I believe that the women in my generation have faced the biggest challenge in coming to terms with the legacy of the submissive role that previous generations of women in our family and society have accepted.
I was bound and determined not to fall into the subservience that had been so prevalent. I knew in my early twenties that should I have children, I would go back to work rather than lead the life of drudgery that my mother had for so many years.
Given that we are on this earth to learn certain lessons, I am blessed with four sons, clearly making one of my life objectives learning to reconcile my role as a woman in today’s world, and teaching my sons to fit into a role more in line with what I hope is to become the norm. I am inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
As it turned out, I did stay at home with my children. Lucky for me I like snakes and frogs and spiders. I was not able to deter their interest in weapons or to squelch the tendency to employ anything in hand (sticks, rocks, legos, blocks) as a gun. I learned to accept the broken glass and furniture and holes in the wall created by four very robust males who insist upon wrestling and tumbling about, even to this day. Wishing not to transfer my fears to them, I was able to learn to squelch my terror as they jumped off 40-foot cliffs into the river, climbed 60-foot trees, created dangerous contraptions and explosions and all of the other foolhardy things that boys do. I am still repulsed by the rude and disgusting habits that seem inborn: hawking in the sink, belching, flatulence, whizzing all over the bathroom and leaving the seat up…
In an effort to discourage the idea that women are here to serve them, I have insisted upon their self-sufficiency, teaching them at a young age how to prepare their own lunch, do dishes, dust, and vacuum, set the table, do laundry, and be responsible for their own room.
Dinner table conversations revolve around topics that are generally of much greater interest to the men in my family than me, and I so often feel left out as they discuss their “manly” movie interests, and mathematical, scientific and computer pursuits. Sometimes I find myself obsessing over the woulda, coulda, shoulda. Maybe I should have made more of an effort to develop the interests that they have. If I made more of an attempt to get involved in reading and watching science fiction, learning to like the music that sounds like noise to me, participated in more of their activities, I wouldn’t feel like such an outsider in this family.
I refrained from doing more of these things in my endeavors to develop my own identity and place in the world. And while I was doing this for myself, I felt as though I was doing it for my mother, and her mother as well.