This photograph from the cover of TIME magazine seems to have provoked a bit of a windstorm of criticism and support. I am not so shocked by a photo of a mother breastfeeding her child, but what did give me pause was the label of "attachment parenting" applied to that. Extended breastfeeding is just one small aspect (and certainly not a mandatory one!) of raising your child in a certain atmosphere. The question plastered across the front ("Are You Mom Enough?") brings to mind all sorts of hurtful comparisons women make between themselves and others.
Additionally, I got sucked into this cycle of short opinion pieces from the New York Times the other day. It was fascinating for me to see these different women, some of them famous, of different age groups and professions, talking about what constitutes appropriate practices for motherhood, career, and feminism.
I thought about whether I would call myself a "feminist." I work for a living, supplying well over half our family's income plus insurance, pension, and other benefits. I don't just work because I have to, though. I love my profession and feel called to it. I recognize that women still face reduced pay simply because of their sex, and so I try as hard as I can to be a responsible, committed, ethical pastor, so that I help create a positive reputation for female professionals.
Interestingly, I was called to ministry before I was called to motherhood. Both calls will remain with me for a lifetime. For me, it's not a matter of saying, "The job will only last as long as I work, but motherhood will last forever." Both of these things I'm doing are imprinted on my heart. It's not "just a job" for me, any more than it's "just a baby."
I want more children, for sure. I always dreamed of four. Don't know how far we will get in that vein, but definitely one more! And if I can't get pregnant again, we will begin the adoption process without a second thought. The thought of a big, boisterous family with every seat belt occupied and a big pile of shoes at the front door has always been lurking in the back of my mind. I do know that if we have more children, there will be a time when it makes more financial sense for me to stay at home with them than to work and pay for their care.
Not only do I love ministry and motherhood, I love homemaking. I love cooking, cleaning (don't tell anyone!), sewing, caring for our pet, managing our family budget, baking and preserving. I'm a real homebody at heart, and I like to stick close to the homestead and take pride in it.
So, loving and cherishing all of these things, where does that leave me on the feminism scale? I think where it leaves me is overwhelmed by the abundance of choices I have in my life. And that is a huge benefit, one for which I owe an enormous "THANK YOU" to the women who went before. I truly feel that I have the opportunity to "have it all." I can be a mother, a professional, a wife, a fulfilled individual.
I think it's more important than we ever realize to acknowledge the circumstances from which we came (the ones we had no control over). Whether we choose to follow the patterns our parents set for us, or diverge from them sharply, those patterns control our behavior in ways that are beyond mere choice. My mom worked. She was an accountant, and it fit her tiny, tight script and detail oriented personality to a tee. She was also a stay at home mom. My warmest, most comforting memories come from the time when she stayed home with me after my brother and sister went to school. It was just me and Mom, all day every day. My mom won the Betty Crocker Award (this was a serious thing) in her high school every year. She was a phenomenal cook and I remember making huge slabs of cinnamon roll dough, sprinkling on raisins, and rolling them up together.
And yet, Mom was tired. "Having it all" usually left her passed out on the couch before Johnny Carson. (I also knew a different, more middle-aged Mom than my brother and sister. She had me when she was 33, and when my brother was almost 10!) She was notorious for "just shutting her eyes for a few seconds," and waking up in the morning in the same spot. She was frequently stressed, usually overworked, and sometimes on a short fuse. We all knew to tiptoe around her moods on a bad day.
Back when I was about to graduate from college, I made a list of my lifetime aspirations. It's still on little yellow sticky notes inside one of my journals.
For the ripe old age of 27, I have actually accomplished quite a few of these!
I spent a year teaching. I'd love to become a teacher again someday. I've told you all about my mishap with the Peace Corps. I'd love to go as a volunteer with Jeff after our children are grown. I have graduated from Divinity School. I write very frequently, whether it is sermons or stories or articles. My participation in the Creative Writing Program was not wasted. And of course I minister now, on a daily basis.
And yet. And yet there is so much more still to be done, to be lived. I want to go back to school and get my doctorate. I want to pastor all different kinds of churches. I want to have more children, like I said. I want to own a working farm where we can grow our own food. To "have it all," with all the options I have been given, would take me four lifetimes or more.
I heard from my grandma: "You can have it all, but not all at once." Hogwash, thought my young self. My 27-year-old self now says Yeah you were probably right.
I'm not sure exactly what I wanted to say in this post, except that I think that many people my age feel overwhelmed by choices and thus become paralyzed, in essence choosing inaction. Sixty years ago, there may have been three choices of laundry soap. Probably none of the three worked as well as what we have now, but you didn't stand in the aisle at Target for thirty minutes weighing the options.
Sixty years ago, a woman did not have the kind of access and options that I have. I don't want to forfeit that, and yet life demands more simplicity. So am I a feminist?