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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
A Room of One's Own - Week 3
As we continue our discussion of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, I want to turn to the issue of families. I first want to fully acknowledge that this isn't an issue for every women nor should it have to be. I completely respect the multitude of ways women choose to live and work in this world and the reasons why many desire to not have kids. I don't want anyone to feel excluded from this conversation either, but the issue of the ability of women to have children and do something like write surfaces in Woolf's writing and is a huge issue for some women.

In her questioning the lack of resources of a women's college, Woolf (writing in the 1920s) wonders how things would be different if our foremothers had been out making money and receiving an education instead of bearing and raising child after child. What different memories and opportunities would women now have? But then she surmises that such questions are meaningless because we then wouldn't exist at all. The assumption is that one can't be a mother and write (or teach, or make money, or be intellectual). These days (amidst much controversy still) women have far more opportunities to work and some men are (rightly imho) stepping up to their fair share of parenting responsibility, but nevertheless women still bear the majority of the childrearing load. As Woolf would say, it's hard to have the time, privacy, and money to write with children underfoot. And it is a choice that women still struggle with. Family or career? Or both? Woolf saw the choice basically as an either/or, but others obviously have challenged that dichotomy.

My favorite challenge came from the writer Margaret Atwood in her poem Spelling (I blogged through it regarding these issues here, here, and here). In the poem she addresses the very issue of women choosing between children and writing. She choose to do both and saw both as a way for women to have a voice and participate in the act of creation. While she acknowledged the intense struggles of choosing both, she also thought that to deny women either creative outlet was an act of violence. As a working and writing mother I tend to agree - even though I face struggles every day. This is what is working for my life, but I know each of us faces something different.

So where do you fall on these issues? How have you made both work? Or why did you choose one path over another? I'd love to hear your stories.

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posted by Julie at 2:56 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/18/2008 07:41:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    This post makes me think of the poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes:

    "What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore--
    And then run? "...

    Click on the link to read the rest. :)

  • At 3/19/2008 04:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    This topic hits home for me. We started our family when I was 22 and I finished my bachelor's degree when my eldest was 18 months old, best decision I ever made. I have never not worked while staying home with my 3 children. I began as a nanny, transitioned into home based daycare, a business venture with a friend sewing baby clothing and finally and administrator in a church all with little feet pattering around me. I was always "praised" for being a Proverbs 31 woman, all I knew was I needed to work and couldn't afford quality daycare so I did the best with what I could. At times I felt guilty for my attitude...I was exhausted. I also hated the vibes sent to "working" moms, it was subtle, but the message was loud and clear, "Your choice is second best."

    All my jobs were fun and provided a rich experience but none of them were really me. It was a good season to try on many hats. It was a season of life with mixed blessings; I made several great life long friends, I have much empathy for others, however it was also a very dark time for me personally. Over the last 3 years, after my youngest began 1st grade I went back for grad school. I am soon to graduate with my MA in counseling and it has confirmed that I was best suited for academia and the professional track.

    I do know I am in a much better place to be a quality counselor hut I often wonder what would have happened if my choice know was as affirmed and validated by my community years ago. I probably would have still chosen to stay home with my children, I have a high regard for the task of parenting, however it would have been extremely freeing to dream big and find hope much sooner even if the actualization of it was in the future.

    I think what frustrates me most is the career box our culture puts on women. There are so many employers that do not value the depth of women or men who have taken a season away from the professional realm to focus on family. They too easily brush them aside...I think this is beginning to change, at least I hope.

    I have learned to embrace my story and accept that all the pain and frustration is exactly what makes me a quality counselor. I am able to connect with a variety of people because I value the complexity of their lives. I actually believe that there are many advantages to late start careers, hiatus' in careers, and a moderate amount of careers changes, I just wish our society would see the benefits of this.

    I think we have progressed some from Woolf's era however not far enough.

  • At 3/20/2008 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too wonder how much better women would fare if they received support throughout their lives instead of constantly being nitpicked by one group or another for their choices.

  • At 3/20/2008 11:49:00 AM, Blogger Robin M.

    Julie, I am really moved by your responses to the poem Spelling. Thank you for linking to them. I had read the poem before but it never fails to shock me.

    I didn't become a mother until I was 30. I didn't think of myself as a writer until I was 36. It was a desperately needed personal retreat marking my birthday and the weaning of my youngest child that gave me the idea that all the words swirling in my head could be written down and published. For that weekend at least, I had time and space to myself, for the first time in a very, very long time.

    Today, marriage and motherhood continue to provide me with some food for thought and writing and fuel for growth as a follower of Jesus. But it still feels more like a conflict between writing and mothering than a symbiotic relationship. More because of the constraints of time than because of a lack of space or money.

  • At 3/23/2008 07:41:00 AM, Blogger wilsford

    For the first time in our lives, we are DINKS. At 50+, my resume is filled with volunteer work and part-time jobs. It reflects a person who kept pace with current skill demands (computer-wise)through the child-raising years, all of them self-pursued, then self-taught. That's the good.

    The weakness of my resume is that it does not reflect a person who's gained "real" job experience in a "real" job environment.

    The end result: Now I have a master's degree, a lot of experience and and lot of skills, but a job history that looks like a 25-year old's.

    Luckily, my reputation is sound, so I have been invited to fill in as a program coordinator at the university until June 30. Hopefully, this four-month stint will add something that adds standard credibility to my resume.

    That's the price I paid for being a pretty good wife (to a wonderful husband), raising three really great persons and a couple of pets. The value this adds to me as a potential employee is not recognized by the application or resume or even the interview process.

    I'm not bitter about it, but it took the entire time of being home to learn to define myself in terms other than family or work success.


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