Family Nature

I am an Earthworm (and I’m okay with that)

earthworm1

I have always wanted to be a mum.  Always.  Any job I ever had was just something I was doing until the time was right for me to have kids.  I never really felt passionate about any particular line of work and I always struggled with figuring out what I wanted to “be”.  I remember being in high school and feeling pressure to figure out what I would do after high school: university, college, travel?  I was supposed to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Well, I knew I wanted to have a family but the overwhelming response to that was, “Yes dear, of course you want be a mother, but what do you want to *be*?”  How the hell was I supposed to know?!  In many ways I envied people who knew what they wanted to be.  Honestly, when I think back I realize that I spent too much time and energy agonizing over the question, “What do I want to be?” 

I have four children and I never went back to work after my first was born.   A couple of years ago someone said to me “Why don’t you do something that *you* really want to do?”  My response was, “I am doing *exactly* what I want to be doing.”  Why won’t people believe me?

When I tell people that I’m a mum and that’s “it” and that this is what I want to be doing sometimes I think that people think that I am weak minded, or insecure, or “living in my husband’s shadow”, or that I’m bringing women down.  Whatever.  All this talk of the Rosin article (I refuse to link to it; that article got way more publicity than it deserved) and others like it has refreshed an always underlying, usually subtle suggestion: women who stay at home can’t possibly be feminists.  Well you know what?  I never considered myself a feminist until I felt like I had to defend my choices!  Until I felt like I had to explain to people that I like what I do and I like where my path has taken me so far.

I was at a meeting of feminist mothers one day and the guest speaker was a well-known feminist; she’s an associate professor in the School of Women’s Studies at a local University and she’s written and edited a number of books on the topic of mothering and feminism.  She said that SAHMs were “privileged” and got to go on “annual vacations” and made many other infuriating comments about SAHMs all being rich and spoiled.  She went on to imply that people who liked being SAHMs were either being controlled by men or were too stupid to know that what they were doing was meaningless (those are my words but that was her message).   She also implied that SAHMs who were university educated were wasting away at home and that they really “should” be out there putting their degrees “to good use”.  She also made several demeaning comments about men and said things like, “having a husband is like have another kid around; just another person to clean up after.”  It was horrible!  Well, let me assure you sister, I am not “privileged”, or rich, or spoiled and I have NEVER had a family vacation (except for a two night stay at Great Wolf Lodge which was paid for by friends of ours) AND my husband does more cleaning around the house than I do…grr…the very thought of this makes my blood boil.  I see her books around and every time I do it makes me crazy.  I have absolutely no respect for this woman.  These so called “feminists” are really doing a disservice to women; to all people for that matter.

I don’t feel weak minded or insecure.  I feel strong and smart.  I feel appreciated by the people that matter; unnoticed and undervalued by the people that don’t.  I’m very happy.  In fact, I feel like an earthworm.  My husband always says, “Mothers are the earthworms of society.”  The first time he said that to me I gave him the furry eyeball.  He went on to explain that mothers are like earthworms in that we are absolutely essential; we work underground, so often going unnoticed and unappreciated.  BUT society would crumble – come to a screeching halt if it weren’t for us.  I like that analogy.  I like being an earthworm.

Photo from flickr by dead redhead.

35 thoughts on “I am an Earthworm (and I’m okay with that)

  1. Rebecca - @bitofmomsense

    Excellent post, although I can relate all too well. I can’t believe the comments some people say! I’ve gotten the university comment before. Crazy. I’m raising little citizens but am wasting my skills? um, no. I also like it when I contribute, quite thoughtfully, to a discussion about something like politics and am met with stunned looks when debating a position as if to say ‘she understands?’ I mean, I’m a mom, I didn’t suddenly give birth and lose my literacy skills! I can read the paper or watch the news!

    So maybe I’m a little spoiled – with love, attention etc. I can admit and accept that 😉 Rich? no, try well-organized, frugal and budget sensitive. And, like you, have a husband who is an EQUAL partner, or at times even better at cleaning than I am…unfortunately it’s comments like those that make feminism leave a sour taste in many women’s mouths, and it shouldn’t be that way.

