The #1 Job Where Feminism Gives Anxiety and Self-Doubt

The #1 Job Where FEMINISM Gives Anxiety & Self-Doubt // jessconnell.com

You may already know what I’m referring to.

It’s the job where nearly everyone– celebrities, politicians, nurses, and stay-home-moms– struggles, almost from the first few minutes.

In this place,

  • we feel self-doubt
  • we feel pressured to do it all
  • we are ill-equipped in what we do
  • we have no idea how to do it
  • we’re pretty sure we’re messing it up 
  • we have virtually no role models who have done it well
  • we have a litany of role models who have abandoned it or done it poorly
  • we often have to look back in history to find women who were competent in this area
  • it takes discipline and self-training in order to gain confidence
  • we have lost the collective “common sense” wisdom that used to be culturally acquired from mothers and extended family
  • alarming rates of women are on meds because of our stress, anxiety, and lack of confidence

You know what it is.

It’s motherhood.

Motherhood isn’t the only job where feminist ideas contribute to depression and anxiety, but I do think it’s the most common across society.

Far from the old-world position of honor and wonder and reverence for mothers, modern society treats pregnancy as an undesirable condition. Feminists have, for so long, belittled motherhood, the home, and homemaker, that we all, culturally, feel it’s somehow lesser.

  • We use awkward, fumbly language as we talk about “getting knocked up,” or having a “baby bump.”
  • Incompetence is assumed– it’s normal to hear moms say things like, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” or “I don’t know what’s going on with her lately!”
  • It’s popular for teen girls & young women to claim they don’t ever want to be mothers.
  • Though Mother’s Day was intended to be NOT a society-wide bowing to all mothers but a simple day when children young and old went and spent time with or took time to honor their mothers, it now carries a politically-correct obligatory honoring of all women, rather than only our own mothers. Whatever happened to each of us just quietly, thankfully honoring our own moms?
  • Phrases like “Mom jeans,” “mom hips,” and “mom van,” show an innate cultural disdain for the unfashionable, lumpier body of a woman who has sacrificed her own person in order to bring new life into the world.
  • We might say, “I’m just a stay-home-mom.”

And yet, the truth is: when we become mothers, we feel bowled over. Never have we felt so tired, overwhelmed, unsure of ourselves, and ill-equipped.

We thought we knew ourselves. We’re fierce. Feminist. Capable. Strong. Our moms and grandmas chanted, “I am woman; hear me roar!” This generation sings, “I am a champion; you’re gonna hear me roar!”

“I can be anything I want to be,” right? 

And yet… we find that we can’t even have a little 7-pound baby without anxiety attacks, identity questions, body-issues, postpartum depression, and a previously unknown level of self-doubt.

Really?, we think. This one little baby can do all this?

THAT TIME DREW BARRYMORE SPOKE THE TRUTH

Drew Barrymore gets it, and was actually bold enough to say something that hacked off the feminists:

“I was raised in that generation of ‘women can have it all,’ and I don’t think you can. I think some things fall off the table.”

She’s right, you know. And this is what they don’t want to admit. Consider this pithy tale from the president of Barnard College:

“I was in the women’s bathroom at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. I had an hour between flights, so I rushed for the stalls. Cramming my bags against the door and pulling off my blouse, I perched on the seat, took out my little Medela pump, and began feverishly expressing my breast milk. After several minutes of whirring and fumbling, I pulled myself together and stuffed my five- weeks-postpartum belly back into my business suit.

And that’s when I realized—wryly, ironically, totally deprived of sleep—that I was experiencing the superwoman dream.

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Like many women, I grew up believing we were equal to men, that we could have sex whenever we wanted, children whenever we chose, and work wherever we desired. For years, as a professor at Harvard Business School, I was the only woman in a room of alpha men and still I always felt equal. … We have opportunities today—to choose our educations, careers, spouses—that would’ve stunned our grandmothers. But now we’re dazed and confused by all the choices. “

You know what Drew Barrymore is referring to by “falls off the table?” You can see it in the story above–

This woman’s TIME with her BABY. Her own time to HEAL, time to rest, and make milk for her baby, time to figure out motherhood in an unpressured way, time to enjoy the relationships God made her for without having to also leave those relationships in order to prove to everyone that she’s got a brain and can earn an income. What falls off the table is time to treat herself, and her sweet tiny one, as the frail human beings they are in these delicate moments of early motherhood.

