Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Doctrine of Separate Spheres

Doctrine of separate spheres is an old common law principle that wives are limited to the personal or domestic sphere and that husbands had control of the public sphere. According to this early-19th-century doctrine, the woman’s place is in the home, and the man’s place is in the workforce earning money for the household and providing for his family.

I am two women.  Lately, these women have been at direct odds with one another, and the ensuing battle is leaving me ragged and tired and a little broken.  I think you would be very interested in reading about these two women (really, you's okay to admit it), so I will tell you their life stories:

Woman One has four beautiful children.  She stays home with them.  She cooks their meals and does their laundry (Wait, did I say four children?  She has five, if when referring to cooking and laundry, you include her husband).  She is a member of the PTA.  Her kids are involved in activities to which she drives them.  She takes her children to church, and while there, teaches Sunday School to other people's children.  Woman One is a Mom.  A big, giant Mom.  Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.  All day long.  Mom.

Woman Two graduated Summa Cum Laude (that means 4.0, if you are keeping track) from a nice university with a major in Religious Studies, a minor in Social Science and an academic focus on Spiritual Development.  She is funky and weird and has tattoos and spiky hair.  She knows that God is calling her to some pretty cool stuff right now, and she is excited about doing it.  She reads a lot, and considers herself to be fairly cerebral.  As of now, Woman Two desperately misses school and the opportunity to be really immersed in higher level learning about that which she is passionate.  Woman Two is ready to take on the next phase of life, ready and willing to do the things God is calling her to do... And she thinks she could be really good at them.


Put those two women in a boxing ring, and you have me.  I am a woman with a degree in religion teaching Jesus to two-year-olds. 

The issue at hand is stated above.  I have instituted in my own life the Doctrine of Separate Spheres.  At some point, I completely eradicated the hope that I could be both of these women.  Instead, I swing, in giant pendulum style, between the two.  The mom part of me is all mom, and she stays home and takes care of babies and is (really) quite precious. The other part of me is pretty hardcore and passionate about things, and frankly, a lot smarter than Mom Me.  Let me give examples of my life right now:

  • Woman Two is reading a book on Old Testament Theology, she is interrupted by Woman One, who needs to read Mr. Brown Can Moo for the 700th time today to a screaming toddler.
  • Woman One is at church and Woman Two comes out and volunteers for something because she wants to be useful and engaged.  People tell Woman One that she "already has her hands full" and thus Woman Two is disregarded.
  • Woman Two offers up some solid thoughts on something, and people raise an eyebrow because what does Woman One really know about things.  This may, or may not, be accompanied by a smile of condescension.
  • Woman Two cannot attend anything of consequence, volunteer for anything of consequence or serve in any capacity unless Woman One can find a babysitter.
  • Woman Two is frequently judged by proxy as people somehow assume Woman One is a teenage mom because she looks like Woman Two.
  • People treat Woman One like some sort of invalid and/or martyr for choosing to to have a lot of kids which, in turn, makes both women feel marginalized.
  • Woman Two tries to Blog about religion and faith.  Woman One tries to Blog about motherhood.  Subsequently, blog's dashboard is filled with partially completed blogs about both...and neither.
  • Woman Two tries to explain the concept of the Trinity to Woman One's Children.
  • Woman Two argues with Woman One's six-year-old when she says David wrote all the Psalms.

Now, I would like to point out that I do not, in any way, resent motherhood.  I chose motherhood, and I enthusiastically embrace my role in such.  However, I am not only a mother, and at some point, I think I have become pigeonholed.  I am as guilty of this as those around me.  As I said, I created a Doctrine of Separate Spheres within myself.  These two women live almost entirely independent of one another.  One is the man of the Victorian Era principle, and the other the woman, and I really need them to get married.  But I honestly don't know how.  This has been my struggle of late.  I'm engaged in an internal battle of epic proportions because I don't know how to make myself get married to myself.  I need to smash my spheres together into one big crazy sphere, where I can be a Mom who is smart, who is serving her family, and serving God (and please don't give me the "serving your family is serving God" line, because I know that and it really isn't what I mean, and you know what I mean, and shut up.).  I know my life is currently a gigantic lesson in patience and grace, but part of that grace is allowing myself the necessary room to be Woman Two as well as Woman One.  Maybe it is pride, but I want to be known as "that lady that's really great to go to about spiritual stuff" as well as "that lady with all the kids." 

So, I am now dedicating my energy to creating a Doctrine of Venn Diagram Spheres.  See, if my life were a Venn Diagram, I have info for each sphere, but nothing for the overlapping portion in the middle.  I propose to begin filling that space.  I just don't really know how.

Oh, by the way... I don't think men have this problem, but I would welcome commiseration if you do.