    I feel strong, smart, involved and very aware of my world.

    Now, I will say, I’ve had FAR more positive comments about how great it is that I’m at home than negative – people who are supportive of what I do.

    I am a worm too, and suddenly feeling pretty proud of it!
    Great post…

  2. Bevlyn

    Grrr…I remember when you first told me this. I think we were running at the time and it STILL makes my blood boil!!

    You keep on doing what you’re doing sister-girl. I don’t know how any woman can call herself a feminist and not appreciate what you as a woman do every effin day!

    Obviously this “feminist” had some man issues which probably stemmed from a string of bad relationships. Maybe she should have asked herself why she kept picking men that needed to be taken care of. I have a great MAN. And I emphasize the word MAN because that is what he is. He is grown. He goes to work, he cooks meals, he does laundry, he gives kids baths, he tucks kids in bed, he helps with homework…you know, all the things that a father should do!

    Much love and respect mother earthworm.

  3. rodgerlevesque

    “I never considered myself a feminist until I felt like I had to defend my choices!”

    Brilliant.

  4. Alexandra

    Way to go sister earthworm! On the subject of worms, Charles Darwin wrote in 1881 that “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”

    Worms and moms, we rule the world.

  5. Rachael

    Well said. I love the analogy. I too tried to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life until smoke simmerd from the top of my head; even though motherhood is all I ever wanted. Raising well adjusted, loved, and HAPPY children has always been my passion. Although I do work because my family needs the paycheck I finally figured out who I am through motherhood. I am a mother. And a writer. And since settling on that I have been happier than I have ever been.

    Thanks for this post!

  6. Patience

    The problem with feminism is that it was supposed to open up choices for women back in the day when being a SAHM was the only allowable choice. Instead; they pushed the agenda that being a working mom was the only allowable choice and that you were “wasting your potential” being a SAHM. This has really polarized women.
    I too; always wanted to be a SAHM in an age when that was an unacceptable goal. I can relate to your feelings.

  7. Megan

    I love this. And I agree with Rodger “I never considered myself a feminist until I felt like I had to defend my choices!” that line is Brilliant. I also worked at my first jobs halfheartedly – just waiting to be a mom. Except now I can’t figure out why I am so restless. Do you get restless? I wasn’t prepared for how 8 years of domesticity would feel. I am lucky to have choices for sure, but why does it have to be so hard to make them? I have tried part-time jobs, doing other people’s bottom-of-the-pile shite, feeling homesick the whole time, knowing that the money isn’t nearly enough to cover childcare and loss of time away from my babies. Now, it’s all about finding something that feels better than endless laundry. Maybe there are just too many fun things to do in this world? I just have to forget about the laundry.

  8. Carolyn Fell

    This made me tear up. You’re totally right, on so many counts. SAHMs are compeletely underappreciated and strangely misunderstood in the current media climate. I would, in a second, stay at home, have ten more kids, leave my ‘glamourous’ career and be very satisfied with life.

  9. Allie

    This actually didn’t bring back thoughts of the Rosin article , it made me think of another written by Penelope Trunk that talked a bit about how she hated being a SAHM. Although I agreed with her main points about how it’s not for everyone and parents should be allowed to not want to do it, she also implied that people who do make that choice are doing it because they have no other options. That implication is something I feel SAHP get often and it’s infuriating. I don’t stay home because I can’t manage a different career , I stay at home because I enjoy it, I am investing in my child and it’s the right choice for my family.

  10. BarbaraH

    Perhaps getting a bit too personal but I too have always wanted to be a mother. It’s all that came to mind when asked what the future held. If pressed I’d make up professions like truck driver or bartender…

    So here I am, doing exactly what I’d always wanted to do but somehow it doesn’t feel right. Like I need to constantly juggle the demands of the home vs the demands of the kids and still retain the essence of who I am beyond the home and kids. And I feel like I’m failing. Sure I’m pretty much enjoying this journey but at the end of each day I’m counting how many times I lost my temper and looking around at the disaster that is our home and feeling like I’m not getting this right. This is what I chose and continue to choose and there is no where else I’d rather be. I just wish perhaps there was a different standard of what this should look like?

