Monday, February 03, 2014

confronting my own sexism about the value of motherhood

When I found out I was having a girl, I didn't feel especially excited. In fact, I felt a teensy bit disappointed. I felt like, "oh, she'll probably grow up to be a stay-at-home mom like me." Don't get me wrong, I am fairly confident that my future daughter will be lovely and awesome; I think this is more about my feelings about what it means to be a mom.

I feel like I shouldn't feel this way. I know, objectively, that being a stay-at-home mom or any kind of mom is a big sacrifice, and moms are awesome for sacrificing themselves for their children, and that many mothers find their lives rewarding and worthwhile. I also know that being a mom will be messy and full of cleaning and child-wrangling. It seems like a lot of work that doesn't get accolades. Moms who brag about their kids are seen as annoying, and whining about momchores is seen as kind of petty; there's very little outside recognition for being a successful caretaker. I guess since I've never experienced being a mother myself, I don't have the feelings of "I love [my] children and this is so rewarding!" All I have right now is what I see other moms doing on mommy blogs and on forums and most of the time it doesn't sound especially exciting to me? It sounds like thankless work that is never over.

It's hard for me to admit that being a mom doesn't sound all that fun/cool/rewarding because I know lots of people who are moms, and some people who would like to be moms but aren't. I am grateful to be pregnant, but I still feel anxious about becoming a caregiver. Parenthood feels like a big self-inflicted burden. I'm not just anxious, I'm a little scared. I know that I'm going to mess up in my future parenthood, and all my research and study can't substitute for real-life experience.

I'm also subject to "worldly" arguments/trolls that women who stay at home and have kids aren't contributing to the world. Of course women who raise children are contributing to the world--where else is the next generation going to come from? But I feel like the way parents affect the world through their children is harder for me to appreciate than someone who works and "makes a living." Someone working at a job affects lots of other people every day, but the effect is small in comparison to the effect a mother has on her children. But men in this situation get to have careers and be a parent who affects their children deeply, which doesn't seem fair. But fathers (or whichever parent is away most of the day) might not affect a child as much as that child's primary caregiver (maybe they do?)?

When it comes down to it, I'm afraid of change. I'm committing myself to becoming a mom for the next 18-30 years, depending on how many children I have. One thing that has cheered me up is knowing that many women pursue a career after their children are grown. Having a child doesn't mean I'll never have a "real" job again, and some women work while their children are still growing up. Although if I were to go back to work, I'm not sure what I'd do. I'm confident that if I had a job, I would do well at it, but my various job experiences don't point me towards a specific job title. Even if I wanted to get a job, I'm not sure if I could get one.

TL;DR: when people ask me if I'm excited to have a baby, I guess I should say that I am excited--but I'm also nervous and anxious about it.