I saw a bumper sticker on a car at the birth center that read "Who are all these children and why are they calling me Mom?" Welcome to my world. Everywhere I go, I hear "Wow you've got your hands full don't you?" And I've started to answer "Happily so yes!" The other day I got a nice surprise when a Walmart greeter said "Good for you" to H and I upon hearing that R was our fourth. It's nice to not always here criticism. Frankly, however, I am just as surprised as anyone that I have so many beasties.
As those of you faithfully follow my blog know, I struggle with this woman who bears children. I consider myself a feminist yet I can not deny that my happiest days are days spent surrounded by my little beastlings. I ADORE being a mom (note I do not say housekeeper because I so do not ADORE housekeeping). Yet I feel as if I betrayed that fiery young feminist from so long ago. I'm raising fierce girls, I tell her. My son is sensitive and allowed to cry! But is it enough...?
With the birth of my fourth child, I am at a crossroads. I have completed my masters. I am proud of that accomplishment. Very proud. It was a long road and I feel that I created a piece of scholarship that is really mine (with the help of many great minds of course...one could argue that nothing is truly one's own). Perhaps, I ponder, this earns me feminist points. The thesis is about women, their lives, and their struggles. After all, I completed it as a mom to three. I worked outside of the home. Equally shared responsibility with my partner (who is a man..and oh what a man!). But lately I have even begun to wonder if this is what that young feminist envisioned.
When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to help. I wanted to do something magnificent that would make life easier for people. As I grew into that feminist young woman, I wanted that something to have an effect on the lives of women. Of course, I had to reconcile that desire with the reality that the academy doesn't seem to effect the multitude very much. And eventually I just has to accept that my desire for an academic life was selfish. I was good at it and I enjoyed it.
But now...now I am a mother. An unashamed mother. I feel like the academy would like me to be ashamed. Would like to me meekly roll over and let childless women do what I'm doing. I felt like my pregnancy was seen as a big failure by so many of those I had just proved myself to. And now as I look at a PhD program, I know I will likely have to keep my family quiet. Secret. But I am not ashamed, and I wonder how much of myself I would compromise if I never spoke of my family to those I study under and with. It feels like it would be a betrayal of some fundamental part of myself. And you know what? My feminist young self would have hated that. It would have disgusted her.
I keep going back to the midwife idea. I would be helping women. I would be advocating for birth and women's choice in birth (something I believe in quite passionately). I don't think my many children would be seen as a liability. But there are as many doubts as there are things that make me excited. Am I too old to embark on a totally different career? Would I actually like delivering babies or is just the idea that appeals to me? Would I be bored without that academic life that I really do find stimulating?
My identity is shifting again, and at 38 I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.