Being a mother is something I've always envisioned in my future. When I was a little girl playing with dolls I frequently played the mother “role.” When I started having play dates with other kids I would often play the mother. Even in high school I loved working with kids and would often feel that “maternal desire” to have a kid of my own some day. But, more recently I have questioned the root of this desire. When I came to Colgate I started taking women’s studies and sociology courses. I learned that I have been, to a certain degree, socialized to be a mother ever since I was given my first doll. When I finally embraced my feminist identity in college, I started thinking about what was expected of me as a student, woman, and feminist. I questioned whether my desire to become a mother someday was something I learned or something ingrained in my biological makeup. I questioned whether it was acceptable for me to be a feminist that would love to be a stay-at-home mom in the future. Furthermore, I wondered at what age and at what point in my career would it be best or acceptable for me to become a mother. All these questions and more have been swirling in my head regarding what it means to be a feminist mother.
One thing I don’t think we talk enough about is what it means to be a feminist father. I attended a Women’s Studies Brown Bag in which there was a panel of fathers who to a certain degree identified their parenting as feminist (see Gloria's post below). One of the prominent observations I made was that none of them had really given much thought into what it means to be a feminist father. In fact, it was mentioned a few times that they were unsure as to why they were asked to be on this particular panel. They all talked about how they were more involved in their children’s upbringing than what is “expected” of fathers in our society and that was looked upon favorably. However, they all realized that even though they didn't do much in terms of child rearing, they did more than what was expected of them, which is not something mothers get praise for. One of the dads brought up a cartoon that highlighted the fact that dads these days are doing more than their fathers and they are getting praise for that. Moms, however, are doing “less” than their mothers and are made to feel guilty about it. I thought this was a very interesting observation about the privilege fathers have in our society. Fathers get praise for the things they should already be doing, whereas mothers get very little acknowledgment of all they things they should and already are doing. If a father is absent in a child’s life because he is working that is socially acceptable. If a mother is absent in her child’s life because she is working that is socially unacceptable. I think this speaks a lot to the emphasis we place on motherhood that should in reality be placed on parenthood.
All this information keeps on swirling in my head and questions keep forming as I try to look towards the future. Should I look for a partner that will actively engage in equal parenting? What am I willing to compromise on if that isn't possible? Should my career search be based on whether or not I can have a family in the future while working? Is it alright if I want to be a homemaker? That being said, the thing I want the most are options. I want the option to either find a job or stay at home. I want the option of having a family when I want a family. I want my options to make the best and most informed decisions on what will eventually shape my future. I want a life with a partner that will support me in terms of my career and play an equal role in parenting. Am I asking for too much?
-Michelle Van Veen '14