Just about every societal movement for change is started with the best of intentions, generally something to do with liberating the oppressed and downtrodden and leading the world into a bright new utopian era. Just about every societal movement falls somewhat short of this goal. Women’s Liberation is no exception.
Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m glorious thrilled that I can vote, and have a power bill in my own name, and own property. These days, I could run for president if I really wanted to…and also if I had a bunch more money, and could give a whole speech without farting or dropping the f-bomb. What I’m saying is, it wouldn’t be my sex holding me back, it would just be my personality; and I can’t really blame anyone but myself for my personal defects, try though I might. I have Women’s Lib to thank for my potential but unlikely presidential bid, because even fifty years ago things weren’t so great for us chicks – and still aren’t, in many parts of the country and the world (and whether we’ll actually soon become one of the last places in the developed world to have a woman as president, we shall see).
However, though it has brought many advances to our culture, Women’s Lib has had unintended economic and social consequences that can complicate our lives in a different way.
I’m going to talk here specifically about the effect Women’s Lib has had on being a stay-at-home mom. It may be an outplayed subject by now, but that just means I’ll perhaps avoid the scorching heat of a flame war.
For a lot of women (and men) in this country –I’d venture to say most – being a SAHM or SAHD isn’t really a viable option these days. Their partners just don’t make enough money: they need two incomes. However, this didn’t used to be the case, at least not to the extent it is now. Back in “the day”, a much larger percentage of women didn’t work outside the home. They were expected to stay home. Being a working mom was not only frowned upon: in the case of certain professions like teaching –one of the few jobs that they actually allowed women to do in the first place – it wasn’t even allowed.
However, back in the proverbial “day”, society by and large was set up to support the SAHM paradigm. It was completely possible for a man with some minimal amount of education or skill, or even just a couple buckets of gumption, to support a family on his income alone.
The social structure was also supportive of women staying at home. Undoubtedly too supportive of it, but at least women could get together and let their kids grub around, get some social interaction, because they were all in it together, as much as women (and people in general) ever are.
Now, however, raising a family on single income seems a lot harder to achieve. Part of this may be that we’re much more a consumer culture than we used to be, a lot of our income gobbled up by expenses like cable TV and internet, meals eaten out and new cars…stuff that, if we had to, I mean really had to, we could live without. But also, the economic structure has changed to reflect the fact that a much greater percentage of households now have two incomes.
Societal and social structure doesn’t really support working moms now, though, as it seemingly supported the SAHMs when they were expected to be such. Infant childcare is like another frigging mortgage. Sometimes even more expensive than another mortgage. It’s holy-Christ horrible. Most jobs don’t give you maternity/paternity leave, or any sort of breastfeeding support while at work. And friends and relatives don’t always emotionally support a woman’s decision or need to work, either.
Society sends women mixed messages about this stuff, is what I’m saying. This isn’t surprising. Society always has a million scrogging opinions about every goddamn thing.
In a perfect world, or so the dogma goes, the only thing holding a person back from reaching his or her full potential would be they themselves. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum, and so each person, in just being who they are, can have an influence on those around them. In working through our own issues and looking at the world through our broken or rose-colored lenses, we often advertently or inadvertently end up holding others back as well. It’s a complicated old world, and it takes all kinds.
Social commentary about being a SAHM has changed, is constantly changing. (Though I should, I won’t go into the social discussion of stay-at-home-dadism, just so I don’t clutter the issue. To me, at this point, it’s almost the same discussion, but I know to many others it isn’t). From where I’m sitting, the decision to be a SAHM is one that a woman must often defend, lashing out at societal pressure with her chipped and rough-cuticled claws.
In this entry, I’ll discuss the negative pressure we must face, because it seems to me there are two schools of thought: the negative, that being a SAHM is for losers; and the positive, that being a SAHM is a glorious thing, but so much harder than any other job a person could ever do. So here we go, the negative.
