Why is there always a “woman to blame”—even on Mother’s Day?
So I had this conversation with my stepdaughter who is enlisted military, active duty.
Something she told me I can’t get out of my head: that she’s been advised it 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 recently returned from 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! She is divorced from her children’s father, and at the time of deployment had 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 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 someone 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 versus 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, 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”? I would guess anecdotally that it hovers around 80%. Whenever I hear a man say this, I always think to myself, “Well, pal, either you are a piss-poor judge of character or a liar.” Because at what point did you realize she was “mentally ill”? Before or after you fathered offspring with her?
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?
Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr
This essay originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
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