Today is the fifth birthday of this website. The very first post I wrote which has since been removed along with almost a half a year of posts ended with this poem:
Carnation milk is the best in the land;
Here I sit with a can in my hand.
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.
By everyone’s favorite commenter, Anonymous.
I included this poem on that first post because I didn’t know yet what I wanted to write about. I started this website as a place to throw around my creative energy, and this poem was one of the only ones I knew from memory (BYU should be proud of its alumni!). In the beginning my logic went like this: who wants to read about the sex I’m having with soap stars when I can recite poetry about milk cartons? The bigger story that never got told was why a soap star was sleeping with someone who was reciting poetry about milk cartons.
All of this is to say that under different circumstances this website could have turned into one dedicated to cows. I could have been a cow-blogger.
To celebrate this anniversary I wanted to open up comments around a discussion that has a lot to do with what has happened here over the last year, a topic I will be discussing on a panel at SxSW in Austin in less than two weeks. Never did I imagine that the website that once got me fired would one day bring in enough money that it would support my family. Never did I imagine that by the age of thirty I would be working my dream job.
At the same time I still consider myself first and foremost a stay-at-home-mom. That probably doesn’t compute to some people and I’m sure it doesn’t fit some people’s definition of what a stay-at-home-mom is supposed to be, and that’s fine, whatever. I still spend the majority of my time awake with my daughter, I still take her on long, leisurely walks in the morning and sit down at the table with her for every meal. My life after making this website ad-supported is not much different than my life before except that I now have adult company all day long. And I don’t think I would have agreed to do this if changing my life that way had been required.
A couple days ago I got an email from a reader named Sara (hi Sara!) who asked if I’d comment on what law professor Linda Hirshman recently said on “Good Morning America” about how it’s a mistake for educated women to stay at home with their kids. It’s not a new argument, and my first reaction is: she’s trying to sell something. I understand the basis of her argument, that by choosing to stay at home with our kids instead of using our education in a professional environment we are waving our middle fingers at the work feminists have been doing over the last century. But I don’t agree with it.
So I went and read some of her work online, and she’s always careful to point out that by claiming that we’re making a choice to stay at home we are only copping out, that somehow the choice to stay at home is invalid. Wow! As a mother I’ve never heard that before! My choices are wrong! She should write a book about how she knows which choice is the best one. Oh wait! SHE HAS!
My reaction then, I guess, is that here is my middle finger and here is me waving it at Linda Hirshman. This IS my choice. It is mine. I want to be at home with my child, not because my husband said I had to want it, or because my mom said that I had to want it, or because I am blinded by society’s bias toward women and their role in the family. I had the option of going to work outside the home or staying at home with my kid and I made a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything more fundamentally feminist than exercising that choice.
The real crime here is not that educated women are choosing to stay at home with their children, it’s that many women who want to stay at home aren’t able to because of their circumstances. I know how lucky I am to have options. And it is in those options that I as a woman have power, power to choose the direction of my life, power to wave my middle finger at anyone who thinks it is their right, their moral compulsion, or their obligation to a seemingly fascist ideal to tell me how to live my life.
What I want to know in comments is what did your mother do? Did your mother stay at home? Did she work? And how did you feel about what she did? If you could change anything about what she did what would that be?
Also, what do you hope your daughters grow up to do?