on women’s work

The weather could not have been more beautiful yesterday.

I cannot even describe the wonder, the pleasure, the miracle of a breath.

I watched the campers and kids from my left eye’s corner, and from the dryness of the dock, read a book in the heat.  I regretted not bringing my sunglasses down.  They keep me from having to squint in the sun.  The light is too strong for my eyes to hold steady

anymore when the sun and the water are near.

From far away it’s not so bad.

But this isn’t the post I sat down to write. Today is nice, too, but house chores and errands have kept me inside more.  For quiet time I sent the little boys to their rooms.  Everyone needed to be on their beds where they could read, rest, or look at a book. It dawned on me that I, too, needed to stop, to allow myself that quiet time I forget about in summer.  I opened up a library book called Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home.

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It’s been a great read, one I can’t put down.

Megan K. Stack quit her job to work at home, but was not prepared for how much work it would be.  As an American woman living in China, she hired household help following the birth of her son.   The young Chinese woman cooked, cleaned, and watched the American woman’s baby.  The mother fed the baby and did her best to keep working. When her second baby was born, another foreign woman was added to the household.

I laughed out loud at the end of this paragraph–

Only after giving birth did I internalize the reality of having quit my job. I’d slaved and slashed and elbowed to maintain that job, but in the end I’d let it go like a balloon, rolling in my mouth the rare flavor of a bold gamble. Retirement it was not. I was pregnant and I was quitting, but in my mind it was the opposite of ‘opting out’. The time to finish my second book was coinciding with the arrival of a baby. I imagined long, silent afternoons in spotless rooms, typing clean lines of prose while the baby napped beatifically in a sunbeam (Stack, p. 36).

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It’s not all fun and games, however.  There is the deep and personal systemic shock that happens when a woman’s life is changed by a child. Stack also wrestles with the tension of being a self-proclaimed feminist, while realizing her privilege and ability to work depended on the work of these cheaper, poorer women.  Wanting to box them up with the sterile label of “employee”, these women did not fit neatly into a box. They had flaws. They had families.  They had duties, hearts, and needs, but I’m only half-way done so far.

So far I’d recommend the book.

 

 

 

 

 

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