I spent the day doing what I always do (recently, anyway): I got up when the baby did, fed him, thanked my husband for making oatmeal for me before he had to head to campus, got caught up on FB while the baby dumped ALL of his toys onto the floor, then tortured the baby with continued inattention while I readied myself to teach. I drove us to campus, handed baby duties off to my husband so I could talk about the importance of communication to a room full of speech students: some who want to learn, some who just want to get through the class so they can crawl back to bed. I fed the baby a peanut butter sandwhich, wiped peanut butter off his face while he yelled at me, then ate my sandwhich while he toddled down the hall, my husband close behind him. I bounced and breast fed my son in my hsuband’s darkened office, hoping that he would go to sleep before my next class started. He didn’t, so had to leave him, half-asleep and wailing, so that I could go downstairs and teach my advanced acting class, again with the knowledge that some of my students genuinely want to learn, and some of them just want to crawl back to bed. I then tiptoed back into my husband’s office so he could teach his class, and got a little grading done while my son slept. When he woke up, I packed up all his stuff, all my stuff, and brought us back home so we could take a walk, eat, and play with all the toys on the floor. When he finally went to sleep for the night, I spent 2 hours grading, emailing students, and sloppily shoveling some food into my face.
I did not go on strike.
I did not attend a rally (there weren’t any rallies in this small town to attend.)
I did not change the world.
But I thought about the world, about my place in it, and about how complicated the fight for equal rights is.
I read a lot social media discussions that went something like this:
Statement: Women’s rights are human rights!
Response: You already have those!
Statement: Equal pay for equal work!
Response: Stop whining!
Statement: I don’t see what the fuss is about. I’m a woman, and no one is oppressing me!
Response: Where to begin…
And I felt the crushing wave of overwhelm bearing down on me again.
I’m tired. I’ve had some truly exhausting moments in my life, but I never felt the kind of soul crushing exhaustion that I feel in my bones now that I have a baby calling the shots. Part of this is because – in wanting to be more than just a wife and mother, I’m trying to juggle too much. Part of this is because our nation doesn’t particularly value women beyond their abiity to incubate life and mother, and it kind of wants them to do all that baby-having stuff on their own without help.
I’ve been working adjunct and freelance positions for the past several years – I don’t have job security, health benefits, a retirement plan, or maternity leave. When I found out I would be delivering Finn a month into the Spring semester, I began to sweat because it meant I’d have to take the semester off. Without pay. And I hardly make enough pay to do anything with anyway.
And now, here we are, my husband with a full-time tenure-track professorship that requires he also direct at least 3 of the 4 annual college productions – I’m still just adjunct. We’re quite a bit in debt, meaning even if I was alright with pushing pause on my career, we can’t afford for me to stop work anyway.
I’m teaching 3 classes, raising a baby without day care or babysitters, and running a new play festival while my husband works full time and directs. Sure, I could ditch the new play fest – but it’s something I believe in and it is an important part of my growing body of work as an artist… something that really matters if I hope to ever get out of the adjunct pool and into a permanent teaching position somewhere.
Which I do. I don’t want to be a stay at home mom – never have. I’m not built that way. So I am happy that I am able to continue working, even though the schedule is brutal. And I am happy that I am able to continue coordinating and facilitating theatrical opportunities because it’s important to my artistic self.
Even though all of it feels like too, too, too much.
And most of the time I feel like I’m not doing enough.
And so, now that my baby is finally in bed, and I’m left with a few moments to put his toys away (so that they are available to dump out again in the morning), I’m thinking again about International Woman’s Day and how I spent the day trapped between all the hopes for what it should mean to be a woman today, and all the realities.
Statement: Women work hard, but we have to make choices about our lives that men never have to do. We have to decide whether or not to have children (if we’re lucky) and we have to chose whether or not to put our careers on hold if we do. There are societal judgments attached to all of this. And meanwhile, we continue to be judged on our looks, our temperment, and our emotions in ways that men aren’t. We are expected to do all of this with less job security and lower pay. We are expected to pay higher insurance premiums because the awesome power of our baby-making parts terrifies insurers. We are expected to be polite, attractive, and appreciative in ways that men never are. And so, on International Women’s Day, I don’t think it’s asking too much to say I’m tired of defending my fight for women.
Response: Stop whining.
Statement: Fuck off.
And that’s about all I have the time, or energy, to say right now.
I am a white American woman. I have a lot of privileges that a lot of women in this country and elsewhere do not. I am thankful – so very thankful – for the freedoms I do have, for the people in my life who never tell me to be “polite”, and for all the female role models in my life who fight for what they want/believe in/and love, who live their lives the way they see fit, and who continue to stand up for my right to do the same.
I hear you. I see you. I appreciate you.
But we have a lot of work to do, so I’m going to keep fighting. That’s what women do.