A lot of the flack we SAHMs get comes from women who are jealous, because they didn’t have that option. But another portion of it comes from people who think we’re lazy and stupid, or perhaps just making the wrong decision – that we’re reducing our lives to a myopia of drudgery that will be nearly impossible to escape once we’ve realized how horrible it is. Because, after we’ve left our cozy and respectable jobs to go breed ourselves like so much cattle for a number of years, what employer would have us?
There is also the pressure from the SAH-SUPER Moms, who seem to feel the need to compensate for society thinking they’re lazy by joining every goddamn school committee on top of their other seventeen volunteer gigs, making twelve expertly-decorated cakes a day, growing their own organic wheat, and raising a passel of seemingly genetically-enhanced children who can both beat Yngwie Malmsteen in a guitar contest and Stephen Hawking in a science contest by the time they’re six. The pressure in this sense comes from the need some feel to COMPETE with this ideal.
The first time that I decided to be a stay-at-home mom was when I had Kid. At the time, I was married to my second husband, whom some of you will remember (perhaps less than fondly) from previous posts. (He and I are still great friends. He’s much better now, and a good guy, though he only goes online for pornological reasons and so doesn’t read this). He, for reasons I won’t go into, made enough money at the time to allow me to quit my job when Kid was born, as long as we were careful.
I’m not one to care what society thinks of me…at least not much. Also, I hated my job at the time. “Staying home with Kid will be a piece of cake,” I thought.
Actually, well, no, I didn’t really think that, because I’m not a fucking moron. But I thought it would be easier than being a working mom. What I really wanted to do here was segue into a cake recipe.
1 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp oil
4 eggs, room temp or close
2 1/3 cups cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup coconut milk
Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Add oil, then eggs one at a time, beating just until combined. Add lemon juice and lemon peel, again BEAT THAT SHIT but not too hard.
Add dry ingredients and coconut milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Beat until smooth.
Divide between two greased springform cake pans, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or so, until brown on top and toothpick comes out clean, all that jazz.
1 cup butter
About 2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
WHIP THAT STUFF UP
You must make this, and use it to sculpt a cake of breathtaking, surreal, life-changing beauty, all while your clean and well-behaved babies sit idyllically around your knees. If you don’t, or if you curse at how fucking sticky, messy, and frustrating marshmallow fondant is, then you are a BAD MOM and a FAILURE and NO ONE WILL EVER RESPECT YOU.
One bag mini-marshmallows (about 10.5 ounces)
Get two of the 32-ounce bags of powdered sugar, at the very least. You always need way more than you think.
Melt the marshmallows with a tablespoon or so of water in a large bowl in the microwave (removing to stir it every 30 seconds), or (stirring constantly) in a soup pot on the stove. When fairly melty, remove from heat and stir, stir, stir until all the lumps are gone. Let cool for a bit, then start stirring in the powdered sugar.
When it’s still maddeningly sticky, remove from bowl/pot and knead more powdered sugar in. DON’T CURSE. Your hair will be sticking to the cabinets by now, and you will be covered in tiny, biting sugar ants. Keep kneading.
When it seems like it’s not sticking to the counters so much anymore, then knead in food coloring (you’ll want to set aside several small batches for different colors for your designs – the biggest one is just to cover the cake). And add more powdered sugar. Knead, knead, curse. Curse, curse, knead.
Try to roll it out on a powdered-sugared surface with a powdered-sugar rolling pin. Then try to transfer the rolled sheet onto your frosted cake. JUST TRY IT. It will probably stick to the counter and rip, and you’ll have to knead it with more powdered sugar again. By now, the wasps are attacking you, and hummingbirds are trying to drink the juice from your eyeballs.
Sooner or later you’ll manage it, more or less. Then decorate it. It had better be creative, because you have to make up for the fact that you’re a SAHM, and everyone knows that means you have no inner life. Prove them wrong. Make a cake that no one will dare cut into, because it’s too gorgeous.
Now clean your kitchen with a putty knife and one of the more poisonous organic solvents. I think diethyl ether would work.
TO BE CONTINUED….