The previous post has me thinking a bit more about whether my feelings regarding being a SAHM are specific to New York City. I can’t answer that question because this is the only place I’ve lived as a mother. But I do think that those of you who suggested as much might be onto something.
Let me set the record straight: I love being a stay-at-home. I know that I’m lucky. If I have ever given anyone the impression that I’m ungrateful, I’m sorry about that. (Keep in mind, however, we sacrificed a mortgage and a home of our own to be able to do this.) My only frustration is that I wish that more moms were able to stay home. That’s the cultural aspect of this problem I wish we could change. I think America’s families are far too strapped.
I still stand behind my statements regarding feminism, culture and motherhood. I do believe that we must work hard to make sure that mothers who choose to (were able to) stay home with their children are given more options regarding community. I do think that there is some anger directed at women who gave up office jobs in order to stay home with their kids.
I also don’t think there is equality between men and women in the workforce. Until that happens, I think women are going to feel less likely to want to stay home with their children (even if they can) because (other than the obvious reason of spending time with their kids) there is no real incentive to do so—no payback.
There’s no easy fix to this. There’s no one way to look at it. And I think it’s safe to say that every single one of us will have a different opinion on the matter.
I recently had lunch with a friend whose sister has spent her entire life in a wheelchair. Her name is Sunny Taylor. Sunny once lived in New York City. Getting around for her—like, living a normal life—was very difficult. She is very outspoken when it comes to just how difficult it was and can be.
For example, the curb cuts in New York City are terrible. And just entering businesses posed a huge problem for Sunny. (There have been numerous times where Sunny was unable to join friends at a restaurant or pub due to the lack of handicap accessible doorways. In fact, the first time I met Sunny, I had to step outside into the cold in order to speak with her.) Forget about using the subway system here, out of the few elevators we are offered, many are either out of order or stink of human excrement. And don’t get me started about Access-A-Ride drivers. They are notorious for being some of the angriest, most reckless drivers on our streets.
Eventually, Sunny moved to the Bay Area, where the standards are much higher when it comes to handicap accessibility, more so than any other major U.S. city.
The most interesting part of our conversation, however, took place when my friend compared my life as a mother (toting a stroller around) to that of her sister’s. Her statement floored me.
I’m not, for a second, equating motherhood to being confined to a wheelchair. That’s reckless, shallow and a little crazy. But I am suggesting (as was my friend) that we often face the same lack of consideration in city planning and infrastructure.
Before I became a mother, I never gave curbs much thought. Before I became a mother, I never thought about the height of steps, how heavy a door might be for me to open, or whether or not a certain sewer was prone to clogging. Now? I anticipate these things before I even leave the house. And before, if I was met with an obstacle in my imaginary walk, I would stay in to avoid it. But that felt like giving up. It’s also quite alienating, so I got over that hurdle and now I just deal with it.
I think New York City is a bit of an ageist. She’s accepting of many cultures and religious beliefs, but she doesn’t really like the elderly, the handicap or the very young. These three groups of people have several things in common: they either aren’t (or can’t be) in a hurry; it takes them longer to get places; and they often rely on help from the people around them, ie. a community.
New York doesn’t like that, culturally speaking.
Moms fall into this group as well. You see, when it comes to a person in a wheelchair, people tend to apply pity onto that person even if they don’t want pity. (Although, I have seen my fair share of soulless bastards get annoyed even at a handicapped person for taking too long to get on a bus.) But for a mother? For someone with a child in a stroller? To have compassion for a breeder? A person given a choice? Nuisance! Get out of my way!
Reactions fueled with by this belief used to bother me a whole hell of a lot more. I’m getting used to them now. I’m not sure if that transformation has to do with the sheer exhaustion that comes with being a city mom just trying to buy some damned juice already, or because I actually stopped caring what other people think.
The point is: I care a lot less now. I think.
I guess when it comes down to it, that mentality, that level of impatience for a person, is what I wish I could change. Wherever it comes from, whatever started it, I wish I had the power to change it. I wish that when a mother prepares to leave her apartment she doesn’t do so carrying all the excess mental baggage she’s collected along the way.
Because, seriously? We have enough to carry.