I’m in the final stretch of early motherhood. In a little under a week, my youngest daughters start Kindergarten and all of my children will be in primary school. If only because of time, this is a different stage than toddlerdom. I’ll have chunks of time. But that is next week. This week, I have no time. So until later, I have a story a reader sent me in response to last week’s #solidarityisforwhitewomen events. Story edited for identifying details. This is a mom, scholar, married white woman in her 40’s. I asked her if I could post it because I think it has a variety of points for further thought.
SO, I’ve been thinking a lot about my development as a thinker. It is largely because I was just offered a job at the tiny little college I spent a year at while following my future husband from one enormous college to an even bigger college. We were well-entrenched in one of the arts departments there, which housed professors whom we considered friends. We hung out at their house on weekends and played Dungeons and Dragons. They were liberal, but they were also from Arkansas, which makes them, well, different, from Northern liberals. I didn’t take any classes with them. The husband taught history courses in which there was a lot of deriding of White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants. The wife taught theater classes. There were a couple of young English teachers who taught that with writing “you just need to get the ideas down, and the rest will come.” I, on the other hand, took writing with two older professors (another married couple) who believed in the value of good grammar and punctuation. Mind you, it was kind of a crap shoot for me at the time, and I never quite knew what it was I was doing right or wrong. However, it was an important step in my formation as a writer.
With regard to thinking about things other than writing, I read and defended an essay by Phyllis Schlafly as an assignment. In the meantime, I considered myself quite liberal. But, I’m quite certain I internalized those beliefs as well. The year before, I went to meetings with my high school friend and college roomie where we watched a movie about Nelson Mandela and helped plan and worked at a bazaar and spaghetti dinner that ended in a concert the funds of which supported the group’s activities, one of which was funding Rainbow Coalition rallies before the next year’s election. It wasn’t so much that I believed in what I was doing, but that it was something to do, and it all sounded lovely, probably because I was clueless. My (not-yet) husband had convinced me when I nearly declined to vote in the ’88 election that a vote for Dukakis was at least a voice for the lesser of two evils. I had a huge argument with him just after the LA riots because I felt the rap singers should use their fame to do something to make things better, and he argued that they were just representing what they knew. Anyway…I think, ultimately, this is what is wrong with this country. Aimless youth roaming about drinking whatever Koolaid is available and looks cool at the moment. There’s a whole flock of young white kids to whom Mit Romney looks an awful lot like their dads.
Until about three years ago, my family was convinced that we were liberals and had no idea that we hadn’t been voting Democrat for the last ten years. What changed, my husband will tell you, is that we grew up. My husband works in industry now. The environment is somewhat different than that of the arts departments of large universities. In the last two years, I became Catholic. I was encouraged by my lapsed husband, whom I don’t think thought I would actually become Catholic. With that, and what wheels have been in motion for years, it has become apparent to me that the world that seemed evermore gray when I was younger has become much more black and white to me.
The point? I am so much more like my father than anyone would ever realize; it’s just that around him, I never get the chance to talk, so no one knows. I have never felt the urge to use the word feminist to describe myself. As a woman, yes, I felt entitled to do whatever I wanted, but what I came to understand was that all decisions have consequences. I had, again, innocently and uninformedly believed that I could go off and have a baby and then work my full time teaching schedule around my home life, putting in as few days a week as possible. Did I plan for this? Did I discuss this possibility prior to the birth of my child? No. I was pretty well always in la la land, and my supervisor told me I had to be at work 5 days a week, even if I only had 30 hours to put in. I asked to bring my quiet little two month old to a campus wide meeting. I was told by a childless female superior that women left their babies all the time, and I should do the same. Ultimately, they paid what they would have paid to house me at the meeting, and I rented a hotel room not far and had my MIL there with him and went out to the van between meetings and nursed him. But then, shortly after, I resigned my position and taught as an adjunct at night. But, my mistake, all along, was that feminism meant that women had the right to choose, to have it all! And, I had an idea that the profession I had chosen was going to be child-friendly. Ultimately, it has been, but because I switched to teaching exclusively online just before the birth of my second baby. BUT, I did not work full time, and as my kids are heading off to school, I am afforded less work than ever due to the economy. I am finding more part time work that will suit me, but because I have spent the last 15 years simply teaching part time and raising kids instead of teaching part time and publishing or taking additional coursework or doing some other “meaningful” work, I am not someone who looks good on paper. My coursework was interdisciplinary, so at first glance, despite my 18 years of teaching English composition, I am not even qualified for accreditation. The university for which I have taught for 18 years will not even look beyond my transcript to allow me to return to in-seat teaching on campus. In fact, I have the required number of English courses, but they were cross-listed, so instead of English, they are listed as American Studies courses.