Monday, October 17, 2005


I am convinced that if mothers of small children ruled the world, there would be far less war, exploitation and famine than there is now, because anyone who can teach a four-year-old to share could certainly enlighten delegates at the U.N.

However, I do not believe mothers of small children will ever actually get around to ruling the world, because they simply do not have the time.

Most women who used to be mothers of small children and are now liberated mothers of grown children are currently enjoying a much-needed and well-deserved rest from teaching four-year-olds how to share, and therefore have no interest in running the world.

Which brings me to another thought.

Back before I had my first and so far only child, I often used to wonder why it seemed that, until very recently in recorded history, so few of the great achievements of art, literature, science, and architecture that have moved human societies forward have been attributed to women; why nearly all of the greatest artists and scholars whose names have come down to us through antiquity seem to have been men.

Being a woman myself, and fairly confident in my mental abilities, I was much more than reasonably certain that the noticeable lack of female names on the list of history's intellectual giants didn't have anything to do with a lack of intelligence, drive, or ability on the part of women of the historical past.

Of course, even then in my pre-motherhood days, I understood-- come on now, my mother was a Women's Studies professor-- that for millenia women have been oppressed, repressed, controlled, corralled, and exploited by men who cleverly created an exceedingly unfair and uncalled-for system of widespread gender-based discrimination by leveraging the natural male advantage of greater physical strength and prowess against the natural female disadvantage of needing someone around to help out with bearing and raising of those remarkably tough-to-handle little creatures known commonly as human children.

But, I reasoned, like all human beings, women in general are remarkably tough, and and crafty. And it seemed to me that, being remarkably tough, and crafty, despite all attempts by men to keep women from achieving their full potential or take credit for women's ideas and women's work, more women of history ought to have found a way to circumvent the system and get their names and their masterpieces on the books. It seemed a puzzle to me, then, before I was a mother.

And now, it doesn't.

On a typical day in my life as a SAHM, I wake up at 7:30 in the morning and work vigorously all day until my husband gets home at 5:30, without any genuine breaks to speak of except to use the restroom or eat-- doing laundry, folding laundry, washing dishes, cleaning counters, sweeping, dusting, putting things away; cooking; mending clothes; keeping my toddler from ingesting dangerous foreign objects, or climbing on bookcases, or drawing all over the walls, or breaking important things; making sure to change his diaper regularly, keep him in reasonably clean clothes, and feed him something nutritious every couple of hours; all the while SIMULTANEOUSLY trying to teach a very small, codependent, and impatient person manners, numbers, the alphabet, and how to be a reasonably decent human being-- only to discover at the end of the day when my husband comes home that I forgot to call the doctor and the insurance agent, one of the side dishes for dinner is burnt, and somehow the house still looks like a small group of Vikings came over for lunch and decided to practice their looting and pillaging skills for ten minutes or so while my back was turned.

So often I find myself feeling defeated and exhausted, wondering, where did all the time go? And when will I ever find time to get around to start writing down that novel I've been knocking around in my head for, oh, the past year or so?

I have only one child.

And I have a dishwasher! A clothes washing machine! AND a clothes dryer. I don't grow my own food; I buy it at the supermarket. I've never touched a spinning wheel or a loom in my life; I don't even own a sewing machine-- the clothes my family members wear all come pre-made and ready-tailored on plastic hangers. I don't have to draw my water from a well or carry it in buckets from the nearest stream; it comes hot and cold on my whim with a flick of the wrist from FIVE FAUCETS in three different rooms in my apartment.

No one has ever bound my feet, or fitted me with a rib-crushing whalebone corset, or told me I couldn't work, or go to school, or forced me to bear him 8 children before the age of 25.

Compared to most Women of Recorded History, my life is dream.

And I STILL can't seem to get around to writing the Great American Novel of the 21st century. Heck. I can't seem to even get around to trying.

Compared to most Women of Recorded History, I am a major wuss.

And so, I think I owe you ladies a big apology. I wondered once where thousands of years of feminine intelligence and drive had been spent. I don't wonder about it now.

You spent it raising humanity.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Bea said...

I love finding such insightful, well-written posts hiding away at the very back of the archives with no comments on them. So I can leave a comment. Like, great post. I look forward to wending my way through the rest of your archives and reading a bit more about your handsome son.