    Thoughts?

  11. familynature

    Thank you all for your comments!

    First and foremost I just want to clarify: when my husband first used his “women are like earthworms” analogy, we were having a conversation about SAHMs but I think it really does apply to everyone. Mothers who work outside the home still mother; these mums are important too and much of their mothering probably goes unnoticed and unappreciated as well.

    @Rebecca: Now that you mention it I guess I am a little spoiled after all! 🙂

    @Bevlyn: Thanks sister xoxo.

    @Alexandra: I love that Darwin quote!

    @Rachael: Isn’t it great the things we learn about ourselves from motherhood?

    @Patience: As much as feminism is about choice, I also think it is about acceptance. Here’s hoping that choices will continue to open up and that people will accept the choices that we make.

    @Megan: Ah the laundry, don’t get me started about laundry. Maybe one day I’ll post about my sophisticated (not!) laundry system! I don’t feel restless, at least not yet. Being a mother has exposed me to so many things and people that probably would never have crossed my path otherwise. I like to think that when I’m ready to move on to the next phase in my life I’ll be able to open a door that has presented itself to me as a result of my expereinces as a mother, does that make sense?

    @Carolyn Fell: xo my friend. You are as much an earthworm as I. What time do you get up every morning? How many things have you accomplished before most people walk out the door in the morning? Talk about essential work going unnoticed! Hold your head up high sister, and know you that you are among the very top of the lowly earthworm, glamourous carreer or not.

    @Allie: I guess the Rosin article talked more about breatfeeding bringing women down, didn’t it? Nonetheless, it is one among many that all have the underlying notion that somehow motheing and feminism don’t go together. I don’t know the Penelope Trunk article…I don’t know if I want to read it to tell you the truth! 🙂

  12. familynature

    @BarbaraH: ((((Hugs)))) You, my friend, are one of a very small group of mothers that I look up to most. The thought that goes into your parenting is unlike anyone else I know. Your comments break my heart.

    When your kids are grown they will have happy memories of childhood; they will remember that it was okay to make a mess and feel comfortable in their own home. They will have, hardwired into their souls, the love and compassion that you have taught them and they will pass that on to their own children.

    There is no perfect parent. But what makes the best parent is the ability to recognize one’s own weaknesses and continuously work on them. EVERYONE loses their temper, it doesn’t make you a failure. That it bothers you it just proof of what a wonderful person you are. Just don’t let it bother you too much. 😉

    I think that the idea that we can have perfect houses and happy children is a complete fallacy. I for one would rather have happy children.

    What do you feel like you need in order to have a balance? What do you think you need in order for it to feel right?

    xoxo

  13. Alexandra

    Ms. Barbara H! The key to success is to develop your own standards. Seriously. The conventional view of success is totally mired (like stuck, not moveable) in the world of comparisons. So are standards, too. A standard is always a “compared to what?” phenomenon.

    I invite you to live from your values and principles, not your standards and ideals. Which you inherited anyways. And which are completely made up, to boot! What would life look like then? What would the end of each of your days be like, then?

  14. Megan

    Hi! Yes, I think you are right that being a mom does open doors to new things. Maybe I am just getting to that point where my kids need me a teeny-bit less and I need to open a door to something of my own. Hmm…. flexible and fulfilling with pay.

  15. mamacrow

    This pretty much incapsulated why I rejected the feminist movement, and refuse to identify myself as a feminist.

    Because it has become to be something specific, which has nothing to do with what was orginally (and dictionary defined to be) about.

    It’s largely about being better than men, men are naturally evil, society is male dominated, and women should not marry or have children – or CERTAINLY not raise them themselves – but be working in business or academic related high flying jobs. This shouldn’t be what it’s about, but high profile feminists and feminist litrarture seems to carry this message very often.

    Feminism SHOULD be about choices – that women should have free choice. that means FREE CHOICE.

