On Monday, my Women’s Studies class read and responded to Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The following is Jessica R.’s response (posted with her permission).
I took an Anthropology class at Montgomery College a year or two ago. There was a boy in the class who sat behind me and often tried to make conversation with me. He had surprisingly good hygiene for a hipster and I was uncomfortably attracted to him, which meant I had to be a bitch. I was already wearing the 90s clothes that I had found in the back of my mom’s closet, and I had been to three Bon Iver concerts, so the last thing I needed was to start traipsing around with a banjo-playing vegan. At this point in my life, I was starting to realize that being a smart ass wasn’t a turn off for most guys, and I knew that I needed to change tactics. When the boy asked me what I wanted to do after graduation, I looked him square in the eye and replied, “I want to be a mommy.” He was speechless for a moment then he asked, “Are you religious?”
A hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have been asked such a question because young women in my position didn’t have a choice. Yet, if those women had been asked what they wanted to do in life, their responses would ahve been more or less the same as mine. Obviously, judging by the dumbstruck look on that boy’s face, society’s expectations have changed.
At the time, I wasn’t being serious — or maybe I was — but part of me couldn’t help thinking that being a mother would be perfect for me. I’m domestic; I like baking and I don’t mind doing laundry. I look the part, too: wide hips, tiny waist, and I mostly wear dresses. But most importantly, I’m fantastic with children. My close friend is away for the summer, and although I miss her a lot, I miss her kids more. When I walk through the children’s section in any department store, I swear my ovaries start tingling. I’m not keen on the actual birthing part (my mom says it’s like blowing a chicken out of your nose) but dirty diapers don’t scare me.
I read a book by Courtney E. Martin called Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body. It got me thinking that not wanting to have a career for the sake of motherhood isn’t so shameful after all. Ann-Marie Slaughter’s statement, “Why women can’t have it all” seems less important to me than “Why do women think they have to have it all?” I’m not terribly ambitious and I have no desire to devote every waking moment to either children or a job. Gradually, my five-year plan went from getting a masters degree to finding a man to make babies with. I would be following after generations before me if I leave that career nonsense for after my children are out of the house.
All of this leaves me thinking, why should I have to tell myself any of Slaughter’s half-truths?