today I feel for all the world that [my] writing does not matter. it seems as though without the fantasy of publishing and success that I find little motivation to sit down. Is writing, then, only about the perfidious illusion in which, having published, I have some level of bragging rights?
my husband keeps mentioning a friend from his childhood that has made a career of painting. what he says, over and again in his amazement, is “you should have seen him back then, you never would have thought he’d turn out like this, he was the fat kid…” Yes. Much like my brother in high school, that I worried about in his loneliness, his withdrawal. But he’s the one that has achieved anything.
another thing: had a nice afternoon this last sunday with another family. the wife/mother in this family works with my husband. she’s 31 weeks pregnant and planning to return to work because, like any sane person, she finds it awful to be at home with an infant. I don’t fault her for this decision, even though it is the opposite of my own. but this placed on the table for discussion, mothers who do stay home. we didn’t discuss it out right, but the topic would glide toward the subject and then leap away, because in the end, we are talking about my choice. So what was said? that women, American women, that is, because this family is not from here, only want to get married and have babies so they can stay home. Therefore, there was nothing to discuss with them, because they haven’t had careers. A similar thing was said about American’s generally, that because they don’t travel and have no sense of the world, they have nothing, really, to say. They, the Americans, live in small worlds and have small minds, miniature concerns. was noch? oh, the husband pointed out that he would rather have his wife work and make money and pay someone else to take care of the kids. I suppose I could have spoken up here for the feminist argument of not pushing childraising on the less economically valuable (ie, black and brown women that, presumably, cannot make as much as his wife). But I didn’t, I was too tired to argue with anyone, and anyhow, I doubt it would have mattered to him.
It was this same family’s house only a few months ago that I encountered a number of women with careers, who gladly handed their infants over so that they, the women, could do real work, be taken seriously. In one conversation a women pointed out that it was normal in her country to simply give away the kids and have the women work (since I know a number of her countrywomen, I know for a fact that this is bullshit, that women there struggle with the decision just as much as here). She implied that it was sentimental to stay home, stay attached. In another conversation, a man, on finding out that I work part time and stay home with an infant the rest, immediately turned his attention elsewhere.
Yes, you could point out what is wrong with this, create an argument for the seriousness of mothering, for the anti-woman, anti-feminist sentiment that underlies these comments. We simply do not think that mothering or childcare is important or real work, and this comes from a combination of misogyny and capitalism.
But my point is this: I can think all the refutes I want, but these people and their position did/do pose me with a question: am I making the right choice? don’t I, too, want to be taken seriously?
And: don’t I walk away from these interactions and immediately begin the production of a fantasy? A dream in which I get to prove that I, too, have value, worth? That their estimation of me in that moment was wrong, because I am important, they just didn’t know it.
the shallowness of my desire, my need, disappoints me. I let out a sigh and go, ok. I know this vision will never come to pass. Should i manage to finish something and get published, it would impress no one. No one will notice, not even the rain, and should that feat which seems so entirely insurmountable to me (that is, getting a body of work finished AND published) actually happen, these people, with their nannies and nice cars and good retirements certainly would not impressed.
Because I am, as always, behind on work and need to get to it, let me finish with one final thought for myself. I heard a small part of Obama’s speech in Chicago, and what stuck with me was the line “don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do.” And this, I would say, is the challenge before me. Because I will not, in the end, win as a feminist or a reader of interesting books, or a writer of semi-coherent mediocre stories, or a mother or a drupal admin or front end developer. These things may make me what I am, but there will never be any particular value attached to them, and as such, will never impress anyone or make me feel worthy.