Trying to sound auntie

I’ve been seeing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s essay floating around Facebook for the last few days – the famous name, in combination with the title clearly indicating a sensitive topic, told me it was certainly something worth reading but I didn’t have time to because shit was going down in other areas at the time.

Then yesterday my #2 sister-in-law forwarded me SIL #1’s relatively brief response to the email so I thought I should reply. It took me a while to get my thoughts organised since, as noted below, I’ve lost the habit of introspection and writing years ago. But anyway this is my two-odd cents.

Hey, sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve seen several other friends post Slaughter’s essay on Facebook too, but didn’t get around to reading it till last night because – surprise surprise – I was too busy. There’s been a s**tstorm stirred up by a pro-UMNO blogger who stole pix of a recent voter-education event that my friends and I organised and it’s blown up into an international incident with front-page news in both countries =(

But [SIL #1] is right, I think…we have to prioritise, it’s not possible to have or to do everything. It’s kind of a cost-benefit analysis – will doing this give me enjoyment greater than the stress it (and scheduling around it) creates? Over the last couple of years
I’ve had even less free time than I had in grad school (actually grad school was kinda relaxed because I wasn’t working toward a PhD anyway) and have learned to say no to some invitations or requests for help if my week is so packed that accepting them is going to result in me being more fried than otherwise. This includes activities that fall under the category of self-care when slotting them into one’s schedule becomes self-defeating, like trying to make it to exercise class on a day when I’m up to my ears in work. If it’s going to be a near-impossible scramble to get out of lab in time to make Pilates, screw Pilates.

This applies both at one’s day job and “extracurricular” obligations outside of it. Slaughter’s essay was mostly focusing on the childcare issue but she did also quote another essay by two women who, from the sound of the quotation, are single – not wanting to be that bitter
woman behind the mahogany desk who works > 12 hours and goes home alone. Being married but child-free, I’m somewhere in between.

It’s tempting to believe that one can save the world or at least save something big – for me right now, the big thing is Malaysian democracy. But anything big enough to require that much saving is going to be a joint effort, and that’s where compadres of various
kinds come in. This is going to sound like kind of a gender stereotype, but I feel like a lot of women have a tendency to micromanage and not be able to let things go and let other people take care of stuff, whether it’s subordinates or teammates. There’s also a tendency to not want to sound like a slacker by saying “Yes, I can have it on your desk tomorrow” to every request from a superior.

In some ways I feel like I’ve become stupider since I was a teenager – I don’t have the kind of time or isolation that I did in secondary school for voluminous reading and a lot of introspection and creative output. [Husband] says stuff like “I wish you would write more stories” or “I wish you would start drawing again” but he just comes home from work and does what he likes (mostly playing EVE Online =P), he doesn’t understand the sense of obligation that I have toward other things that aren’t my paying job. It tends to make me angry and that’s obviously not a good thing. I’m not the same person I used to be ten
years ago and I certainly don’t want to go back to being that painfully shy, angry kid, but to retrieve the better aspects of who she was, some of the things I do now are going to have to take a hit…

Basically it’s all a big balancing act.

And one last thing…I was summarising Slaughter’s essay to [my own younger sis #1] and she said “What about Paul?” and that turned on a lightbulb for me…something that’s crucially missing from Slaughter’s essay is the Christian perspective (I don’t know what her personal convictions are but they weren’t covered in the essay, so irrelevant). The thing though is that religion, whether explicitly religious activities or some volunteering thingy that people at church want us to do, can stack more things onto the list of stressors (I refuse to even contemplate the idea of joining a Bible study group during this time
period) so I guess the key is to rest in God’s hands.

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One Response to Trying to sound auntie

  1. Pingback: My entrance must be with quiet laughter, or not at all | writing off the wall

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