I’ve been thinking A LOT lately about the emancipation of women … where we went wrong, where we are continuing to go wrong, and whether or not we are truly “free.” And my experience postpartum this go around has sort of kind of really shown me that, um, no, I do not feel free.
I’m embarrassed to admit that. I’m a feminist. I’m a strong woman. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m still making way too many dinners, doing way too many dishes, feeling pressure to be prettier than I am, taking care of an infant, taking care of two other growing children with a bazillion after school activities, not getting enough sleep, feeling like a martyr, feeling invisible, being the default manager of the household, falling behind on my mental health self-care, AND working full time. But I am.
This is not anyone’s fault. This is not a diatribe on equal partnership or social inequality. That’s a whole other subject, of which I am not an expert and won’t even attempt to delve into. This is just a statement about the fact that HOLY CATWOMAN, I am feeling it. I am a modern woman willing to say that I have yet to figure out how to firmly establish my personhood and my freedom, while still also being a mom and working human. And I love both being a mom and a working human, so why then does my personhood and freedom have to be the part that gets scrapped?
I was reading a book of essays written in 1911 by Emma Goldman, a hero of mine, the other day, and came across this quote:
Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and clearer future. We are in need of unhampered growth out of old traditions and habits. The movement for woman’s emancipation has so far made but the first step in that direction. It is to be hoped that it will gather strength to make another. The right to vote, or equal civil rights, may be good demands, but true emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in woman’s soul. History tells us that every oppressed class gained true liberation from its masters through its own efforts. It is necessary that woman learn that lesson, that she realize that her freedom will reach as far as her power to achieve her freedom reaches. It is, therefore, far more important for her to begin with her inner regeneration, to cut loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions, and customs. The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved. Indeed, if partial emancipation is to become a complete and true emancipation of woman, it will have to do away with the ridiculous notion that to be loved, to be sweetheart and mother, is synonymous with being slave or subordinate. It will have to do away with the absurd notion of the dualism of the sexes, or that man and woman represent two antagonistic worlds.
This hit home. First off, I’ll make note of the fact that “reading” only happens once in a while and is only happening because I made a conscious (and annoying) decision to stop watching Jimmy Fallon clips when I feel the need for a three minute breather. So, don’t think I am evolved or classy here. Anyways, the reason this hits home is not only because, ahem, she wrote this in 1911, but also because I had never ever ever considered that healing my soul would be a necessary part of obtaining emancipation. Nor had I considered that perhaps the entire demographic of women in our communities are not feeling any better because we never took a hot minute to heal our wounds from layers and layers of oppression. We just reacted and justifiably grabbed whatever fragile thread of equality we could and used it to sew up our new, deserved safety nets. I understand why we did this. Oppression causes survivalism and a lack of trust. We, as a whole functioning group of society, simply did not trust that our equality would stay in tact (has it?) or that it wasn’t served up with a bunch of contingencies (hasn’t it?). So, we grabbed what we could and we ran with it.
And maybe we didn’t heal.
Look, don’t forget. I am not an expert. I know actually nothing at all. I’m just a fumbling momma writing too many words about things I think about late at night. And, so, when I considered this idea of healing, I got middle of the night courage and asked myself the desperately irritating question: What do you, Courtney, need to do to truly heal your soul, as a woman who has inherited generations of oppression and whose past involves concrete examples of subjugation?
And, no, I am not going to tell you that the answer is to get 8 hours of sleep. What a bunch of baloney to tell women that this a path to self-care (ok, it is), when it’s basically impossible most of the time in motherhood. I am going to say that the answer - for me - exists in letting go of overachieving in areas that just DO NOT MATTER TO MY WORTH and grabbing on to overachieving in areas that do. Let’s make a list:
DOES NOT MATTER:
This means that I am absolutely going to drop the damn rock when it comes to the weighted pressure I feel around anything that does not matter. And in the areas that do, I’m gonna fucking go for it. All my effort. I’m going to overachieve there and ONLY THERE. The rest. Nope. Opt out. Adios.
This is how I will heal my soul. This is how I will demand my own emancipation, in a real way.
So, when it comes to fitness - since we are here at MommaStrong after all - guess what? I’m going to do just exactly enough and then walk away. This will feel like underachieving, and - yeah - maybe it is. But, the reality is that at some later point in my life, getting classes in and allocating more time to it might be available. But, right now, I need to do exactly enough and then that is it. Do I move everyday for 5-15 minutes? Check. Do I focus on integrated strength so that my anatomy doesn’t feel like a broken bridge? Check. Do I stand tall? Check.
After that, walk away.
I will do the same with eating, sleeping, extracurriculars, and other people’s emotions. And then in the areas that matter, I tell you what: I WILL SHINE. Because I matter and these areas matter. And this is how I will heal. Not by going away to an ashram and living in silence. Not by drinking tons of green juice. But, by prioritizing what matters, dedicating my all to them, and then walking away from the distractions, which are really just shackles in the end after all.
Join me this November, as we head into the holidays (aka, The Land of Shackles), and we make a conscious decision to underachieve in the stuff that does not matter so that we can define our sustainable emancipation on our terms. Plus, then at the end of the month, when you've shown up every day in a small and underachieving way, you can declare: I UNDERACHIEVED. That's a bumper sticker we all need, right?
Click here to register, either as a new member or a current member. AND BE AN UNDERACHIEVER with good company ... invite your friends or that stranger at the park that you have a mom crush on.