    That means the choice to have a career, rather than be a SAHM.

    That ALSO means the choice to be a SAHM rather than have a career.

    I’m married, will be celebrating our 10th wedding aniversary this year in fact, and we have five children, I’m pregnant with number 6. The last few years has seen us able to swap – now i’m the one at home, and he’s working full time – and we home school.

    These were MY choices and I am pleased to be in a society and a relationship where my choices are supported and respected. Well, in a relationship where that happens anyway!

    In the end, I decided that I wanted free choice and equality for EVERYONE, men and women. That’s what I want for my sons, and my daughter.

    And a final random rant – yes I have pink in the house. Why the heck not?! Why shouldn’t she chose pink if she wants?! Grrr!

    (sorry,it’s a soap box of mine)

  16. Jessica

    I have my M.Ed. and people often ask me, “Will you teach when Ben gets older?” Yes…because I plan to homeschool him. I really have no desire to teach in public school–despite my certification & my graduate degree. I do desire to be a mom. A full-time mom.

    I love your post.

    Earthworms unite!

  17. familynature

    @mamacrow: “Because it has become to be something specific, which has nothing to do with what was orginally (and dictionary defined to be) about.” Well said! Thanks for writing.

    @Jessica: Awesome! I have so much respect for those who homeschool.

  18. Loukia

    Great post and great blog. Being a mom is the best job in the world, and also the most challenging and rewarding. It’s a real job – more real then most 9 to 5 jobs out there, and if I could, I’d stay home with my children, too! Or work part-time.

  19. Emily Jones

    Great post! I have a university degree, I speak three languages fluently, and can read in two others, I play piano, was a classically-trained opera singer in college, cook a mighty fine meal, and am an avid sports fan. Being a SAHM neither defines nor diminishes any of those things about me. And my kids won’t be little forever. Why is it any less noble to set aside my personal goals for a short time to raise a family and keep a house? (And FWIW, in today’s world, you don’t even have to set aside your personal goals. You can work, travel, do almost anything you want with kids. The only thing that limits you is your imagination and creativity.)

    BarbaraH – First of all, the only standards that exist are the ones you create for yourself. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself to anyone else. If you and your family are happy at the end of the day, then you have succeeded. If you are not happy, then discover what you need to change to make it be that way. And as I mentioned above, there are many ways you can find to retain that part of yourself while still being a SAHM. Get creative! Are there local classes you can take? Online communities you can join? Can you get books from the library and learn a new craft? As for me, I took up blog writing, and became extremely active in online natural birth groups. I also became active in a local AP playgroup. I dabble in photography, I am active in church, and just recently took up running. You don’t have to feel bored, unchallenged, or hemmed-in, because the only person that is limiting you is you. Discover what you like, and find a way to get involved with that.

  20. TheFeministBreeder

    I can’t really relate. I never wanted kids (not until the moment I first heard my son cry for the first time – even through my pregnancy I fantasized about popping him out, leaving him with his dad, and sailing off to Mexico.) So, I’ll play devil’s advocate.

    I’m all about women choosing to lead the most fulfilling life they can for themselves, and if that means being happy being a mother without paycheck, then good for you! I don’t think anybody can fault you for doing what makes you happy.

    I think where we feminists get worried is – what would happen to you if you WEREN’T a wife? What happens when the kids are grown? What happens if your husband loses his income and/or can’t provide for you all anymore? This happiness seems purely situational.

    Now, I personally think that being a mom is a much harder job than any I’ve done for money. It’s even harder when you have to do both – career AND kids, especially if your work outside the house isn’t in a highly skilled profession and doesn’t pay much. And I don’t think that SAHMs are doing anything “meaningless” with their lives. Quite the contrary – I now believe that raising kids up right is the hardest, most respectable job out there.

    But I worry about anyone who has all their *ahem* eggs in one basket. I mean, lots of dads always knew that they wanted to be dads. Does that mean it’s a career? No. It’s kind of a comical thought when you think about it from that direction. Of course you want to be a dad… but you need to be a wage-earner too (most of the time.)

