hobby, like raising champion springer spaniels, which is fine as long as it doesn't cause anyone else any inconvenience).


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