I looked down at my belly and my bare feet and realized that at that moment I was indeed barefoot and pregnant and standing in the kitchen. I had to laugh at myself because this stereotype that has been used and overused is just impossibly easy to live into when you are eight months pregnant because I am always in the kitchen snacking.
But of course, that’s not the aspect of the saying that strong, independent women react to. It’s the implication that a woman’s role is to always be in the kitchen cooking and to reproduce. As I have pondered what it means to be a stepmother to two daughters, I have wondered whether it means that I teach that this expectation is wrong or if my role is to teach them to use their voice, so that they can make their own choice and to fight against those who try to take away their voice and choice.
I’d like to believe that when our daughters are grown, the economic situation in our country that forces women back to work only days after having children will have shifted, so that if they do choose to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, that will be a viable option, but there seems to be little shift in the conversation about maternity leave or in postpartum care for new moms.
Having lived in Germany and enjoyed the use of a bike that a teacher who was on her yearlong maternity leave wasn’t using, I wonder if we aren’t on our way to burning out women, families, and our country in the way that we continually compete against each other. Already I am flooded with articles and pictures of how to lose the baby weight and our baby hasn’t even made his appearance. Although I consider myself a rational, thinking person, there is no doubt that the more articles I am exposed to, the more I wonder if it’s something I should really be worrying about.
As our conversations and debates continue to be more derisive and our interactions with each other competitive-based, we are slowly running ourselves into the ground as Americans. We are becoming the worst versions of ourselves.
There has to be a better way to live with each other.