    But why isn’t it the same way for women? Many women get to choose between being a wage earner or being a mother. We’re allowed to be just one or the other. But Dads rarely get that choice. Why? Being a dad isn’t a career, I suppose — not even if they’re really, really good at it.

    So, I would just wonder, what happens when the babies are all raised up? How do you fill your time then? There has (for the sake of argument I’m using “has”) to be something else, beyond this role. Shouldn’t there?

  21. Emily Jones

    FeministBreeder: of course there’s more to life than raising children. That’s why I have a college degree. And women who did not attend or finish college can always go back after the kids get a little older. And maybe some women are happy continuing to be a housewife, keeping house and looking after their husbands. Some may take up volunteerism in their communities. Maybe some will write books, and some will take up hobbies, and still others will become more politically active. Some women may want to travel, and others may want to take lessons. There is also more to life than having a career.

  22. TheFeministBreeder

    I agree. Even those with a career should have something going on outside of it (other than children.) I don’t think anyone, man or woman, should have their happiness wrapped completely up in one thing that may or may not end at some point.

    I’m just responding to FamilyNature saying she doesn’t have any desire to be anything other than a mother. You don’t have to have a paying gig, necessarily, but something, anything else, would probably be a good idea. It’s about being well-rounded… which is the argument I think many feminists are making – the ones not being purposely vicious anyway.

    And it just makes us nervous when women don’t have something to fall back on. Sure, get a degree and don’t use it… just have it… just in case — and it has the nice added effect of setting an example for the kids. An education is really invaluable.

    I wish I had the opportunity to not use my expensive education. I don’t get the option to be a SAHM… but I would absolutely take it if I could. Please! Sign me up!!! I’d still be glad I had the education though! 😉 Just in case.

  23. familynature

    @TheFeministBreeder: Thank you for your comments and for another perspective.

    I never meant to give the impression that being a mother is, was, and always will be my *only* interest. I do have desires to be things other than a mother. For example, I have my Real Estate License. (Okay, I am officially not licensed right now because there is no maternity leave from being a Realtor. You either pay your fees and you’re a Realtor, or you don’t and you’re not. So I’m not, but I could be very easily be reinstated if that was what I wanted to be doing right now.) I have a partially finished University degree in Anthropology which I intend to finish one day. I love to bake, sew, knit, make preserves and write (none of which I really expect to ever make me money, but the crafts sure do make great and inexpensive Christmas gifts!). I also have other marketable skills that could land me some sort of job if the need arose. So I do think that I am well-rounded.

    In an ideal world everyone would have a degree in something. The truth is the fact that I don’t have a degree has less to do with the fact that I’m a SAHM and more to do with other things that are too personal and complicated to get into here. It is true that I didn’t want to “be” anything but a mum. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to go to University. Maybe one day I’ll write a post about how I honestly and truly believed that I was not smart enough to go to University. There were reasons and circumstances that led me to that belief that were in no way related to my desire to be a mum. I suspect many SAHMs who do not have a College or University education have various different reasons for it, many of which certainly are reasons other than their desires to become mothers.

    The so called “feminists” that I speak of never bothered to ask the questions that have been asked here; some just equate being a SAHM to being weak, simple and not in control of one’s own destiny.

    But even if a woman has nothing to fall back on, no education, no back-up plan for all the “what ifs”, and aside from being a mother no desire for anything, ever, I think we still have to accept that that is her choice. We might not agree with that choice. We might never make that choice for ourselves. But I believe that we should try to accept these decisions as another woman’s choice.

  24. Mon

    Hi there. I stumbled across your blog.

    I always say – feminism, the whole movement, was about having choice. These anti-mothering feminists have missed the point entirely. They have only one flavour of womanhood and that’s exactly what we had BEFORE feminism.

    Love the eathworm analogy.

    And I must try that chocolate bread from the other post, yum!

