Monday, June 15, 2009
Notions of Womanhood
I've been attending a sewing class all week. At 2:00 in the afternoon. While almost everyone else I know is at work. In fact, around noon on Monday, when most people were stepping out to take a break from his or her office, I found myself rummaging around Britex Fabrics, less than three blocks from where I used to work, looking for a pattern to use in my class. And fingering through swaths of cotton to select the appropriate texture and design for my project. And rummaging through mounds of ribbons and webbings to find the right notions (a new word I learned that day).
When I walked down the street to a nearby mall to grab a bite to eat, past mobs of people in their business attire, a part of me felt like an imposter. You know, the person who does not belong. The kid playing hooky. There I was in my strappy sandals, a coral skort, my black fleece. Like another tourist in the middle of San Francisco's Union Square. No business casual for me.
Early last year, when I was pregnant the first time around before I was fired, Jeff asked me (very gingerly) whether I wanted to keep working after we have the baby or whether we should look into alternative arrangements. I remember feeling stumped for an answer. I have no idea, I said. The thought of not returning to work scared me. What if no one hires me once I decide to return? Wouldn't I be jeopardizing my entire career by taking a break? Besides, what would I do with myself? Does the baby really need me full time? Could I become one of those women who stay at home to raise a kid?
And even if I wanted to be a full-time mom, would I dare admit it?
Even saying that maybe I wouldn't mind a period of staying at home seemed like too much of an admission. What kind of a throwback to women's lib would I be to say such a thing publicly? A lot of suffering and fighting went into giving me the option of being able to participate beyond the domestic sphere. Besides, other women manage to work and raise their children. Why couldn't I? What if people assume I'm freeloading off of my husband? Or typecast me as one of those women who have nothing else in their lives but the baby?
So the picture of pregnant me taking a sewing class when everyone else is at work strikes me as a bit much. What happened to all my concerns about living up to my professional womanhood? Wasn't there a time when I would have bragged that I simply don't have the time to sit around and sew loose buttons on a jacket?
I'm not really sure what happened, but living up to my professional womanhood no longer concerns me as much. Sure, I still have my cases that I'm handling and the writing projects I'm working on, but putting them on hold for a couple of years while I focus on the baby seems to be less of an issue. Maybe because my desire to protect my career -- or at least my big lawfirm career -- evaporated when I sent my mass email. Maybe from the other side of that career implosion, I now realize there are more choices -- and more flexibility -- than I had assumed, and choosing one role does not necessarily preclude the other, at least not forever.
For now, I'm planning to be a (mostly) full-time mom for at least the first couple of years of the kid's life (and his brothers' or sisters', if we are lucky enough to have more than one kid). And then I'll try to establish a part-time solo practice, as I'm doing now, while continuing to work on my writing.
Who says I can't be a writer/lawyer/mom who makes cute little lady bug hats? What do you guys think of my second completed project from my class? It's for the little guy. I have to admit that I'm quite proud of it. I feel like I'm making up for lost time for skipping home ec in high school. And feeling incredibly lucky now to have found the time -- and to have the choice.