A Male Matters note: Shannon Drury, recently voted MN NOW Feminist of the Year, is a self-described radical housewife. Here’s how even a politicized feminist helps create the very gender wage gap which she herself no doubt angrily condemns: “At one post-college job I hated slightly less than the others (selling CDs at Cheapo), I met my husband-to-be. Among his many charms, he thought my writing was great. He believed that I had important things to say, and he wanted me to say them. Instead, I got pregnant. Why? Because I felt like I needed a reason to abandon working for pay. I lacked the courage to tell people I was staying home to write a book. My blue-collar roots considered such a thing frivolous to the extreme; I felt I had to prove my utility. I needed a tether to hold me at home, to make being at home OK. And what was more socially acceptable than at-home motherhood?” In other words, did she lie to her husband about using birth control? If so, she forcibly put him into a position of having to earn more than if he’d remained single. Which is an example of how MEN, often against their will, contribute to the wage gap. [Emphasis by Male Matters]
By Shannon Drury | Women’sPress | December 20, 2010
I admit it: I’ve always been a rotten paid employee. Phony pleasantries and water-cooler chat, Loverboy’s awful FM staple “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend,” the existential angst of feeling that someone else owns your time-not for me.
My parents knew this and berated me mercilessly for my nonexistent work ethic. How was this possible? My dad had started working for his family’s garbage company in high school, moving up the ladder from truck to office. He paid his own way in life since he was 18, with nothing but a strong back and determined attitude. I inherited neither.
Instead, I had books. Unlike either of my parents, who would have dropped out had they not been under the roofs of authoritarian fathers, I liked school. I charmed the pants off my teachers and gained entry to Carleton College, where everything changed. Carleton’s culture demanded complete academic devotion. With the sudden death of a student during my sophomore year, whispered to have been caused by the No-Doz she thought would keep her sharp for her midterms, I started to wonder if this school thing was for me, after all.
During my senior year, my faculty adviser took a look at my lackluster grades and asked me about my post-graduation plans. He mentioned graduate school and/or teaching. Both sounded just awful.
In truth, my goal in life had been the same since childhood: I wanted to write. Since I was very young I scribbled in notebooks and tapped at the rusty typewriters my father rescued from the trash. To me, writing wasn’t work, it was life. But my endless string of boring jobs left me too tired to do much but scribble in my journal about how much I hated working, leaving me too flummoxed to tackle a novel. I was stumped.
At one post-college job I hated slightly less than the others (selling CDs at Cheapo), I met my husband-to-be. Among his many charms, he thought my writing was great. He believed that I had important things to say, and he wanted me to say them.
Instead, I got pregnant.
Why? Because I felt like I needed a reason to abandon working for pay. I lacked the courage to tell people I was staying home to write a book. My blue-collar roots considered such a thing frivolous to the extreme; I felt I had to prove my utility. I needed a tether to hold me at home, to make being at home OK. And what was more socially acceptable than at-home motherhood? I wanted to be a mom anyway, so why not start early? I set up my computer and a copy of “The Artist’s Way” next to my baby’s crib and naively waited for inspiration to strike.
Before I knew it, I was up to my elbows in work that was as physically demanding and smelly as my dad’s old garbage route, and worst of all, did not fit into a neat and predictable routine. Many an afternoon I would wail, “You have to take a nap, Elliott! Even coal miners get lunch breaks!” I worked without sleep, I worked over holidays, I worked when I was too sick to stand up. I worked.
“You’re good at this,” my husband noted one night, as I changed Elliott’s diaper with one hand while building a Lego tower for his amusement with another. I suspected Matt was trying to cheer me up, as I was still in my pajamas at dinnertime — a sure sign of a terrible day. But he meant it.
One naptime later, I soothed Elliott by singing the song “Beautiful Boy” in his tiny ear:
♪ Before you cross the street, hold my hand ♪
♪ Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans ♪
John Lennon wrote this lullaby for his son Sean long after he’d excelled in his primary vocation. When I sang it to my fussy baby, it was just part of my job as Elliott’s at-home caregiver, a position I never dreamed could be so maddening, so rewarding, nor something that I actually loved to do. My life’s work happened without me realizing it.
I still write. I daresay my writing has improved since I became a parent, for I possess the focus and clarity that eluded me for so long. Neither of these can be taught in a classroom, or absorbed from a book; they can only be honed through hard work.
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