So here’s a question.
Why does having a vagina mean I have to love my work less?
Does the hard-wiring of labia production in a person’s DNA prevent the development of the gene that triggers professional satisfaction?
I know we’re years beyond the feminist movement (of which I’m not particularly fond, believe it or not, though I’ll never argue that it wasn’t needed or didn’t bring about some marvelous things.) I know women in the workplace are common now and that discrimination is mandated against and that it’s no longer P.C. to admit that you think a necktie could do a better job than a pair of heels.
I know all that.
But here I am, decades after this is all supposed to have been neatly solved, and I’m still catching flack for abandoning my family in pursuit of a career.
I thought you were a mother.
I’ve heard and seen it all. The forum flaming and name-calling when folks in the mommy chat site I visit realize that (gasp) I do more than make dinner, buy groceries and vacuum. The opinion a “friend”Â of mine holds that I’m a lazy and disinterested parent because I drop my child off at daycare through the week when I’m “only”Â working from home and can choose my own hours. The pitied looks my husband gets anytime he admits to someone older than twenty that he cooks our meals about half the time. The tongue clucks when someone overhears me tell my child to wait a minute so I can finish typing a thought. The haughtiness. The judgment.
Why is it so far from the realm of natural thought that I can be a mother and a writer? Â A writer who loves expletives, erotica, and mindfuck stories, even?
Is that so much to ask?
Does performing my work on my own, without a boss hanging over me, make me somehow less of a contributor? Does it invalidate everything just because I’ve given birth?
People of all types breed and make more people. Then they raise them. Where do you think all the new wave hippies came from? Mostly from old wave hippies—and I think that’s a damn fine thing.
Fathers get lauded for playing with the kids after work. Mothers are chided for having gone to work in the first place.
I never meant to have a family. My plan from age fifteen on—I shit you not—was to be a crazy cat lady. That was my childhood aspiration when everyone else was going to be a vet or a teacher or a rock star. I fully intended to have a digital-ready, log cabin in the Smokies, a dozen cats, a hermit lifestyle and royalty checks landing in my mailbox. I had it all figured out, even down to the architectural layout for my one-bedroom, two-library home.
Actually, that’s still very much the plan, but my husband and son have turned out surprisingly cool enough that I’m going to let them come, too. Never thought I’d say that. Â Son. I’m not a baby person. I’m not even that much of a girl person. I’ve always been a tomboy and felt more at home in an XY crowd than an XX.
Girls are too much drama. We’re too high-maintenance. For that reason alone, more than any other, I could never be a lesbian. I don’t have the patience.
(And yes, I’m aware that I have just stereotyped my own gender unfairly. That’s called a double-standard. Women can create those, too.)
Male relationships just make more sense to me across the board. The rules are simpler. My guy friends have never been mad at me for not calling for a month. (Nor vice versa.) My boys have never whispered behind my back when I went to the bathroom, tried to steal my clothes or rolled their eyes at my lame humor. They just go with it or don’t. There are no emotional games.
I hoped, once I made peace with the fact that yes, I really, really, really, really was pregnant and there was no going back, that I would have a boy. Not for one minute did I feel like it would be a girl. I didn’t look at frilly things, or yearn for hair-bows, or even pick a girl name. I dreamed at twelve weeks gestation that a boy it would be; and a boy it certainly was. (Granted, I also dreamed it was twins the week before that, but we dodged that bullet somehow!)
I would have loved a little girl. Of course I would have. She would have been mine and I’d have probably bought into all the pinkness and lace eventually. I’m even leaning that way for next time, if there’s in fact a next time and we do all that baby-making stuff again. I think I’m ready for that. I think I’d like to meet her.
But I’ve gotta tell you, I was nothing short of absolutely thrilled when the ultrasound tech squirted that cold-ass jelly on my belly and announced that I was having a boy.
My dreams weren’t Barbies and My Little Pony dolls. They were tee-ball coaching, and Hot Wheels, and denim and rocks and mud and worms and toothless grins under mottled hair.
Though it didn’t figure into my own reasoning for desiring a son, one of my father—s favorite things to say has always been that boys were far easier to raise than girls—and this was coming from a man who had six kids, so I suppose he should know. “You can’t yell at girls,”Â he said. “Boys, you can tell to sit down and shut up and they’re fine with it. Girls will cry and make you feel bad and ask you why you don’t love them anymore.”Â
Females tend to be catty and vindictive. (Me, too, so don’t get huffy. We just are.)
Guys don’t judge each other that way.
Women, why do we? Why aren’t we kinder to each other?
Why the hell do you care whether I breast-feed or buy bottles? Why does it matter if my son, a random child who you don’t know, colors happily with some other kids while I bring home some bacon myself? Why does it personally offend everyone if I’m my own damn kind of mother?
I’ve never gotten it, and I doubt I ever will.
But one thing I do know… I’m whoever the hell I want to be, regardless of whether a mini-person once burst forth from my loins. You choose your own mantle. You pick your own path. If nothing else, I hope the one human I’m in charge of raising for a while learns that for himself and has the courage to live it.
Even if his mama’s a little off her rocker.
And even if she’s more “person”Â than “girl.”Â