Instead of being a superwoman powerhouse, she’s a newly postpartum mom, perched on a toilet, miles away from her baby, pumping liquid out of her body, her tummy being stuffed into a business suit as she tries to feverishly “have it all.”

Later, our honest Barrymore said,

“I didn’t really have parents, you know? And therefore the kind of parent I will be is a good, present parent. In a way, maybe that was a detriment to my youth, but it’ll be the biggest asset to my adulthood.”

Perhaps this is one of the takeaways feminism didn’t anticipate…

…that all those kids that got left behind while their moms went back to work in the “second” and “third” waves of feminism know the toll it took on their SOULS to not have a mom around, and many are committed to doing differently.

Tolls like:

  • emotional stress and anxiety
  • sorting through bullying without a warm-hearted, open-armed mother to return home to
  • horrifying rates of sexual abuse, rape, and molestation because of unwatched latchkey kids
  • emotional fallout from divorces and angry, stress-riddled marriages
  • latching on to any available adult who took the slightest interest, even if that adult was a bad example, or even abusive
  • often being left to be watched by people with no vested interest or innate concern for the child (day care/group care settings)
  • less family togetherness/less awareness of how to healthily *do* family
  • more access to vices like cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, ouija boards, and pornography
  • less “margin” when sickness, hardships, and tragedies strike, so these crises take a greater toll on each member of the family

The continual quest for career heights has a cost. And all too often, it’s the kids who pay. For those who are watching carefully, the “latchkey kid” age of the last few decades speaks to us about the simple value of presence.

So why am I raising this issue? A few reasons, really.

  • Because feminism is part of the air we breathe. I think it’s valuable for us, no matter our position or station in society, to recognize the lies of our culture and counsel our hearts against swallowing ideas without sober consideration.
  • Because I think kids of all ages are better off with mom at home and far too few people are saying it now.  I’m so thankful to have spent these last 14 years of my life devoted to nurturing and teaching and training these 7 people. Has it been easy? No. But I believe it’s worth it. And I want to be honest with you about that.
  • Because some of you reading this are wonderingDoes what I do at home with my kids really matter? Won’t they be fine if I run off and pursue my dreams? I want to be a voice encouraging moms who are tempted to doubt themselves.

Mama, it MATTERS what you do with your children. Don’t buy the lies that say it doesn’t, they’ll be fine, everybody does it. Listen to your gut.

Don’t let feminism and its “lofty” aims rob you of the things that really matter in life– loving faithfulness in the relationships of your life.

 

You might also want to read:

Unprepared For Motherhood; Thanks, Feminism! // JessConnell.com

 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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9 Responses

  1. Madelyn Lang says:

    Very well said. I’m further along in this lifestyle than you, and I say unequivocally that it is all worth it. My six kids are ages 16 to 31 and the benefits of being with them, attentive and engaged, are undeniable and rich.

  2. I am one of those girls who have decided to do it differently. I won’t ever let them feel like they’re a burden and not worth my time/commitment/energy. I love Drew Barrymore’s second comment: the pain in our souls as young people are an asset to our adulthood.

    I also pray for stay-at-home mother’s that, even when they are staying home, that doesn’t mean they can still “have it all” eg. playdates, church commitments, outings, scheduled activities. Out of all my church SAHM’s, I am the only one who stays home more than they go out. Our children need us home! And, in many ways, so do our husband’s. We are more stressed/harried, the house more of a tip, the children more ratty when they spend too much time “having it all”.

  3. A says:

    I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom, and I agree with what you’re saying. I never wanted to “be” anything more than a wife and mom. However, I often have doubt that creeps up in my mind wondering why it really matters. I’m struggling with this a lot lately, in fact. What will things look like in 20+ years when I’ve given so much of myself so long at home?

  4. Kondwani says:

    Thanks Jess. Right now I’m on adoption leave with baby number 5, and its interesting because I seem to revisit a lot of these issues about self-doubt, role, value etc. I don’t know why, but it hits me every time, perhaps compounded by a bit of exhaustion.

    As you know, my husband and I work part-time so there is always a stay at home parent, and we share the homeschooling. I sometimes get asked to give ‘inspirational’ talks to junior doctors and academics about life-work balance, and I take great care to state that ‘you cannot have it all’. Something will have to give somewhere, and you need to think about what is most important. I usually give the example of my first child’s death in infancy as something which crystallised for me that you don’t get the time back again, and no matter what society says, the time with our children is our first priority at that time.

