Tuesday, February 23, 2016

on motherhood and feminism.

Becoming a mother at the young age of 24 was not something that I had necessarily planned for myself when, at 18 I started college and made my life plans (ha!). But since that time I've grown and learned more about myself and what could make me happy in life. That transformation has led me to where I am today, but I think, has also led to questions and inquisitive glances from many people. So, here are the beginnings of some of my  (own personal, not generalized for anyone else's) thoughts on the subject. 

Baby Girl Johnson on her first day, our family in those first few days at home,
our first visit to the fire station, and a sweet snapshot of our time in the hospital. 

When I was about five months pregnant I attended the Alumni Tent Party at the Drake University Relays. While there I interacted with a variety of other alum from my college days and I could see the confusion and sincere fear on most of their faces when I talked to them. Their petrified expressions reading "there's no way she planned this, right?" "but she was a feminist?" "but we aren't old enough to start having kids" "I have so many things I want to do before I have kids and my life is over." I don't begrudge anyone for their personal feelings, or revealing expressions, and am thankful for all expressed congratulations--however, I also can't help but feel some frustration at the apparent conflict in values that my choice to start a family revealed. 

It seems that in general, the group of humanities-minded academics that I 'ran' with while in college really struggled with the notion that someone who performed in the Vagina Monologues, wrote critical theory papers on Barbie, and pushed for every woman's right to choose--would then herself choose to follow an apparently 'traditional' path and get married after college and start a family. This act of questioning my feminism based on my personal choices--namely getting married and having a child--is one that I find expressly frustrating. Because on a very basic level these things were, are, My Choices. I fear for the academic feminist community, in that they too often remove the agency of women who make life choices they do not expect or agree with. This trap is one I fear to be just as dangerous as stealing a woman's agency in the more expected form of ingrained misogyny. 

Penelope is a true joy--in my life and to everyone around us.
I cannot get enough of this baby. 
I do admit that in the past several years, my understanding of what would give me purpose in life and what could make me happy in life has drastically changed. I am happy in my current career, working for a non-profit, but I admit that I have no clue 'what I want to do with the rest of my life'--I still have hope that something new will come along to answer that question. 

But as for right now, this present day, I have never felt a stronger sense of purpose than in being a mother. The first time I held Penelope and in each time since then. 
 Not every person needs to be a parent, and certainly not every woman needs or wants to be a mother, but for Me, this is the biggest blessing and the biggest challenge of my life. Can I do anything better for the world, or do a greater service to my feminist beliefs than to raise my daughter to become a strong, independent, and intelligent young woman?