I have friends who make me wonder why they like me.
They go to the gym every day.
They travel the world.
They have actual date nights with their husbands.
I work up a sweat hauling three hockey bags from the minivan when the boys forget. My GPS loves screaming “TURN OFF THE PAVED ROAD!” in the middle of a blizzard toward some remote rink in Wisconsin. Date night is Joe selecting a diner, drive-in or dive closest to that aforementioned unpaved road.
At this stage of life, I know I am supposed to be nurturing my own passions outside of kids. I have even thought about signing up for one of those wine and paint parties. Maybe master French or write the great American novel.
But here’s the truth. My life? Right now? It is everything I have ever wanted.
Betty Friedan’s best-selling 1960s book, The Feminine Mystique, told a generation of women that depression and lack of fulfillment were the end result for many women who stayed home to have kids.
The cultural norms of the times definitely limited choices, and countless mothers were left searching for a more diverse identity, a vaster purpose.
The book highlighted the unfulfilled promise of generations of women.
It also allowed some women to finally admit motherhood wasn’t the best representation of what they could offer the world.
But here was the slam. There were still women like me who were thrilled to cast previous interests aside in order to read How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight for the thousandth time. In liberating some, Friedan relegated my kind to the basement of feminism.
And while I have never developed complex math theorems or cured cancer, I could totally smell the soft, sweet hair of a newborn. For like a week.
Women are facing an increasing menu of career, family and personal fulfillment options. I applaud all those who seek the best version of themselves. Several of my girlfriends have shared stories about their unhappy mothers who were unsatisfied with housewifery, thus validating Friedan to the letter. The weight of an unhappy mother takes a serious toll on a child with effects lasting well into adulthood.
Knowing this now, I have started losing my “woe is me” persona best utilized when trying to get someone to unload the dishwasher.
I want my kids to know that I am truly happy, and the life I have is more than I could have imagined.
Feminist slug…right or wrong…but this thing called motherhood?
I can’t help it. It is my everything.
This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s February 2020 print issue. Read the rest of the issue here.