  25. TheFeministBreeder

    Fair enough. Let me just ask you a question though simply for the sake of dialogue. What would you think – and I’m talking your honest-to-god knee jerk reaction – if you heard a man say “I always wanted to be a dad and that’s it,” meaning he just expected to marry a women who’d support him??? Or better yet, would you expect other men not to say to him “Yeah, but what do you want to DO?” I ask this because I think that it’s sexist to expect something different from men than we expect from women – especially if we want to be equal. For some reason it’s just not okay for a man to say that his “plan” is to marry someone who will support him. Though, in a completely equal society, there really shouldn’t be anything wrong with that.

    I’m on a very hypocritial plane with this though, which is why this is so interesting to me. I make a lot more than my husband (which is why I don’t get to be a SAHM) – I have far more income potential than he does (I’m going to be a Lawyer, he’s going to be a teacher) so I’ll never, ever get to be a SAHM – and as a feminist this should be okay with me. But it’s NOT! I hate it! It honestly really reallllly pisses me off! It seems no matter how amazing a father and husband my DH is, the fact that he can’t support me just irritates me to no end.

    So perhaps some of the feminists who are saying the mean things are just jealous? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Cause here’s the thing…. I don’t think the feminists of the last generation realized that GETTING to do it all meant HAVING to do it all. I HAVE to be a mom now and I HAVE to go to work and I HAVE to go to school. Where’s my “choice?”

    Eh, maybe I’d have had a “choice” if I’d married a man with a little more money. Shortsighted on my part, I know. 🙂

  26. Emily Jones

    I married a man with no money. He’s studying to be a teacher, and still has a couple of years to go, while working management in fast food. I already got my degree 9 years ago, but I told him when we first got married, as soon as I have babies, I’m staying home. I spent 10 years prior to meeting him as a single parent and missed getting to raise my own child, and see her grow up, and I didn’t care what it took to stay home with my next ones.

    So right now I’m a SAHM with 3 x the earning potential of my husband, but I stay at home because we both define my value as a mother as the raising of children and maintaining the home. (Not that that value is true for all families, it just is for us.) He works nights and goes to school during the day, and we make it on $28k/year for a family of 5. We have one car, live in a tiny apartment, and just get by on what we have. And we are very happy!

    You always have a choice. You may have to give some things up if staying at home is what you want, but if you want something bad enough, you may be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.

  27. TheFeministBreeder

    (@emily – for some reason I don’t see a Reply button on your post.)

    So — without getting into the realllly long version of why I work 2 jobs and go to school and have two kids and basically am in a position I didn’t want to be in (that’s a loooooong story) – suffice to say that it was never supposed to be like this. DH and I had always planned for me to the the SAHM (while the kids were small.) Then a bunch of things happened that landed us in the opposite position of where we “planned.” We make about 3 time more than your family, have only one car, 1 less kid, live in a tiny house, and are living paycheck to paycheck every week. We do cloth diapering among other cheap/natural things, we NEVER go out, and we’re still barely making it. I know it seems crazy(!) that we could make that much more and still be so poor, but #1, we’re in more debt than we make in a year (mostly from losing our shirts on our house that we sold, through shortsale) and #2, we live in Chicagoland which is such a terribly expensive place to be, but we can’t move because our jobs and family are here. We HATE living someplace that has such an outrageous cost of living (our sales tax is 10.25% – highest in the entire country) but there’s no way we could afford to move away from here with no job prospects and without a family safety net. My MIL taking care of the boys is the only thing keeping us afloat right now.

    If we could take our salaries to just about any other place in this country – minus our insane debt – we’d be living high on the hog. But in our current situation, if we lost my salary we’d be homeless.

    Though I WELCOME anyone who can figure out how my family could survive, with the debt we have and in the area we live in, on just my DH’s salary ($35K) without ending up on food stamps or having to file bankruptcy. Seriously! Help!

  28. Capital Mom

    I used to be one of those feminists that thought that a SAHM was a step back for women’s rights. In my defence, I was a teenager. Teenagers are always self-rigthious in some way. I thought women should be taking advantage of the ability to work outside the home since it had been so hard fought for. Then I realized that feminism involves equality between women and allowing all women to make choices that are best for them.

    Love the post.

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