I am Woman, Hear me Roar!

I am Woman, Hear me Roar!

My grandmother, Chana, was a 1950s housewife.

Her daughter, my mother, decided to follow a very different path. When my mom attended medical school in the 1960s, there were 10 male students for every female. My mom’s classmates taunted her and made crude jokes when she entered the classroom. But my mom was determined. She became a doctor in an era when that was beyond unusual- it was revolutionary.

“I am woman hear me roar!” my mom thought as she walked the hospital wards in her white doctor’s coat and a hard-earned doctor’s badge.

When I became a mom myself 13 years ago this week, and I adopted a lifestyle more similar to my housewife grandmother’s than to my liberated mother’s, the truth is that, at the beginning, I felt like a miserable, lousy loser.

While my college classmates girded their loins to crash through glass ceilings in law, medicine, academia, I was spending my days reading Goodnight Moon and scraping stubborn melted cheese off plates and struggling and failing to learn how to wash my floors Israeli-style.

I was living a 1950s life but seeing myself through 1990s eyes. It wasn’t so fun.

But then something interesting happened. Something wonderful, actually.

As my family grew, the outside world’s mocking and beckoning moved farther into the distance, from an insistent, badgering lecture to a whisper. And I began to feel more and more like in my new Jewish homebound life I had tracked down what I had been seeking my whole life. I had finally discovered that puzzle piece to fill the aching void that at the age of 19 had gnawed at me as I haunted the stacks of my college library and traveled to distant lands and went on long walks through the snowy Maine woods with tears freezing on my face as I contemplated the fear that if I died that moment, what difference would it really make anyway?

I looked around myself at the age of 30 and saw the family I love, the home I love, the country I love. I loved writing. I loved learning. I loved growing as a person and a Jew. I loved feeling Hashem’s presence within the confines of my four walls.

What could be better?

The funny thing is that for years, I thought that my decision to turn inward and homeward was a rejection of American values of career, status, money. I thought I was going against the flow.

So it was a wonderful shock to look at the New York Times yesterday and realize that my call for fulfillment through motherhood does not mean that I am some lone Times-Square-style proselytizing weirdo. In fact, it turns out, a whole generation of American women have taken a parallel journey to mine. And SAHMs and working moms alike have chosen to turn inward and homeward, just like me.

As Lisa Belkin, editor of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog (my absolute favorite blog), explained this week:

The women who faced down middle age in the 1970s responded by running away from home. “They got jobs, got their consciousness raised or got divorced”…

Their daughters, reaching their own midlife milestones right about now, are responding by running back home…not necessarily quitting their jobs (most can’t) but finding peace and value in things domestic. Turning inward, not outward. Taking up yoga, reading books about happiness, defining one’s place in the world in terms of home and family.

I am woman hear me roar!

Read Judith Warner’s excellent article Fear (Again) of Flying on turning inward and homeward here.

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  1. Thanks Jenny.

  2. I went to college in the late 70’s. I work in computers, and I have friends in America who are a dentist and a phychologist – while being mothers. Yes, it’s tough. We wanted to do it all – to be sensitive mothers while having the intellectual stimulation and the financial security of having our own career.
    I am so impressed by the younger generation who see their fulfillment by being mothers at home. Real Jewish feminism has won – women who are empowered by their feminine roles of being mothers and wives.

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