What I Know

I just finished reading Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew which is a memoir about her late-in-life, unexpected pregnancy. Sprinkled throughout the book are lists that Cohen titles “What I Know.” The items change over time to the point where Cohen apparently decides that she never really knew what she thought she knew.

Using her lists as inspiration, I thought I’d write one myself, keeping in mind that what I know today may not be what I know tomorrow. So here it is:

What I Know

  • I love being a woman.
  • It’s hard to be a woman.
  • I thought I would be a perfect mother.
  • I failed, but my children survived anyway.
  • I loved having all daughters.
  • My grandson made me love boys.
  • The first time I married I wasn’t really ready.
  • The two marriages I rushed into turned out horribly.
  • The two I waited for were much better.
  • Marriage is all about expectations, failed and fulfilled.
  • Divorce isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.
  • Death of a loved one is.
  • Getting older is disheartening and scary.
  • It is also liberating.
  • Being a woman isn’t about youth and beauty.
  • It’s about survival and wisdom.

I Could Have Used Feminism…(Part One)

I could have used feminism…

Photo by tibchris on Flickr
Photo by tibchris on Flickr
  • when I got chubby in the third grade and bought into the idea that I was fat and disgusting.
  • when my smarts got me labeled as stuck-up and unfeminine.
  • when my mother told me I could do anything, but I didn’t believe her.
  • when I matured early and started to get the attention of boys.
  • when I didn’t know who my real friends were.
  • when I began to feel that I was nothing if a boy didn’t love (want) me.
  • when I got in over my head sexually (when I didn’t know how to say no).
  • when the first guy I had sex with played with my head and told me that I could never leave him.
  • when that same boyfriend threatened to kill my family, or me, or both of us.
  • when I met my first soul mate and didn’t know what to do about it but have sex with him and I scared him off. (Imagine!)
  • when my grandfather died and I felt like I lost my best-friend.
  • when I settled for the second-best guy because I couldn’t have the one I really wanted.
  • when I had my abortion.
  • when I had my own apartment and a free ride to college and I threw it all over to get married at the age of 20.
  • when my marriage was in trouble and I became a Christian to save it.
  • when I started working in a shit job to help put my husband through school.
  • when I felt so bored and unfulfilled I talked my husband into having a baby.
  • when I continued to have kids because I didn’t know what else to do with my life.

The Breakdown of the Family

There are a lot of people who blame feminism for the breakdown of the family. They see feminists as essentially selfish people, who don’t care who they hurt in their quests to get what they want. They divorce their husbands, leave their children in the care of strangers and let ambition take over their lives. What critics of feminism won’t admit is that it is not just feminists who are doing these things. Any woman can be guilty of putting themselves before their families, as can any man.

familyRather, feminism is a corrective measure for what’s wrong with our society.

When a relationship is unhealthy or abusive, feminism gives a woman the courage to leave. When an employer is cheating female employees out of pay or benefits, feminism inspires them to speak up for themselves. When a woman has to support herself and her children, feminism looks out for her interests in the courts and the workplace. When young girls and women are trying to find themselves, feminism gives them models and mentors.

Emotional, physical and financial security do not contribute to the breakdown of the family.

What does?

The economy. It’s the rare family that can exist on one income. Most women go to work outside of the home at some point in their marriages. (And that’s not even counting the ones who have to work because of divorce or the death of their spouses.) Children get more expensive, college needs to be paid for, retirement plans need to be funded, health care costs rise.

Materialism. More families might be able to get by with less if they didn’t want so damn much. The rate at which technology is changing means that there is always some new improved products that consumers feel they just have to have. Many people overspend on houses, cars and vacations. Cable, cell phones and Internet access are seen as necessities.

The workplace. When the world became industrialized, women left their homes to work in sweatshops and mills. When WWII came along they went to work in the factories. Now the service industry is growing exponentially and women obviously have to work outside of the home when they have those kinds of jobs. Not only that, but the workplace usually makes it more difficult for a woman to fulfill her wifely and motherly duties because of inflexibility.

Divorce. I include divorce in this list, but the truth is, divorce doesn’t break down the family, it just creates different family formations. A single parent with children is a family. An adult child living with parents is a family. The only form of family that gets hit hard by divorce is the nuclear family. And it’s never been as prominent as people would like to believe. Parents used to have to send their children to relatives or children’s homes when they couldn’t afford to keep them. Now they at least try to maintain some kind of family unit. It just doesn’t look like some people want it to look.

The reason that feminism is blamed for the breakdown of the family is because women are blamed for the breakdown of the family. What about the man who abandons or doesn’t support his family? Is that feminism’s fault, too? Let’s put the blame where it really belongs and start looking to feminism for solutions.

Quadriplegic Mom In Danger of Losing Her Son

Chicago Tribune photo
Chicago Tribune photo

When Kaney O’Neill became a quadriplegic nine years ago, her first question was “Can I still have children?” But as reality set in, O’Neill wasn’t sure that she could do anything. Now 31, she has had to fight hard to earn the life she has, including being a mother. Read the first Chicago Tribune story about her here.

When O’Neill first became pregnant, everyone was concerned, not only about the pregnancy and delivery, but also about how she would care for the child. But O’Neill had faith that everything would work out. She has a full-time helper, a brother who lives in an apartment adjoining her house and a mother who helps on the weekends.

What she doesn’t have is a supportive partner. The father of her baby, who is now her ex-boyfriend, is suing for full custody, citing the reason that she’s an unfit mother.The case is bringing to the fore the prejudice against disabled people in our society. Read the most recent Chicago Tribune story here.

One lawyer, not affiliated with the case, expressed his concern that O’Neill would not be able to teach her child to write, paint or play ball. Excuse me? How many parents actually do those things, especially all by themselves? Assuming that the father will be involved in his son’s life, why can’t he pitch in with some of the things O’Neill can’t do?

I have one other question: Why didn’t O’Neill’s disability give her ex-boyfriend pause when he was having sex with her–and exposing her to the possibility of pregnancy? Isn’t it a little late and a lot disingenuous for him to be so concerned about her suitability as a mother now?

The case appears before a judge sometime this month. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

For more information, read this Motherlode article in the New York Times.