I am a feminist, but I wasn’t. Or I was, but “couldn’t identify.” I am a feminist, or I should be, or I am failing miserably. What I mean is I believe in female equality, I just wasn’t angry enough, vocal enough. I was afraid of being one of those “angry ladies.” The reality is, I am angry. I am tired of ridiculous cat calls being a part of going to work. I am sick of rape and have had enough of shame culture. I am OVER being told what women can and cannot do with their bodies (that’s a different article entirely). I believe this now, and I believed it then. And then I became a mother.
Somewhere along the way I associated motherhood with martyrdom. My children will never know to what extent that I love them. They are also the reason, or more appropriately, the catalyst for me losing myself. In becoming a mother, I thought, no believed, I was called to give it all . . . to them. And I did. I forgot to leave some for myself.
I believed everything I had read about what to expect. You know the drill. I was ready for it all – the metamorphosis into the perfect mother. I never thought about why that was so important or where the idea came from. I only knew I must be the “perfect mother.” What does that even mean?
To me, it meant a lot of things. First, I had just graduated from nursing school and obtained my license, but wanted to stay home to breastfeed for a year, because it’s best for the baby. And thus began the beginning of losing myself. I became obsessed with mothering. I cloth diapered, made homemade baby food, rocked baby through hours long cry sessions, all while feeling like I was failing. Where did I get that idea? When did I become a person incapable of meeting expectations? I’d never been “that girl” before. When friends and family asked why I wasn’t working as a nurse (using my degree). I felt ashamed. They were right. I had worked so hard. And yet, I clung to motherhood. I felt I consistently had to justify my choices as valid in a world that would not, or could not understand why I, an educated woman, would choose to stay at home. Would choose to just be a mother. Would choose to relegate myself to a stereotype from the days of yore. For years, this was the constant conversational companion. Me dodging questions relating to how I should be part of the workforce, or why I homeschool, or how well I am socializing my children. Guilt, shame. Guilt, shame. The cycle was complete.
So where did this pressure arise from? Did I do this to myself? Are my personal expectations so great that I consistently fail to achieve them? Or are we locked in a cycle of listening to everyone else too much? Forgetting we are made to love and touch and feel, while being silenced when we are strong and capable and sturdy. I have spent the last six years of my life trying to reclaim myself. I have had to reroute the circuits of my dreams to accommodate feelings of inadequacy where none should exist. And I am tired. But I am ready to rise again. To encourage other mothers, be them working or stay at home, married or single. We are a collective of women who are poised for greatness, if we can only shut out those voices that drown out our beliefs.
I am still not sure if I have made the right choices. I do know that I am thankful to be surrounded by so many wonderful women who challenge me to see a different me – the one hidden away when I accommodate my children. The one that took corner stage to a husband. The one that shrank, like a violet neglected. I am thankful to have the opportunity to homeschool my children. I make cheese. Grow vegetables. I am seeking to prepare my children to be sustainable in an uncertain future. To follow their dreams. To never let their passions die. And this, is not weak. It is strong. And valuable.
I am on the road to rediscovery. It is amazing! I forgot that I could be strong, charming, opinionated. I forgot how much I love puns. I forgot to involve myself in politics, because I had silenced my own voice with the clamoring of all those other voices reminding me how I am not doing it right. I forgot I could be whatever I wanted. I forgot to believe in myself. So yes, I am a mother, but that is not a sum of parts, it is only the part. Being a woman is the sum.
I am a feminist.
I am a feminist who believes that women have beautiful voices waiting to sing to rhythms unimagined. I believe there are women whose dreams could create a world so enlightening we’d think we had died and gone to heaven . . . or it’s appropriate equivalent. Raise those voices ladies, and sing. Let’s sing!