Back when I was still pregnant, going on nine months ago, I posted a little Facebook rant. Yes, I gave in to the temptation. I sinned.
This rant happened to be expanding on an article about how the author didn't want to be pigeon-holed as a mother. She explained that she posted on Facebook herself about wanting to do something more fulfilling with her life and got responses saying things like "Being a mom is the greatest thing you can do!" And I would agree that yes, being a mom is one of the greatest things you can do, but it is not the be-all end-all.
She expressed her frustration with this response in her article:
"I still have my own interests, my own thoughts and my own desires...There are things I want to do with MY life that have nothing to do with my sweet baby boy...And even though [my baby] is the most important thing to me in this entire world, there are moments when I'm really engaged in my work...when I forget about him completely."
She goes on to talk about the mentality of these anonymous commenters and the media that shaped them. Basically, society still thinks, in that charmingly backwards 1950s way, that women should be mothers and that should be enough for them. And if that's not how they feel, they should be ashamed of themselves. But if they must be ashamed, they should do it quietly and without fuss.
Needless to say, I resonated with this article. My own rant went a little something like this: "I'm not planning on taking a semester off and I think some people are a little put off by this, like I'm a "bad mom" or I'm too naive to realize how difficult this will be. But I will not put my life on hold just because we are expecting a baby. I am still a person. A person who is about to become a mom, yes, but that is just one facet. I am also a wife, daughter, student, singer of songs, lover of books and all the things I was before I got pregnant."
Yet people still managed to twist this around too. I got replies that, on the surface, seemed progressive and encouraging, but upon closer inspection undermined the feminist message.
These are some of the comments I got:
"Your baby is going to be very proud of her Mom."
"Your education will improve the quality of your child's life in ways you cannot even imagine yet."
"You have to be you first. In doing that you will teach your child to be strong and confident in who they are themselves. You will teach them that they can do anything they set their mind to and give them pride in their parents to know that you still finished what you set out to do."
Deceptive, aren't they?
The consensus here is that it's okay to do something "selfish" as long as it's actually, secretly, all for the benefit of your child. I could go to college as long as my end goal was making more money to support my baby or setting a good example for her. But not simply because I wanted to.
And that's honestly what it came down to. Those selfless reasons are not my motivation, there are coincidental perks. I wanted to go to school because being in class, studying, reading, enhancing my brain, writing, socializing and getting out of the house are things that I like to do. They make me feel fulfilled as a person, as a human being, on a fundamental level.
I don't need any other reason. Why should I? Why do women historically have to justify their actions as selfless? One of the main reasons that men were persuaded to give women access to education in the first place was because we could then better educate their children—specifically their sons.
No one questioned my husband for not being a stay-at-home dad. They immediately assumed that he would continue to work. Yet a lot of people expected me to at least consider quitting work and dropping out of school—"at least until the baby's school age."
Why are women automatically expected to be overcome by hormones and maternal nesting instincts? Why do our lives have to stop when we have kids? Why do our lives have to revolve around our children? Why are we considered "bad moms" if they don't? What good does that do anyone?