As a woman in the modern age, I am often times the harshest judge of myself. And I am sure many women out there also feels this way.
I grew up with a Korean grandmother who stayed home to raise her only daughter. She was a talented sculptor, but after my mother was born, she essentially gave up her career and studies and focused on raising my mother. She is an extremely strong woman, and supported my mother through medical school. And even after my mother had me and my brother, my grandmother took care of much of the housework. She lived with us for good part of my childhood, and she was the one that packed us lunch boxes and took us to hospitals when we were ill. She would make amazing spread of Korean food, and knitted us all kinds of sweater when we were little. But she always spoke of her skills in domestic arena as something of no value. She wanted her daughter and her granddaughter to grow up and become a working woman, and not “waste” our time in the kitchen or in the laundry room.
My mother, being the only child, grew up pretty sheltered and protected. Even after she got married and had kids, her mother was always there to take care of her, and for some years of my childhood, my grandmother was more like a mother figure for me, and my mother was more of an older sister figure. My mother never cooked or cleaned, because she had to “work.” She always had her mother, or paid help to take care of all that.
I don’t necessarily think that whether a woman does domestic tasks or not is a barometer of the amount of freedom or power that woman exercises. After all, cooking is a creative process and many love cooking, though I would argue not many truly loves doing the laundry. But this was the background that my grandmother and mother had, and I grew up with two amazing women, one who stayed home but wanted her daughter to be a working professional, and another who worked all her life.
When it comes to my marriage and my place as a woman in this world, however, my mother still oscillates between two. On the one hand, she wants me to be the professional woman that works hard, advances in the corporate world, and do what only men were able to do back in the day, and what still only men are able to do back in Korea. On the other hand, she still wants me to be the woman who has children, raise them well, and makes her husband happy. Of course, she was a working woman herself who married and had children. And while I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive, especially today, I also find myself struggling with the different kinds of compromises I need to make to one minute be that aggressive, “I will not compromise” working woman, and then to be that woman who must compromise to make a relationship work- especially during this process of exploring conversion to Judaism, and what it means to have a Jewish family.
What’s been the hardest has been my own judgment against myself; I had never thought of myself for someone who would compromise so much for a relationship. Even as I happily feel included in the Jewish rituals and narratives through Aaron, his family and the local synagogue, and realize that I do not have to give up any of my former identity per se, to become Jewish, I have been judging myself for being a woman that compromises for a relationship, and maybe I have judged others for that too.
Relationship is a hard work for everyone, and compromise is a necessary part of making any relationship work.
But the most important thing for me is keeping things in perspective, to understand, choose, and support myself in my decisions, because only I live my life. And I hope I can be a support for all women making different decisions for that job, family, love, ambition and dreams.
Growth in unexpected places.