Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Doing it all

I wrote this last week and never hit the "Publish" button:

It's 11:30 pm exactly, and I am almost done grading research papers. I wanted to document, for people who have asked me, how I "do it all," meaning, I suppose, how I live the normal life of an LDS stay-at-home mom and teach college as well.  The answer is that I don't. At all. In the past 4 months, I haven't read a book for fun, I'm woefully behind on my TV shows (Downtown Abbey, I'm coming!), I don't read every day to my 4-year-old or take him on outings or throw the ball to him or sit and laugh with him, I don't have regular and meaningful conversations with my husband since I spend my kid-free time in front of a computer screen, I have a house full of unfinished projects, and my daily exercise happens only if I get up before the kids and only if I cut down my daily time to 30 min because anything more than that would eat into my sleeping hours, which seem slim to none, given that most of the grading and class prep I do happens after 9pm, when the kids are finally in bed (older kids=more activities, more school work, later bedtimes=a tired Mom!) So, there are plenty of things I'm not doing. There's really no such thing as doing it all.

But I am usually getting meals on the table, getting kids to activities, helping with homework, and keeping my house clean (since I can't think when it's not clean). And I am rocking my teaching. Last week my teaching group leader called me to summarize her observations of my class and her evaluation of my teaching and said she couldn't think of one thing to write that I needed to improve on. My students' evaluations were similar. Not one negative comment and not one suggestion for improvement. Only glowing reports.

I'm happy about that, of course, but I'm also woefully aware that not one suggestion for improvement reflects on the fact that I've thrown all my efforts, the best of me, into teaching my class because it's more measurable and it has a deadline and I'm getting paid to do it.

This is what usually happens when I teach. Tonight I'm reminded of what one of the women in my dissertation study--Les--wrote about the value of unpaid work:

"There has been so much talk lately, of this of 'us' the 'opt out generation'. The women who are 'turning their backs' on the opportunities now available to them to stay at home. I listened to such an interesting discussion on NPR- polling young women in elite colleges- expressing their likelihood of staying home in the future, many feminists troubled by the numbers. Thinking our society must be sending the message you can't do it all- the clocks must be rolling back. Why is it 'Choice feminism' is not accepted. How is choosing to care for others not a choice? I am deeply troubled by the way caregiving is undervalued in our societies. This extends to caretaking professions as well-- the pay and respect meeted out to a teacher is far less than that of a lawyer, business executive. Linda Hirshman contends the only way to flourish as a human being is through paid work.
To her I suggest the only way to flourish as a human being is unpaid work. The work that is the great equalizer of men and women across cultures, across all history and time. The work of care. I feel far greater satisfaction at night when I help someone far more than when I get a paycheck. I am not godless or a slave to the god of self glory-- development of my own personal morality is far more rewarding than another plaque on my wall--
So my social statement is this- I am a woman, a smart woman, I don't want another woman to speak for me. I have a voice, my own voice. The press may not quote me, like Linda Hirschman, so my voice may not be as loud- many whispers can create a great sound--I am one woman just as she is, of equal importance, with a voice as unrelenting, as strong and as valid- Don't pity me, don't trouble yourself that society has done me wrong, don't fear I may never escape this domestic drudgery and become enlightened--This life, as a mother, as a mother who stays home, is my choice. . . . I wanted to experience motherhood without distraction. Homemaking is not drudgery, paid work is not bliss."

So, I sit here reflecting at now 11:43 at night, with a bad cold and case of laryngitis and a deep end-of-semester fatigue, ready to throw in the towel, to submit the grades, to "opt out," and just go back to not "doing it all."


melanie said...

That quote by Les is fantastic. Best of luck in your life balance, it is a delicate tightrope. Doing it all is a complete misnomer, don't you think?

Madsen Family said...

I think about you all the time, when I struggle to do all I have to do, and that's about half of what you have to do. You're amazing. And I admire all you do, but wouldn't admire you any less if you didn't try to do it all! Hope you can find balance and peace, knowing you're doing your best. And I hope you get more sleep soon:)

Jeri said...

Thank you for this post.