    And mother’s day – I’m going to blog on that this week, since this week, for the first time ever, I was in a church service where the mothers went to the front and were acknowledged. Every single other year, there has been a politically correct message about honouring all women, or thinking of the infertile. To me, it was encouraging to have our role recognised!

  5. iamloved says:

    I’d be interested in why you think kids are better off with Mom at home instead of Dad?

    My current position (always subject to further insight from the Word) is that my child is better off with either me or my husband at home. Always the preferred ideal – and what we strive for – than our kid being in the care of anyone else, even other trusted family members.

    Thanks.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Well I definitely agree that kids are better off with their own parents than others.

      I think there are many reasons why I think children are generally better off with Mom than Dad at home–
      (1) practical reasons– the way God built pregnancy and breastfeeding to work means that, in general, women’s bodies are better suited for the task of being with children… (in our home, I’ve spent over 8 of the last 14 years breastfeeding… I suspect it would have been difficult/impossible for me to have made it that long or faithfully if I was regularly away from our children)
      (2) spiritual reasons– when I look at the Genesis creation account, (which is looked at much more deeply by other people– most notably in my recollection is the True Woman 101 curriculum– found here: http://amzn.to/1ROnqzn ) I see a few basic principles–

      Adam was created outside of the home/garden, given a task separate from his relationship to his wife, as well as other (unrelated to this question) principles: he was given direct spiritual instruction & responsibility (which is why later, even though Eve technically “sins” first, it is “in Adam” in whom we are all counted sinners, because he was the one directly taught by God), and given authority over the wife.

      Eve was created inside the home/garden, given a task connected to her relationship to her husband (helper), and is put in a position under authority.

      So in general, from the beginning (and from biology), men are given tasks, and have an outward orientation, and women are knitted uniquely to the relationships in their lives. (If wives, whatever they do must not endanger the role as a helpmeet; and if mothers, whatever they do must not endanger/encroach on the raising of those children.)

      (Incidentally, I do think this “task-orientation” of men is easily seen in society… it’s one reason Afghan men who can’t find work end up drunk and high; why American men who can’t find work often end up depressed and even those termed “stay home dads” are eager to go back to work ASAP. Studies consistently show that moms who are stay-home moms are much more content, long-term in their role, than stay-home dads… and that stay-home dads most often see it as a pausing place between jobs, whereas stay-home moms are more often happy to stay in that role, at least until the children are older.)

      I do take a lot from our design, and from that initial creation intent. I think it says a lot about God’s intentions for a thing, to consider how that thing was made. (i.e., we don’t plant trees in the middle of the ocean; we don’t take short-haired cats and drop them to live in the Arctic). So because women are made with wombs and breasts, and we’re given those basic principles from God from the beginning, when God makes us mothers, this gives us a great deal of information about His intentions.

      Beyond this, I think the task given to women– to be “busy at home”– from Titus 2 is a unique command to women. Men aren’t given the same command. They’re taught to work for their families… to provide… to not be lazy, etc., but the commands to women are much different… to love their husbands, love their children, submit to their own husbands, be busy at home.

      These are overarching spheres for life, not meaning that a man can’t be home (Abraham was with his family a great deal), or that a woman can’t work anywhere else (Deborah sat out under a tree and judged matters; and Priscilla traveled and taught alongside her husband Aquila– we aren’t told however that either of these women had any biological children). Rather, I think that men are fitted for tasks and provision and leading their families, and mothers are fitted for relationships and connecting and biologically for bearing and nursing children. Thus, I believe that young children are, generally, better off with their mothers.

      Both our God-given biology and my understanding of biblical spheres and gender roles inform me on this view.

      • iamloved says:

        I appreciate your detailed response!

        I agree that biology suggests mothers are best at home when the children are little – for nursing purposes, bonding, recovering post-natally, etc. Though I also think Daddy actively being involved/showing interest in their children during this stage is also important for bonding and other reasons.

        I also agree that if a woman is a disciple of Jesus, and a wife and Mommy, helping her spouse and training up her children takes highest priority with the exception of her relationship with God. Everything else must be arranged with these at the centre. So though the Titus 2 verses you mention were particularly applicable to the times of the writer (and in line with keeping hubby and kids first and foremost), I believe these verses also remain applicable in a modern context – though perhaps the meaning of being ‘busy at home’ could be up for discussion.

        Thanks for signposting me the resource you mentioned – I’ll definitely have a look.

  1. June 9, 2016

    […] role by the time we realize we’re almost entirely unprepared for it. This often leads to stress and anxiety for new moms as they not only take on the hardest, most selfless job in the world, but they do it while having […]

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