Expectations: Meet Reality

balloon launch
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Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time helping two little guys launch a squeaking balloon down the staircase, with the happy effect that it squealed overhead and repeatedly smacked its little balloon head against the wall or ceiling before deflating and twisting earthward.

It would be pleasant to turn this into a metaphor, but I’m struggling.

There, no metaphor needed. I’m struggling. That’s it, plain and simple. I hesitate to spit it into word form, especially on a public forum, but there it is. A blog is a troublesome creation: it’s very much in the moment, and therefore can magnify the smallest ups and downs in a person’s life, and this here is a down. Right now I’m happy when I’m running, and that’s about it. But get that right now really is right now.

Suffice it to say that I’m tired after a second night up with a sick child. I’m irritable after another day home with my children, who are on holiday, but who can’t leave the house or have play dates due to the aforementioned sickness. It occurred to me today that the only thing a person can really accomplish while home with four children is cooking and housework — plus the vacuuming covered the noise of the periodic tantrums and steady stream of complaints. So the house is pretty clean. Which is something. But it’s not enough.

I would like to reflect on my impatient response to International Women’s Day, a day I usually respond to with honour and interest, solemnity, even pride. But this year, on this International Women’s day, all that welled in me was intense frustration. And I think my response is the key to unlocking exactly where I’m at right now, and why I’m struggling.

My expectations do not seem to be in line with reality.

I expect that girls and women will be treated as individuals, with the same opportunities as boys and men to pursue lives that are interesting and fulfilling. Every time I read another story about a horror perpetrated on a woman — because she’s a woman — my response is THIS CANNOT BE! Every time I read another statistic coldly demonstrating women’s under-representation in, well, you-name-it, most anything that has to do with power or cultural critique or leadership my response is HOW CAN THIS STILL BE? Every time I read some trumped up story on “The Mommy Wars,” or “Stay-at-Home Mothers v. Working Mothers,” or even hear myself referred to as “a full-time mother,” (what, exactly, is a part-time mother?), I want to shrug it off as mere noise, but instead I feel something akin to disbelief: WHY?

A few more WHYs.

WHY would any family rationally choose to have more than one or two children, understanding that childcare, particularly during the early years, will either cost one parent his or her career, or two working parents the better part of a decent salary? Let’s ask the politicians who a) have no interest in funding childcare and b) want Canadian families to produce more children FOR THE ECONOMY. (Surprise! They tend to be the same ones.)

WHY is Canada’s major news magazine running a photo, this week, of a woman shaving her face under the headline “Man Up,” suggesting that women should be more like men if they want to succeed in the workplace? WHY are we always being told to be someone we’re not? Which reminds me: WHY is success in the workplace our main measure of success? Further to that, WHY are good and moral choices so often couched in economic terms, as if that’s the only language that matters, the only real currency? I heard a news report, happened to be on International Women’s Day, in which an economist (who was a woman) explained that educating girls and women is a sure-fire way to increase the economic well-being of communities and nations. So let’s do it, people. Let’s do it FOR THE ECONOMY.

The peace of dogs
What I really really want

4 Comments

  1. I agree with every word of this(…except having a cleaner house when the kids are home. I haven’t hit that magic moment yet.)

    But I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired of the inequality and the measures of ‘success’. I seem to oscillate between rage and depression until I have to turn off/away from all news sources.

    I look at my kids and wonder what kind of world I’m giving them.

    Reply
    • My eldest daughter was reading a story about choosing the new Pope and she said, suddenly, “Hey, Mom, can only a man be Pope?” She was shocked. But she absorbed it. Of course, we see and notice the prejudice against women athletes every day in the newspaper, too, mostly by their absence.

      Reply
  2. Wouldn’t it be something if, aligning the breed-for-the-nation and boost-the-economy attitudes of our politicians, the government offered retraining/advancement opportunities for parents (of both sexes) who chose to stay home for a few years? Win-win!

    Of course, my MP is this flaming arsehole, so it seems some basic progress needs to happen first, sigh.

    Reply
    • What a sensible idea, Kate! I wonder how many of us, who have stayed home with our children, are now wondering how the hell to get ourselves back into the workforce with those “empty” years on our resumes. It’s panic-inducing. And somehow those years and that experience doesn’t count — worse, we’re supposed to hide or disguise them.

      Oh, I’m familiar with that MP. Mine, next door to yours, is not much better. I send him regular messages to keep him posted on my unhappiness with many of his government’s decisions, to which he replies with standard-issue, well, lies I would call them if I were being impolitic, propaganda if I wanted to be nice about it.

      Reply

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