Sunday, November 02, 2014


I was reading through effbee posts this morning; one of my friends, a native upper Midwesterner whom I'd met in a big coastal city, and who's since moved to another not quite as big coastal city, had linked this article by Darcey Steinke on Salon about "Growing Apart on Facebook" (Link).

Mostly the article's about how Steinke moved from a smaller, Southern community to NYC, but finds the Facebook connections to her old high school friends at once alienating and thought-provoking.

But as she's talking about growing up in the 70s, she has this to say about their mothers:
All our mothers were discombobulated. They’d been raised to be housewives, but the new culture insisted they get jobs and personal checking accounts. Seventies culture glorified working women like Mary Tyler Moore and Hill Street Blues’ Joyce Davenport. Our moms had become outmoded, female versions of Willy Loman, with a skill set no longer valued.

I read that, and my brain went, "yes, exactly."  I'm often frustrated by my Mother, but I've never quite put the frustrations together like this.  I'm thinking now about how difficult it was to grow up, and have all these expectations about how the world was supposed to work, and then have your kid (me) adore Mary Tyler Moore (I fantasized about being able to have my own studio apartment someday because that seemed to me the greatest heights a woman could aspire to), and have that same kid pretty much reject the life you were leading.  Now, my Mom sometimes seemed pretty unhappy in that life, stifled, but still, she also seemed happy much of the time.

The article goes on to say
A few of our mothers went to work or back to school, but most of them, disoriented and threatened, put even more pressure on us, their daughters, to be traditional, to define ourselves through boyfriends and, later, husbands, to hold our looks as our most valuable asset and to uphold the sanctity of the traditional home.
And that's where my Mother was different, because even though she was uncomfortable, and even though she would have preferred me to want to be traditional, to marry and be a stay at home mother, she completely supported my going to college, and joining the Peace Corps, and all the other crazy stuff I've done along the way.  She's proud of me, even as she's hurt that I've rejected the sort of life she led, and even though she often seems to feel that my rejection is a condemnation of her.


  1. Anonymous8:43 AM

    I guess I'm blessed to come from a long line of women who couldn't afford not to work (and would probably not have not worked even if they could, though some of my great-great-aunts who married high earners did charity work instead of paid work). This stay-at-home and take care of the kids thing is completely foreign to me and to my mom and my mother-in-law and my grandmother and grandmother-in-law, and so on.

    Some people seem to enjoy it though. More power to them, so long as they're choosing it rather than feeling it forced upon them because of teh childrens or whatevs. We're totally pro-financial independence for people who can afford it and prefer it.

  2. My mom had to work, and I think she felt pretty conflicted about it- she had to work because my father couldn't keep a job, but she would have preferred to have had a stable enough life where she could have stayed home. I know she felt guilt because she couldn't, like she didn't do as good a job raising us because she wasn't there. Ant yet she also raised us with the clear notion that we were supposed to be able to do it all- have kids (though she wasn't much in favor of that), have a fabulous career, etc. Don't even get me started on the whole thing of how we're supposed to do it all, and how impossible that is...