I wrote a blog post a couple months ago titled “The Curse of Eve.” In it I wrestle with my struggle of being a creative woman with ambition while trying to be a good mother and yet feeling totally torn between my evolutionary biology and feminist worldview.
But I think I solved the problem guys. Here’s what we’ve been missing:
Western society is completely individualized and isolates each separate nuclear family from the rest of larger society. We live in our own separate homes with separate kitchens, living rooms, cars, jobs, (everything!) etc. from our neighbors, friends, and families. Our interactions with anyone apart from this immediate family with whom we live must almost always be intentionally planned and happen infrequently. Even the weekly lunch date with a BFF or play date with another young mom is just that — brief, planned, scheduled, and only happens occasionally.
What this means is each single nuclear family (very often falling on the shoulders of the women of the household, which very often means the mom/wife) must be responsible for cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, errand running, and childcare for themselves. This alone is an incredible responsibility and requires more tasks than can be completed in a day’s time. Which means there is little time for play, discovery, creation, and desired work. Hence, the curse of Eve.
Buuuuuuut. What if we lived in community with one another? What if our neighbors weren’t just passersby on the road? What if our larger, extended families lived near enough that all of the tasks listed above were SHARED?? This would free up each individual immensely, because so many of these mundane yet important tasks would be shared by the larger community.
Think about our ancestors. Humans were never meant to live separately — we travelled in groups, hunted in groups, gathered in groups, celebrated in groups, cooked in groups, raised children in groups, lived in groups. Being a mother meant joining in a true sisterhood of your fellow mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, etc. — A true bond occurring automatically and effortlessly that united the force of womanhood and humanity as a whole. Being alone didn’t happen. Our very survival depended upon the wisdom and strength of community.
Communes exist today. But they are so sporadic that to create a culture of community from one so used to individuality seems impossible. But I felt a very brief interlude from my “curse.” When my parents came to visit, they helped us with our tea business and my mother, especially, helped tend to our toddler. Her consistent, free, yet joyfully given babysitting provided me the relief and space I had been longing for for months. My husband and I were able to go on a date. I was able to get a massage. The former the first time in weeks and weeks, the latter in years. And then.. I was able to think. Ponder. Wonder. CREATE!
Paying for childcare can offer a temporary solution to a mother’s (or father’s) angst. But it isn’t sustainable. Not only that, but whenever I leave my baby girl with another, I often feel like I’m missing out on her life for those few hours. But when she was with my mother, that feeling dissipated. I think it’s because I consider my mom a deep part of my inner-community. Despite our difficulties over the years, she is still my mother, and as such she is family. Family in this sense isn’t necessarily dependent upon DNA or even the nuclear family. It’s a manner of “those who will be in my life for a long time, who I consider to define who I have become in some way, and with whom it is very important to me to maintain positive, lasting relationship.”
My freedom from the curse involves surrounding myself with a group of people that truly feel as deeply invested in my life as I do theirs so that we can share the burdens of life as well as the joys. So we can watch each other’s children. Cook each other’s meals. Clean each other’s kitchens. Celebrate each other’s daily victories and ease one another’s daily struggles. Does this mean moving 1000 miles back home? Absolutely not. But I think it means making some sort of transition, possibly involving a move, to a place more conducive to community-building with those I would consider “family.”
Maybe it’s impossible in this society. But I want to do everything I can to make this a reality, if not just for me, for my future children. We aren’t meant to live alone.