Our trusty Merriam-Webster Dictonary defines "purpose" as:
a: something set up as an object or end to be attained: intention
Even a cursory look at the backlog of previous blog entries on this site will show that I've spent a lot of time, for a long time, writing about my purpose. A more incisive look will reveal that I've spent a good deal of time complaining about my feelings of purposelessness through the filter of analyses, studies and published reports, precisely as they pertain to working motherhood.
Of course, it hasn't been and is not the case that I don't truly care about the battles mothers who work outside the home wage each day; it has been, however, that the inequities, encumbrances and obstacles faced by women in this situation have monopolized my mind, to some extent, because this very condition is what has hindered the achievement of purpose for me.
I knew it was all coming to a head when I wrote a poem titled "Where Did the Time Go?" about a woman who was trying to remember what had been going on in her life for, say, the past 12 years. And memories of workplace meetings and artificial, robotic greetings by the community coffee pot pervaded her mind. When the woman in the poem realizes what's been lost - and at what cost - she ultimately wonders if it's too late to change anything in any sort of effectual way.
Of course, all sorts of cultural cues will let us know that black women dare not think in this vein. Hell, if our grandmomma and great-grandmomma did this, then it must be okay! (Insert sarcasm.)
I feel like I've been an online bot for years now, spidering and crawling my way around life in two primary spheres: work and home. Just like bots simulate human activity, I now realize I've been giving off the impression that this soul-sucking duality is okay. In fact, with all I've accomplished, it appears to have been expedient. In reality, it's been injurious in a host of ways.
- Would you believe that for the past nine years, I've been promising myself I'd escape to a local coffee shop, buckle down and spend an afternoon writing or reading?
- Can you believe that even if you live near relatives, getting a baby sitter you trust is damn near impossible, and your personal time with your husband is just as imbalanced as it would be if you lived 500 miles away? Plus, you've got too many meetings for lunch dates anyway.
- What would you do if you spent an extra hour or three a day, several days a week, on top of working 8-10 hours a day, just to keep your house looking like it doesn't belong on an episode of Hoarders?
- What do you think of, according to Salary.com, that the administrative blocking and tackling work that most working moms do (clean, cook and counsel, among them) would add more than $85,000 to her current annual salary?
- How do you respond when something deep inside you feels that something fundamentally plain is totally wrong and lop-sided?
- Have you realized that according to the Pew Research Center, only 37 percent of working mothers would prefer to actually work full-time?
- And, finally, what do you do when you try to navigate the waters as best you can, take a deep breath, and actually present a feasible alternative, on a trial basis, to your place of employment - only to have it rejected by Baby Boomers with stay-at-home wives?
The net effect of this lifestyle is that it isn't much of one. Instead, I'll call it a tightstyle. Why? Because the chokehold of its grip intensifies throughout the day, over the course of weeks, months and years until . . . some women just can't do it anymore.
Take for example the lady who started Working Moms Break, a blog for mothers who "do it all but wonder why they should." She damn near had a nervous breakdown before her husband got the message. Then there's been the highly publicized story about the D.C. lawyer penning a detailed and entertaining memo before departing for more sane and tranquil pastures. There's also MommyFriend, who let it all go after feeling a way that's very familiar to me. And conversations about this would be remiss without a mention of Mocha Moms, the organization for mothers who've left full-time employment for more meaningful modes of living.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't alone a complaint about working or needing to work or wanting to generate income or even liking the professional world of agendas, meetings and sensible 2.5-inch pumps. It's not about longing for the days of my daughters' infancy or pining for periods of early maternity I will never be able to recapture or rekindle.It's not about staying home baking apple pies from scratch or knitting scarves for the Little Ladies instead of heading to Target to buy them instead.
It's that this incredibly normal American tightstyle is fundamentally skewed, unhealthy and ridiculous. I don't like this New Normal. And our workplaces aren't helping much, either. And governmental policies and laws leave much to be desired.
So, I've reached the point where I am willing to make reasonable sacrifices - ones I've been heretofore unwilling to make - so that I can breathe and that we all can live a little better. In coming blogs, I'll share with you some of the salient facts and figures that have made it all the more clear.