Rarely do I feel oppressed. But as a woman, it happens sometimes. Our culture is set up for it to happen. It’s why we need the feminist movement. We have to fight for equality. But sometimes I think about the ways I’ve given in and oppressed myself as a woman. As a stay at home parent I feel undervalued, but staying home was my choice. I do it with my partner’s approval, but it was my desire not his. I wanted to have a lovely home and well behaved children. I wanted a garden and a house of my own. I wanted to be Donna Reed.
What the hell was I thinking? I’m terrible at housework, and I’m just passable as a mother. I’m negligent, selfish, solipsistic. Somedays I feel like I deserve more, but that’s not true. School may have debunked the protestant work ethic as an ideology, but it is still pretty necessary for survival. I feel so foolish. I feel so incapable.
I went to college to get my degree in English. I wanted to be a professor. I had a great gpa. I got into grad school and did well for a year. Then everything fell apart. I began having severe anxiety. I became paranoid. I was afraid to teach or go to class. I was afraid alone or with people. I basically dropped out after my second year. I stayed enrolled so that I could keep my much needed health insurance, but I could not do the work. At first, I took the time to meet with each of my professors to explain my condition. They were sympathetic. But then it all seemed so meaningless. I couldn’t even read a book. What was the point of trying to salvage my education or my future? I left school without a degree and without taking a medical leave. One year later I was well enough to recognize my mistake. I submitted an application for readmittance along with a letter from my psychiatrist saying I wasn’t so crazy anymore. I was graciously given another chance.
My first semester back in school, I witnessed a classmate have a breakdown/outburst related to mental strain. It was disturbing. All of the work I had done to fight back my anxiety seemed to fly out the window. I stayed cool and calm in the moment. But I did not return to campus for the rest of the week. I instantly became afraid again. I was triggered and lost control. I became depressed again and once again dropped out. This second drop out basically ended my education. I have a year’s worth of failing grades on my transcript and no medical documentation of my condition at the time.
I chose to be a stay at home parent because I could not handle anything after my 4th depressive episode. I was able to care for my daughter but no job or school. I’ve mentioned that I talked to an admissions counselor at a local school about a grad program, but I was going to need proof of my mental condition at the time of my failing grades. I guess cutting scars aren’t specific enough; they’re not dated or signed by a medical professional. Sorry, that’s a little bitter. Some days I think I could work; some days I know I couldn’t. What a burden I am!
Some days I feel stuck. I want to do or be more but I can’t. My mental illness makes me unbalanced and unreliable. My daughter’s condition makes me unavailable for standard hours. What the hell? I chose this but did I have any other choice? I can write, but that doesn’t feed my family or pay my bills. It doesn’t wash my dishes or clean my clothes. But it’s all I want to do. Just this.
This started out about patriarchy. It’s so deeply ingrained in our culture that we do it to ourselves sometimes. But that isn’t really what this is about. It’s about not feeling valuable. I don’t feel like my contributions are enough. I know that many of you will tell me I’m wrong, but systemically, what backs you up? Systemically I am getting exactly what I deserve. I don’t believe that you can always start over. Some burned bridges can’t be rebuilt.
This weekend is the Women’s Strike. I will be participating 75% of the time. Except I have nothing to strike from. I won’t do housework, but that’s typical. I can’t stop my work as a pancreas without a replacement. I’ll probably still write because it makes me feel good. I signed up but I just feel less than. I don’t know where I fit in.
Bleh. Don’t listen to me, ladies. Your value is not determined by men or by me. It doesn’t matter if you work or not. You deserve respect. You deserve it from men and you deserve it from yourself. On paper I’m just a lousy worker in every area. But I’m not worthless. I’m a person not a commodity. You’re valuable because you exist. Don’t let anyone tell you different.