So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

19 January, 2010

Or A Serious Expression In The Middle Of July

The Mother's for Women's Lib carnival linked me to this post, which contains this paragraph:

Not only are traditionally female fan objects and fan engagements devalued, the very gender identity of the fan thus becomes problematic: reading done in private by women is a selfish and time-wasting activity, and fannish investment is a selfish and time-wasting squandering of emotion. Mothers, however, are meant to focus their activities and emotions on one target only: their family. Capitalist culture has long been undergirded by domestic ideology: the man’s primary domain is the capitalist world, where selfishness and aggressivity are rewarded, while the woman’s primary domain is home, where she creates social awareness by selflessly volunteering and providing moral guidance for the next generation. I’m taking this directly from my domestic/bourgeois ideology lecture for the British nineteenth century, but frankly, living in a white middle class suburban area with two kids in private school, the ideological structure of my community doesn’t really look all that different.

And that's an interesting thing.

I have gotten, since Little Foot was born, profoundly jealous of what time I get to spend on myself. And it's hard, on a lot of levels - I mean, starting with the comment "being selfish is one of the worst crimes a woman can commit without breaking the law" but also all the ways in which my time is circumscribed - whether because I actively need to be minding Little Foot or, like now: she finally went down for a nap, after a fussy day in which she largely refused to sleep. I should go, for example, grab the towels out of the bathroom and wash them, but if I put her down she might wake up. (She has been very, very easy to wake of late, alas.) Which necessity - the dirty towels or the unrested infant - rules?

I have always struggled with taking time for myself, seesawing between complete self-sacrifice and a tendency towards indulgence without ever quite knowing where the range of legitimate behaviour fell. It is not something - growing up in a context where any time spent on myself was proof of my selfishness - that I learned well. Nor a culture designed to help rational thought on the subject, even if I were not kept from learning it at home.

And there are the half-spoken assumptions: that of course the lion and I would stop playing games when we have children, for example. That our recreations will become proper, whatever that means. I already watch baseball games, maybe we'd have to take up more television sports? Or - to really buy into the mythologies of adulthood, that his world would be consumed with Job and my world would be consumed with Baby and neither of us would ever have scope for our own pursuits again, except maybe a movie every year or two when the stars align and someone else could mind the babe.

I find myself strung up by the self-doubt, neither counting off tasks - fold the laundry, clean the bedroom, catalogue the crate of books, whatever else - nor taking time to relax, poised between the two because I have no space to give myself for either.

I think maybe this is why I'm tired.


Anonymous said...

This is fairly similar to what I work on with my coach about rewards, in a way. I'm actually not very good at it, but the gist is something like:

Soothe the baby down to sleep? Surf webcomics.
Enter a box of books? Play a computer game.
Get X chore done? Watch a TV show (okay, you might not want that one specifically :) ).

The idea being twofold - that if you go for chore to chore, or baby-task to baby-task, then you don't get any recharge time in between. On the other hand, for me at least, if I fill up time with random stuff (for me, that would probably be with extraneous research or web-surfing), then there's an underlying feeling that I haven't earned it by getting at least some stuff done.

Ideally, the reward cements a good feeling for having accomplished something, plus is something fun and relaxing. In general, I definitely find being poised between the two to be exhausting as well (as another data point, if it helps).

The tricky part is balancing them together. The other tricky part is learning to determine when you have open time (that can be used for tasks or relaxation / rewards), because it can be nebulous and kind of slip by when you don't even notice.

As to what recreations are "proper" and new assumptions, I'm not sure who is defining that term here, you really need to be proper? *grin* I've got a book called _Mojo Mom_ upstairs that talks about keeping / building your own life when you have kids, which seems somewhat relevant to that.

(I will say that in my mind, when it comes to the baby's needs versus random chores like washing towels, the baby can absolutely win every time. Truthfully, when it comes down to your needs versus washing the towels, your needs win as well, but if that's a consistent thing, looking into why that is would probably be a good idea.)


Vieva said...

first of all, screw the towels. Sleeping baby WINS - because when baby doesn't sleep, EVERYONE loses.

It's hard to balance out lives - I have a bad habit of motivating my writing with the idea that there are people waiting to read it. Which makes it yet another obligation and not an enjoyment. It's REALLY hard to balance.

But something that's really REALLY important - when Momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy. If the plane's going down - put your own mask on first.

Sounds like it might be time to get your mask on. And the hell with people that think it ain't right. They're not living your life.

Daisy Deadhead said...

I'd forgotten so many of these emotions! I think the important thing is to keep on taking time for yourself... During the time I worked two jobs (I am totally amazed by such stamina now, since I can't even rouse myself to get to the bank before it bloody closes...) I finally got to the point where I just gave up trying to do that and gave myself over to the whole soccer mom thing... and then (calling John Updike) I wasn't exactly the nicest person to be around.

Dirty secret, unearthed by Betty Friedan: self-sacrifice is NOT good for the children--for precisely this reason! Who wants to be around a (choose one) chronically pissed off person or a martyr all the time?

Anyway, nice to visit again and touch base, hope all is well w/you. I am having another grandchild (male! OMG!) in June.