I recently had a conversation with my stepdaughter, who is enlisted in the military on active duty. Something she told me I can't get out of my head: She's been advised tha tit was "selfish" to join the armed forces. Selfish to enlist. The main rationale for this criticism, as far as I can tell, is that she is a MOTHER. And as enlisted military, she is sometimes required to LEAVE TOWN; she is currently serving in Kuwait. Did you realize that our soldiers can't just sit around hometown USA and collect a paycheck? You learn something new every day! he is divorced from her children's father, with a 50/50 custody arrangement. This apparently, according to some people, is also SELFISH. Let's consider the implications of why a woman who wants to serve her country and doesn't provide 24/7, 365 childcare is branded as "selfish," shall we?
I don't want to jump to conclusions here, but are our Y chromosome military facing the same kind of pushback she is? Do fathers who are "out of town" serving the country face the same kind of criticism? Are all soldiers who also choose to be parents SELFISH? Or have we decided, as as a society, that a mother's care is so far superior to a father's that his at home "service" is negligible, while her abdication of at home service is "neglect"? The double standard applied here is like the regular double standard on steroids, because how many times have you heard a man say "stay-at-home" moms need to get a "real job"? But if that "real job" is defending our country or somehow "interferes" with providing round the clock childcare, then she is suddenly being "selfish." Can a woman win?
Being a plain old wife can include many jobs. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening, pet care, home decorating, food shopping, entertaining, holiday prep, gift buying, schedule and budget maintenance... I won't go on, but many of these "jobs" are individual, paid professions. Now add childcare into the picture and this explodes exponentially. Yet, "stay-at-home" moms are often admonished to get "real jobs" while career women who are also mothers are branded "selfish." We all know there are double standards when it comes to pay -- women earn 77 cents to a man's dollar -- and there are major double standards when it comes to female vs. male sexuality. But what I am starting to sense is that a dynamic I and so many women I know experience in our marriages and other relationships is just a microcosm of our societal dynamic: No matter what the circumstances, somehow, as Jimmy Buffet famously sang, "there is a woman to blame."
You know the term "gaslighting"? It is defined as a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented in order to make the victim doubt their own perceptions, memories and sanity. I have experienced this personally in nearly all of my relationships with men -- being told I am "crazy" to feel how I feel, that I am misremembering what happened, that I am OVER REACTING to what happened. I have conversely experienced this about zero times in my relationships with women. Have you ever noticed the percentage of men who blame their divorce on their ex-wife being "crazy"?
You know what really offends in our society? A woman who expresses "wants" and "needs" of her own, especially if she is a MOTHER. You are expected to serve your offspring first, your husband second (unless he leaves you for his secretary, you boring old bat) and in your spare time maybe exercise a little (fat thing -- what happened to the girl he married?). A good mother should be attractive, but not too attractive (because, what? Is she on the prowl???). She should be thin, but not too thin (don't want a kid with food issues!); well-kept, but not well-groomed (what good mother has the time and resources to GROOM?) and well-read, in a book-club-meets-once-a-month kind of way (a good mother doesn't have much time to read). A good mother does not drink, except on special occasions; if she can hold her liquor she is obviously a lush and an unfit parent. A good mother can cook meals from scratch, keep up with the laundry and keep a tidy house, but NOT a pristine house, because what kid wants to live in a museum? A good mother only goes out with her husband (once a week max) and book club (once a month is the limit), otherwise she is leaving those kids to raise themselves in the wild, she is just so all about her own pleasure. The only thing worse? A woman with the SELFISH AUDACITY to NOT WANT CHILDREN.
A mother should keep her husband cared for, interested and happy, but not be a financial burden so should find a job during school hours so the kids remain the priority. Mothers need to remember birthdays, entertain guests, celebrate holidays, volunteer at school or church, stay on a budget and not complain because if you do not have a full-time job, you are obviously living on easy street and don't know the meaning of a hard day's work. Mothers better not enlist or do any kind of dangerous job, because that is SELFISH. And how many mothers do you know that are actually meeting all of this criteria, lazy slobs? Do they really need a WHOLE day to celebrate this sort of ineptitude? Society has been gaslighting women for centuries, telling us how we feel and what we want is just not right, NO MATTER WHAT it is. So this Mother's Day, let's go ahead and be a little selfish. Really, what have we got to lose?