Working Mother: a tautology

Here is what you get when you google definitions of tautology on the web:

Definitions of tautology on the Web:

  • The repetition, in the definition, of information already provided by the term designating the concept. …
  • A formula is a tautology if and only if it is impossible that it is false. AND A formula is a tautology if and only if there no interpretation in which it is false (ie it is true in all interpretations). The negation of a tautology is a contradiction, and is inconsistent.
  • HARTMANN, RRK & STORK, FC (1972) Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. London: Applied Science Publishers.
  • (logic) a statement that is necessarily true; “the statement `he is brave or he is not brave’ is a tautology”
  • useless repetition; “to say that something is `adequate enough’ is a tautology”
  • In propositional logic, a tautology (from the Greek word ταυτολογία) is a propositional formula that is true under any possible valuation (also called a truth assignment or an interpretation) of its propositional variables. … (logic)
  • In rhetoric, a tautology is an unnecessary (and usually unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different words that effectively say the same thing twice (often originally from different languages). … (rhetoric)
  • redundant use of words; An expression that features tautology; A statement that is true for all values of its variables
  • repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence. *With malice toward none, with charity for all. …

I think working mother qualifies. I met someone at a conference the other day who was going back to work after being on maternity leave for a year. She was very conflicted about the whole thing-nervous about going back to work and not being able or willing to put in the extra time she did before she got pregnant and feeling like a part of her was being torn to shreds at the the thought of leaving her child for at least 8 hours a day five days a week (okay, I’m making up this last part- she didn’t actually tell me this. I just assumed. So sue me.) I then became Facebook friends with this person and began uncharacteristically to write this huge long ranting comment on her wall despite the fact that I hardly knew her. So here is my comment in the form of a blog entry. She can still read it if she wants, but I save myself the embarrassement of being the weird ranty stranger.

Although this is not the case for every mother, going back to work is hugely conflicting. It is like having two parts of you at war. In fact, I didn’t even go get my Masters until my kids were five and three. Before that I was not so happy stay-at-home mom.

I have to remember that fact that I was the closest to depression when my children were very young and I was at home with them. When I am feeling especially out of the loop in my children’s lives and I feel like somedays I can’t go to work because I am too busy (and seriously, it has happened a few times- where the at home stuff gets out of hand and I actually have to phone in sick just to catch up) that I was not happy being a stay-at-home mom. I attribute this to many factors:

1) My inability to leave. Somehow, I got to believe that I was indispensable and everything would fall apart if I went for coffee with my friends and left my husband alone with the kids. A myth I realise now, although it is true that at the toddler stage (of my children not my husband) J was only able to look after them, not clean up at the same time. So I always did end up paying for those moments I did manage to tear myself away.
2) The feeling of having someone wanting something from you 24/7. Seriously. I am not a touchy feely sort of person. After hours of just gnawing my nipple, I would want to raise the Berlin Wall of personal space bubbles around me, complete with barbed wire and machine gun turrets.
3)It is very isolating being a mother in today’s society. We are raised (or at least I was) to expect that I would be a contributing member of society. And for some wacky reason, motherhood never seemed to qualify, which is just stupid, but there it is. Being a mother is wonderful and meaningful of course, but it is also really, really boring at times. And I know I am not the only one that feels this way, because I have friends who also measure their worth outside their motherhood. Why do we do this to ourselves, by the way? People in offices have moments of drudgery…as a librarian I definitely have moments of drudgery, where I think I am more a file clerk than meaningful information provider. So why is motherhood different? Why is it lower on the scale?

But back to going back to work. Is it easier now that my kids are older? Yes and no. Yes, in the way that I am not physically needed in the form of a breast to feed them. Yes in the way that they basically take care of themselves. No in the way that I miss them so much my heart hurts almost all the time. No in the way that if anything goes wrong at school, I have no buffer zone. And when I mean go wrong at school, I am not talking about a sick day here or there. I have serious issues with the concept of school and if I wasn’t the head breadwinner in our family I would consider homeschooling. Last year we were close to taking our oldest daughter out of school when we saw that her confidence was dipping to an all time low. But then, where would the money come from?

I also know as the daughter of a hard working mother (some would say workaholic) I did not suffer. In fact, I have always loved the fact that my mother never used my sisters and I as an excuse not to follow any dream or ambition she had. She might not have been there all the time, but she was definitely present. She made sure we knew she loved us. And in turn, we respected her.

So there you go. Conclusion? Its complicated.

2 thoughts on “Working Mother: a tautology

  1. motherhood lower on the scale = The Media. But of course how lame to blame the media. Women do it to other women as well. Women reinforce stereotypes all the time. Hints of misogyny, women-style:Mothers are not supposed to express unhappiness or negative thoughts about motherhood. If they do, they are diagnosed with a mental disorder that is given a cute acronym (see also PMS/PMDD).Mothers are expected to enjoy mind-numbing tasks such as what you describe. If they do not, they are a Bad Mother/Bad Woman.There is also a language problem that mothers reinforce, subconsciously I’m sure, all the time: “Being a mother is wonderful and meaningful of course..” Of course? Really? Why “of course”? (Because it would make you look bad if you didn’t curb something negative with something really bright and cheery – women are trained to speak/act this way.) And you do go on to say it’s really really boring (what job isn’t at times?) but that negative statement always seems to be ‘softened’ by an ‘of course’ or ‘I love them to pieces’ etc. There are many mommybloggers who will go on and on and ON about how much they love Jr. Whatsis “but”… and then say something negative. It’s a weird, backhanded apology laced with misogyny. “I love my child BUT”“Motherhood is rewarding of course BUT” (implying that Of Course There Is No Way I Ever Regret Making Babies… But…..)And of course, now that I’ve babbled all of this out, let me express my own female-centered fear that I hope I haven’t felt that I’ve attacked YOU personally. I was struck by the “wonderful and meaningful of course but…”I think measuring your worth outside of motherhood is not such a bad thing. What about the woman who only truly defines herself as a mom, then once those kids are gone, she’s left with….herself. A mom but with no one around to mother. Then she risks driving her adult children completely batty with still telling them what to do.-yeah, you know who this is. Someone should take my damn computer away from me because I can’t keep my yawper shut.

  2. Personally, I have no problem discussing ideas which is what we are doing, as well as being called on the little BUTs that I make to soften the blow that sometimes motherhood is drudgery. Now if you called me a fat, stinking whore, I might take offense and be insulted. But feel free to criticise any ideas I might have. I’m woman enough to take it…As for measuring our worth, I guess my problem is not that we should also measure it outside of motherhood- after all, we are more than our parts (or so I would like to believe)- it is not including it in our self worth. Anything that has this much impact on who you are and what kind of example you decide to set for your children deserves a little more recognition in answering the Am I a productive human being question. That’s all.

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