Back when I was submitting chapters of The Year of the Crow to my writer's group, one set of criticisms from my fellow women writers set me back on my heels a bit.
Not only was my heroine not very kick-ass, an issue I addressed in another post. Even worse, she was too caring, too solicitous of others, too accepting of a traditional woman's role. She cooked too much.
I was reminded of this by a conversation on Saturday's Up with Chris Hayes about the politics of motherhood.
Now, I have to admit, this is all a bit strange for me, because I can't honestly say that motherhood was ever an actual goal of mine. However, because I was a wannabe writer, I did want to be a stay-at-home whatever. None of which worked out so well because not only did I become a mother, I also couldn't stay home for several years. Best laid plans, and all that.
I don't even really like the word "mom."
That being said, I was a little bit disturbed at the comments made by Chris and some of his guests - there was one woman there who seemed to be a champion for progressive moms - about Michelle Obama's speech in which she designated herself "Mom in Chief." The pundits here would have been happier if she had talked about her professional life, her jobs before "giving it all up for her husband to live in the White House."
The sense I got from them was similar to that I got from some of my writers' group women. The traditional role of women as caretakers, as nurturers, as Cooks and Bottle Washers in Chief is seen as something "less than."
And I, who never wanted to be either housewife or mother, say bull pockey!
Because the world itself needs care. All peoples need nurture. Bottles must be washed and food must be cooked. These are activities that ensure that life itself can be lived. They are valuable. They are "more than."
I don't want these activities restricted to women. Not at all. What I do want is that they be seen as ultimately necessary, whether carried out by housewives or househusbands or others who are paid for such valuable work. That cleaning a house, no matter who does it, is analogous to caring for the world. That providing care and comfort for those you love is a microcosm of what all people in the world need to survive and thrive.
That ambition to be other than the one providing these on a full time basis is exciting and laudable and should be encouraged. But there are those who do take joy in providing these small comforts. And they are not negligible.
Michelle Obama made her choice. "Mom in Chief" is the role she chose to play during her White House years. It is not a choice that defines her entire being. But what message would it have sent for her to spend her speech looking back or forward to a time when she was or will be more professionally relevant. She chose to be currently relevant as one who takes care. She chose to be more than.