Coming out as a feminist mamma

Lyla Cicero, who blogs at Undercover in the Suburbs, has nailed how I feel as a feminist mother living in Italy in this post at Offbeat Mama (which I found thanks to No Direct Flights). 

I desperately want to be accepted by my peers. After all, this mothering thing is hard, and I am going to need them. Then again, am I really even there if I just hide out at playgroups, nod and pass, not only as straight, but as June Cleaver? And the truth is husband-bashing isn’t the kind of support that I need anyway. What about adult stimulation? What about moms who can talk politics, who are activists? What about discussing how the hell we are going to give our kids the space to explore flexible gender identities and orientations toward love and sex while media and culture steer them onto narrow, limiting paths? What about the massive, profound transition that is becoming a mother? Let’s talk about the guilt, the ecstasy, the terror, trying to find balance, trying to hold on to ourselves! Some moms I’ve met seem so burdened with the lion’s share of childcare that they’ve had to lose the rest of themselves to manage it. Is this the culturally-accepted ideal of motherhood?  No selves allowed?

It sure seems like it here in Italy. Fortunately I have a lot of progressive (foreign)women friends with whom I can commiserate, though fewer self-professed feminists than I’d like, let alone Italian feminist mothers. Ci siete? Mi piacerebbe tanto conoscervi.

I especially relate to these thoughts:

Why are moms so hesitant to view their male partners as full, competent parents? Is it just that hard to picture? I don’t think so. I think it’s because deep down there is a part of us that believes if we demand equal parenting, if we demand holding onto ourselves — as our husbands do when children come into the picture — then we are not good mothers.

I can understand this fear. When I really sit and think about it, I have it, too. When I work, when I take time to write, when I keep up with friends, go out with other adults, and spend time fantasizing about things I’m passionate about, there is always this little nagging feeling that a “good mom” would have let go of these things.

Particularly when I compare myself to the mothers I interact with on a daily basis– women who’ve become my relatives through marriage–and I see how rarely they go out with girlfriends or dedicate time to their inner lives, how they never seem bothered by how little domestic work or childcare the men in their lives do, I can’t help but feel twinges of self-doubt. Am I a selfish mother? Do I care enough about my child? It seems so preposterous to me on the surface to even question such things, but being surrounded by models of selfless motherhood has this kind of insidious effect.

I also share Cicero’s envy of her husband’s apparent lack of guilt:

I’ve held onto my egalitarian marriage and my sense of self, but I haven’t managed to not beat myself up about it. So my husband has all the parenting skills and responsibility I do, but I still look at him and he seems unburdened, free of the guilt and self-doubt that plagues me. But no more: if he can be a full person and also believe he is a good parent, I can be out and proud as an egalitarian mother.

I’m with you, sister!