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Archive for the ‘Germaine Greer’ Category

The Long Haul: On Marathons, Motherhood and Millenial Feminism

In Germaine Greer, marathon on March 6, 2011 at 8:36 am

Today is March 5.  The Ottawa International Marathon is May 29.  That’s 12 weeks to bump my long run up from 13 km to 42.2.  I don’t know if I can do it.

All was well in the initial weeks of training, but three weeks ago I pulled a hamstring at yoga, so I didn’t run for the week.  Then I missed a long run on the weekend because it is hard to prioritise that with family commitments and ballet, church, extra work I’ve taken on, etc.  Last week we were on our yurt adventure, and in my elegant fall, I either cracked or rib or tore an intercostal muscle, so I am experiencing difficutly taking deep breaths, stretching or reaching much, turning the steering wheel in the car, carrying the baby.  Somehow my left shoulder blade has also been affected, so opening and closing doors is a bit of an issue as is writing on the whiteboard at work. 

Various parts of my ribs and shoulders seem to be moving and clicking whenever I manage a deep-ish breath.  Whining aside, this means I haven’t run much this week either (I went on two runs) and missed my long run today.  The weather didn’t help; it is raining hard and much snow is melting, so the sidewalks are either slushy, icy or have about a 5 cm deep puddle. 

In other words, I’m not so sure I can run the marathon and am feeling great anger towards myself for being a weeny.  I am not quite ready to give up the idea, yet our life isn’t working towards giving me time.  So, if I want to do it, I need to decide this week and try to do a longish run next weekend (though ballet shows, birthday parties, etc, get in the way).  I don’t even know if I can articulate quite what this means to me. 

It means setting a good and powerful example for Anja. 

It means I can set my mind and do just one thing, just one thing that demonstrates to myself I have the staying power and commitment to set and accomplish a goal. 

It means maybe finally shedding the last 10 Aksel pounds and being able to say I did this one year after having a baby. 

On the other hand, why do I think completing such a huge thing is possible, even necessary given the craziness of having two young children and working what feels like 4 jobs? 

What do you think?  Should I continue with this goal, or reduce to a half-marathon?  Would I even be content with that?  Why do I compete with myself so?

Things will need to change if I do; I need, need, need to go to bed earlier and sit at my desk less and probably eat a wee bit better. 

Which brings me to the idea of sacrifice and commitment in motherhood too.  Recently, a Facebook friend posted a study that said people often overstated the joys of parenthood as a compensation mechanism for feeling so overwhelmed with the expense of raising children.  This did not surprise me; what surprised me was the vehemence with which some of her friends replied.  The gist of their response was that parents will often sacrifice at their workplace, but will not sacrifice for their children, that parents who both work are selfish because they don’t really need two incomes, but choose them so they can spend frivolously, and that after a woman has a baby, she doesn’t matter any more, or, “it’s not about me.”

That’s a lot packed into one Facebook post, isn’t it?  Anyone who has recently read any newspaper articles (and user comments) about all sorts of mothering issues will not be surprised by this kind of response.  How to even begin unpacking it?

First, there is such a lot of judgement and assumptions blasting around motherhood circles.   Apparently, if women need to work outside of the home, it is because they want to continue living frivolously, not to provide food or clothing or extra curricular activities for their children.   Women also definitely shouldn’t want to work even if they don’t have to. 

Of course, I feel guilty on both counts – I both have to work and want to work.  Since being back at work (even if I have challenges with this particular job), I feel able to offer a better self to my kids because I feel somewhat engaged in the world, and I am able to appreciate them from a new perspective.  I want to do things that engage me, stimulate me, make me learn and grow.  Does this mean I am a bad mother?  Is it necessary to abnegate self the minute you become a mother?  Or do children learn how to dream and follow through on their own dreams by watching their mothers do the same thing? 

That being said, I also wish I was perfectly content to stay home and raise kids.  I wish I could be my best self at home all the time (which today, I most assuredly wasn’t).   And I’ve been so wrapped up in work and work endeavours, I feel like I’ve missed the last 6 weeks or so of the kids’ lives.  I struggle to find a balance – but don’t we all?

On the bus home, I often listen to the podcast of Q (via my new best friend), a national arts and culture show, and this week I had the chance to listen to an interview with Germaine Greer on the evolution or stagnation of capital F feminism.  The conversation took many turns, but two things struck me most.  The first was whether or not women really wanted “equality” – that is, “equal” standing with men in the corporate world, and really, who wants this?  Does the corporate world really serve women – and all their other responsibilities – well?  Or does a new paradigm need to be created?  Why isn’t it being created?

Greer offered a pretty striking visual.  She said that women are more overtaxed than they ever have been before, because they still make less than men, still carry more of the household burden, still do more related to the kids – even though some women will go to great lenghts NOT to identify themselves as feminists.  Every evening, if you were to walk down an average street in North America, you would find mothers struggling through getting dinner ready, homework and bedtime.  The only way things will get easier for us, Greer suggested, will be if we stop competing with each other and start working together on a house by house, neighbourhood or friend by friend basis. 

This is the key, isn’t it? For some reason, we continue to insist on being hard on each other and ourselves.

How can we support each other no matter if we choose or must work or not?  If we breastfeed or not?  If we let baby cry it out or not?  How can we be better at supporting each other’s hopes and dreams as we strive to become better people for our kids, and just as importantly, for ourselves?

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