I’m writing this for all the non-feminists out there. Please take a look!
My playful suggestion in a recent post that we close all our schools leads me to a bigger question about raising children. I think if we, as a culture, were to write a mission statement, the first thing I would want it to say is “There is nothing more important than our children.” Sure, after 30 years working in elementary education, I am admittedly biased. But I say it can’t be any other way. As the song says “children are our future.” A people that doesn’t care about the propagation of its own species really has its priorities screwed up.
I’ve yet to read Sheryl Sandberg’s best selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, but I’ve heard her in more than one interview relate the following anecdote: when she drops her children off at school, she feels guilty, knowing she is making the choice to entrust their care to others, knowing that other moms who choose to volunteer at the school may know more about her children than she will know herself. But when her husband drops the children off at school, he feels great knowing he has participated in their care in a way men of previous generations may not have done.
I’m sure there are a lot of working moms who nodded in recognition when they heard Sandberg tell this story.
As a teenager in the 70s I was proud to call myself a feminist, and I am still proud to claim that title. A lot has changed in the past forty years, but to me, as Sandberg’s story proves, we’ve only scratched the surface. Whether or not a woman has a career or whether she “just” has a job to make ends meet, whether or not she likes her workplace, she still feels torn when she has to leave her children. And so do a lot of men.
To me, the issue isn’t whether or not parents feel guilty when they leave their children to go to work. I’m NOT saying—hey, women should feel less guilty and men should feel more guilty, and then we’ll have equality!—what nonsense! No, what I’m saying is this: I wish we could do more to balance our lives, so we can have the rewards of work (i.e. money, social outlet with co-workers and clients, creativity) as well as the sustenance of family life (and not just a half hour of face time as everyone is wolfing down food at the dinner table). We and our children deserve to have it all.
I have been dismayed in recent years to discover that many young women refuse to call themselves feminists. I want to tell them that it is my feminism that is the underpinning of my defense of family life. My feminism feeds my spirituality and my creativity.
More on this next week.