I was born in the midst of the flower children and hippie ferver – 1967. More importantly, for where I ended up in my life, I was born a few years after Betty Friedan wrote “The Feminine Mystique” which raised the consciousness of millions of educated American housewives as to what was exactly that nagging “problem with no name”.
My mother was a rich, educated southern belle. She graduated from Sweet Briar College in Virginia (yes, that actually is a women’s college, not a fairy-tale castle) in 1960 and married the son of a NY judge, my dad. They moved to NY and began the early-60’s version of the American dream. Dad got a job as a stockbroker and mom stayed home to start the perfect family.
By the time I was born 7 years later, my mother had grown disenchanted with the whole “I am proud to be a housewife” mantra that the media shoved down the throats of women back then. From my perspective now, I can easily see how she must have felt. But as a child growing up, it wasn’t the most pleasant situation to be in. My mother was never great on taking personal responsibility for her decisions (although she has improved a lot in later life) and both she and my dad were alcoholics, albeit functional ones.
The result of all this was that I grew up feeling that it was somehow my fault that she was stuck at home, taking care of this kid that she did not even want (the story of her being late to pick up her birth-control pills and me being conceived that night was an often told and laughed-at story), stifled in her intellectual pursuits, and depressed with the constant child-care and housework.
I can admit now that I was emotionally and psychologically abused in order for my mother to justify her desire to escape and her unhappiness with life in general. What I would do for that hind-sight when I was a little child of 7 or 8, but of course, like most kids, I thought that there must be something terribly wrong with me – to think that I could have EXISTED like this and ruined my mother’s life! How dare I!
I explain this chapter in my mother’s life not to complain about her or revel in self-pity (although I have done that at times, too), but because I have realized that my later decision to embrace total stay-at-home womanhood was, in large part, a reaction and correction to my mother’s total exuberant feminism – which I saw as a rejection of me personally, not the oppression that women faced in our culture.
I grew up with almost as authoritarian a religion as those who were raised in fundamentalist religions – except the dogmas in this religion required me to think motherhood was a trap, children were a burden, a home was a prison and nurturing was unnecessary and too time-consuming.. While now think I can see some truth in these ideas (since I have personally experienced some of it), by the time I grew to college-age, my mother’s extreme feminism had left a ticking time-bomb inside of my soul.
When I visited the home of my college boy-friend (later husband) and experienced what it was like to have a “real” mother – nurturing, supporting, present, available – I felt a huge, gaping wound inside of me was suddenly being filled. It was a wound that I didn’t even know existed until then. I could suddenly see that there was nothing wrong with me, as I had assumed there was my whole life – the problem, as I saw it was FEMINISM.
Looking back now, I can see that the emotional issues that my mother faced (herself growing up un-nurtured because of a schizophrenic mother) were the true culprit in my growing up feeling un-nurtured and unloved. But from that moment on, feminism became my enemy of choice and I vowed to aim my life’s energy at its destruction. I decided right then and there that my children would not grow up feeling unwanted and cast aside in favor of career and comfort. My quiverfull future (at least in my mind) had begun….
More Catholic Than The Pope by MusicMom: