Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why is it that websites about motherhood all assume that you're either American or British? Probably because the authors are based in the US or Britain, I know, but they also seem to reflect no understanding that cultural differences count for a whole lot when it comes to parenting and division of labor between spouses.

Why do I gripe about this? Because there seems to be precious little "out there" to help the poor benighted PakAmeristaniMom. Being the "mixed up product of a conservative upbringing and a liberal education" has its downside. Your brain stops accepting the patterns that you begin to emulate instinctively, so you overthink every little thing. Like whether you're going to sew a button on your husband's shirt, or act as if it would be a betrayal of every feminist nerve in your body. And, no, it doesn't help that I can see the humor in the situation. Remember the whole scene about the blender as a gift from the Steve Martin version of "Father of the Bride"?

More seriously though, with a baby in the picture, the frame shifts dramatically. As all parents know, and keep trying to tell you, even as they accept that you will never truly understand this until you are a parent yourself.

So here I am, surrounded by people telling me, no, taking it for granted, that my career will now take a back seat. And a part of me thinks I should be grateful, because employers here are truly much more understanding of the pressures on new mothers. But the price you pay for that understanding is that your career is taken less seriously. You are automatically out of the running for a lot of things.

I have it relatively easier, simply because of being a teacher. My friend the physicist is agonized because she is struggling in an all male preserve with her first faculty position, in a field where falling behind for a year means you're out of the race. My friend the lawyer no longer practices law, because she's too busy managing her home and husband and kids. Instead, she's started up a business organizing upscale children's birthday parties. How does someone who fought her father tooth and nail on her decision to go to law school just ditch it for kiddie birthday parties? At least the physicist friend relates to my dilemma. Everyone else just seems to assume that the answer is obvious. (Give up your job; stay at home and take care of the kid(s)).

I am getting tired of resenting my situation, even as I am incredibly grateful for the wonder that is my son. It ticks me off no end that men can have a career and a family, no problem, but that women do not enjoy that sheer simplicity.

More on this later. The gripe could be unending...

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