A few days before my daughter, Mika, turned 11-weeks-old, I received a package from my mother. It included an adorable snowsuit for Mika and a copy of the CD “Free to Be… You and Me,” ostensibly also for Mika.
For those of you who don’t remember, the album, produced by Marlo Thomas in 1972, uses poetry and catchy tunes to hammer in the values of individuality and gender equality. The album, and its follow-up video, includes appearances by some of her pals like Mel Brooks and Harry Belafonte.
Growing up, I loved this album. I was totally indoctrinated. Yes, boys could be cocktail waitresses and girls could be firefighters. Little girls who used their feminine wiles to get ahead in life got eaten by lions. And for all you little girls out there, housework is the pits. The message is so heavy-handed that I have to admit, I started to feel guilty.
I felt guilty because here I was, all grown up, my daughter about to turn three months old, the time at which our society tells women it’s time to go back to work — and I didn’t want to go. I am surprised, myself, how much I relish being at home with my daughter. Every coo, smile, and burp feels like a major accomplishment.
In many ways, I feel nervous telling this to my mother and her friends. It’s not that they didn’t love their children to pieces, but they still had something to prove. They needed to get back to work to show the world that women could do everything men could do. And I suppose it’s thanks to their hard work that I can choose to throw up my hands and say, no thank you.
Of course, there are practical concerns like money that will thrust me back into the workforce. And I’m sure that once Mika is a bit older, I will be ready to exercise my brain and decamp everyday to an office. But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder: Does this make me a bad feminist?
Watch a clip from the 1974 film, “Free To Be… You and Me”: