Monday, August 31, 2009

On having a feminist mother

by Malavika Balachandran

Katie Roiphe's controversial article on feminism and motherhood sparked a heated debate on the role of women as mothers and whether this really should be mutually exclusive from success in a career. While I am not a mother, I am a child, and I have seen my mother's struggle to balance both.

My mother, raised in a traditional Indian household, was only encouraged to become a housewife. While she has a bachelor's degree, it is a bachelor's degree in home economics. She spent her time in college taking classes on child psychology and cooking. Shortly after, she got married, moved to the United States, and eventually had two daughters.

While my mother adores us more than anything, every day she regrets that her mother didn't push her to become more than a housewife. When my sister and I started school, my mother also went to school, taking accounting classes at LSU, and soon got a job as an accountant with the university. Even though my mother worked, she didn't have to give up being a good mother. She was able to blend both aspects of her life, and thus my sister and I largely grew up on the LSU campus. Instead of staying at home during the summer, my sister and I participated in the youth programs that LSU offered every summer. By the end of high school, I spent half my day at LSU, taking classes and working in my mother's office as a student worker. We even ate lunch together every day. In fact, her work enabled my sister and me to spend more time with her as we got older.

Moreover, the only thing my mother wants is for my sister and me to be independent. She has always pushed us to pursue our dreams. My mother does want us to become wives and mothers one day, but she never wants to see us relying on a husband for survival. She wants us both to be independent and successful in our own right. She has always stood by us and without my mother, we would not have accomplished all that we have achieved, as well as all that we will achieve in the future. Although my mother misses me with all her heart, she is so proud of the fact that I am able to study at one of the best universities in the country. And every day, I am so grateful to my mother, for shaping me into the person I am today.

So if you think that feminists can't be good mothers, I think you are very mistaken. My mother is just one woman among many who prove that you don't have to choose between work and motherhood, and you can succeed at both.

3 Comments:

At August 31, 2009 at 4:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mention that your mother went back to work when you and your sister were in school. A lot easier to do then when you are dealing with 1 or 2 infant/toddlers. Those very young years are the ones that test a women's choices. It's one thing to leave your child at the schoolroom door another to leave a breast feeding baby with who? a grandmother or other relative (hopefully) or quite possibly, a total stranger!

 
At September 1, 2009 at 11:37 PM , Anonymous Phi said...

The world we have created – easy divorce, confiscatory child-support, affirmative action, sexual harassment laws, etc. – make it easier for a (small) number of ambitious careerists to shape a work environment they find congenial. Oh, but at least we’re meeting higher standards for what marriage and family should be, which is why the divorce rate went down over the last forty years, right? Oops, wait, it didn’t.

 
At September 3, 2009 at 11:40 AM , Blogger LSG said...

Thanks for this post, Malavika! Your mother sounds like an amazing woman.

Anonymous, you're right -- it's very difficult for many woman to combine work and parenting, which is why many feminists push for longer/more flexible maternity and paternity leave, flexible hours, working from home options (for both parents), breast-feeding/pumping rooms, better child-care options, and so on. Changes like those wouldn't make work plus babies a cinch, but they would make it a far more realistic option. Financial and social pressures also add to the difficulty. At 23, with no babies in sight, I'm definitely thinking about my career path with an eye on finding a job that will let me have a family and allow both me and the children's father to spend time with them. As it stands now, that feels nearly impossible.

Phi, your argument seems to be that women are making the working world Cater To Ladies In Every Way, and that that is destructive to marriage (judged solely by the divorce rate, naturally). Your perception of the world seems...skewed, to say the least, and your argument is lacking in support of any kind. Try again later.

 

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