Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Tension of Adjustment

Last weekend I experienced something profound… something I was not expecting, something that totally overwhelmed me and left me feeling both very appreciative, but also left me with a lot of questions.

I couldn’t tell you how many movies I’ve cried in… there are too many to count, I could probably think of a few that have left me in tears… usually sad tears that come out fear of shared experience or potential futures… but until last week, I don’t think I could have told you about a movie that left me uncontrollably sobbing in appreciation… it’s just never happened… not joyful, heartfelt appreciation.  But that’s what happened, and jeepers were the ugly tears… now there was probably a lot of contributing factors… I’ve been tired, Isaac has been a bit under the weather, we are adjusting to a new season of life in the George household and there are a lot of emotions around… just under the surface waiting for their chance to show… but I think these tears were that and more… the more being a true and deep appreciation of what those who have gone before me have really sacrificed and fought for so that I can whinge about it now in my 2019 reality.

So what did I see? I hear you screaming… Dave and I saw ‘On the Basis of Sex’ a movie about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Who it turns out is a hero of mine… She is a woman who has spent her whole life standing up for herself and later the women of America.  She is a woman who despite being constantly told, she can’t, she shouldn’t, and she is unwelcome preserved and persisted.  A woman who knew her worth and that women in general were more capable than the lives they were encouraged and pigeoned holed into leading.  It is thanks to her that discrimination on the basis of sex is no longer just accepted in American law… and in many way, thanks to women like her that I can do all of the things that I do, have the jobs that I have and expectations on my life that I do.  It’s because of women like her (and many many others) that I can expect to co-parent and share the workload of my house, that I can work and not feel guilty about not being the full time carer for our son.

It’s no secret that I like to think of myself as an advocate for womens rights.  I would like to think that I actually do advocate… not just think about it.  But increasingly in my life I have found myself standing up against the female stereotype, that despite our modern age, continues to persist.  However, even though I would like to think of myself as progressive, I often catch myself longing for what many refer to as a ‘simpler time’ when all I was expected to do was stay at home and keep both the house and the children under control. A time where I would have known my role… to marry well and be satisfied… where my choices were limited.  But I know that for me this wouldn’t have been enough.  I am a terrible decision maker, but I like having options… I like that I get to choose whether or not that is the life that I want.  Now don’t hear me saying that being a stay at home mum isn’t a job… because it is more than a job… or that it is a bad choice, because it isn’t.  It’s only a bad choice when it’s your only choice… especially if that choice is just assumed and not actually chosen by you.  I know that I have more to offer than to be seen and not heard… and that I would never have been able to conform the way I would have been expected to had the ’1950s housewife’ expectation remained.

In watching ‘On the Basis of Sex’ I felt like I was able to get a glimpse into what it must have been like for so many women that have paved the way for me.  I often feel like I am still fighting the proverbial white man in many areas of my life, but let me tell you my fight is nothing in comparison to the fights that have gone before.  The overwhelming appreciation I have for Ruth and her counterparts I very hard to put in to words.  However, the movie also left me wondering… why hadn’t I known her story before this… who else should I know about, why don’t I have more female heroes in my life… where can I learn their stories… because there must be so so so many more.

This season we are in at the moment is hard… it’s not our hardest season, and it has not been made difficult by one particular thing, it’s just a season of adjustment.  Adjusting to new jobs and increased working hours for Dave, adjusting to picking up more days of my own work and returning to pre-baby work as well.  Adjusting to not being around Isaac all day everyday and learning how to deal with childcare… saying goodbye, organising drop offs and pick ups and allowing him and I to rest (me occasionally while he is at childcare and him after childcare because playing all day is very hard work).  Finding balance with work, money, fun, family and all the things that make up life.  Finding the balance between wanting to be everything for everyone and knowing that I can’t.  But these choices and these battles are also a privilege… these are choices that many women didn’t and still don’t have.  And why balancing all these options has been something I have really struggled with especially since becoming a mum, I have to remind myself how blessed I am to live in a time where I can do what I want to do, where my husband expects to play a role in our household and parenting which is more than just occasional dinner guest and sole provider.  And that my privilege still outweighs that of many people I encounter daily.  Nevertheless, there is still a tension here.  There is a tension between reality and expectations, tension between what was, and what is… and tension between what can be and what I want.  It’s the reality often seen in a good old Facebook quote… “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything” which is very true but hard to remember all of the time, and not always fun to live.  There has to be sacrifices eventually, but sacrificing time with Isaac to work doesn’t make me a bad mum, nor does sacrificing work to look after Isaac make me a bad feminist.  It’s all just about finding balance.

So my challenge in this season is to seek out some more information and wisdom from those women who have gone before me and those that are still around me, who have made this thing called motherhood work… to learn more about women like Ruth… because seriously what a boss!  But also to cut myself some slack… to be ok with the tension and growing pains of adjustment.  To be ok with feeling both happy and sad that Isaac is at childcare.  To embrace my ‘me’ time when I can so that I can be a better mum to him and a better person in general.

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