April 14, 2010
I am a greatly flawed human being, and I claim no expertise in the areas of anthropology or marriage. But I do know the standards established by society today disturb me. If it takes having affairs with whomever my heart leads me to in order to be considered a modern woman, then I don’t want to be. If corporate success, a six-figure income, or a 3,000 square foot house say more about my worth in America today, then maybe I want to be old-fashioned. And if wanting to be married and have children makes me somehow backward, then I suppose I am.
(A note here–I take this stance after having made an incredible number of mistakes. I believed that old-fashioned rules were binding and useless. I found out THE HARD WAY that deriving worth from anything but God and family leads to nothing but misery. )
While watching “Mona Lisa Smile” on cable this morning, I realized something interesting about society, women, standards and the inter-relationship between them all. I found it startling, and offensive that the female protagonist audiences are meant to identify with is the “enlightened,” “progressive” faculty member who has multiple sexual partners, no desire to marry, and believes that women who desire to get married more than they desire to study art or literature or law are embarrassingly backward.
What I realized, more than anything is that our culture has shifted–dramatically–in just a few generations.
Suddenly the idea of waiting to have sex until marriage, marrying only once, putting family and household first are all ideas that are not only out-dated but also offensive. When did this happen? I completely agree that women should be allowed to work and teach and learn in the same fashion as men. If that is what they want. However, I do not think there is anything shameful or regressive about wanting nothing more than to be a wife and mother.
I just sat stunned remembering the first time I realized what my place was in the world. The day I found out I was pregnant, the months I carried my son–I knew. My world shifted, my priorities rearranged, and I realized that I would never again strive for the fame I sought in my youth or the success of the corporate world. I knew that I would soon live the life that my parents before me had: working just enough to pay the bills so I could be home every night.
I wish that some one would have taught me that there was honor in being someone’s bride. That dignity can come from maintaining a home. That taking pride in your “work” can be evidenced in healthy, nurtured children.
I also realize that the path one person chooses may not be the path for all. Being a housewife was the expectation they fought in “Mona Lisa Smile,” I fight against guilt because I want to be a housewife. The pendulum has swung, and I fear it has gone too far. My hope is that one day women will really be free to choose without the guilt and expectation that seems to come with every decision. If a woman decides to work then she should be free to work. If she and her family need the money or if she relishes in the success, then congratulations. However, the women who don’t choose to delve into that world should not be made to feel like outcast freaks either.
As the quote below will demonstrate, not every woman who chooses family first is lazy or incompetent or backward. Perhaps she just has different priorities and different hopes.
“Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?”
“Yes, I’m afraid you will”
“Not as much as I’ll regret not having a family. Not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart.”