I had the pleasure of meeting Kristen at Becky’s birth. She is one of the most kick-ass woman’s woman I know. So kick-ass that we looked for houses in her neighborhood which was completely out of our comfort zone. Are you in the Columbus, OH area and in need of a doula? Are you in need of some kick-ass wisdom and info? Check her out here and here!
I grew up in a house full of women.
A house full. A shit ton house full, even.
Sure, there were men in my home: my dad (who worked a lot), a grandpa, and an older brother (who had already graduated high school by the time I was eight years old).
But I also had my mom, my grandma, an older sister (who lived in Wisconsin with her mom most of the year), and two younger sisters.
Four girls in the family. Four sisters. And a grandma and a mom.
That’s a whole lot of women.
I’ve heard people say that the more Oganowski women you put in a room–the more Oganowski sisters, that is–the more intimidating that room gets. Everyone else shrinks to the periphery as we start to dominate the space.
We are loud. We are opinionated. We are very sweet and very sassy. We are smart. We are strong-willed. We are wildly inappropriate. We often laugh until we cry. And sometimes, it’s almost as if we speak a different language with one another–one that is uniquely ours.
One that is defined by us as sisters. All four of us, sisters. Grizzly bear sisters, magical sisters, obnoxious, brilliant, eternally-loving sisters.
And then there are my mother and my grandmother, both with whom I am exceptionally close. My grandmother and her briskets, the homemade french fries she’d make for me late at night when I was a melodramatic teenager, the quiet conversations at the kitchen counter, the saccharine sarcasm that I didn’t learn to detect until I was an adult. My mother and her spectacular pies, her patience, her heart that is soft and her strength that is superhuman, her deft maneuvering that has made her both an exceptional parent and friend to me.
Out of all the lineages I can trace back in my family lines, I identify most with my maternal line: the one that goes back to my mother, and her mother, and her mother before her. The line traces to a great-grandmother who escaped Eastern Europe just before Hitler invaded and all hell broke loose. It traces to her mother, who died in the Holocaust. It traces to Jewish roots whose rituals I may not practice but whose history and beauty and mystery I adore.
And it traces all the way forward to me, and to my sisters.
I grew up in a house full of women, and my own identity is bound up in these women.
And now–now that I am a mother, now that I have children who are sassy and smart and strong-willed–I am the only woman in the house.
There are no women, plural, in my house. I have a husband. I have three sons. And there will only ever be one woman in this house: me.
A woman whose identity is bound up with all the women in her family, only to find herself the only woman in her own home.
I know that lots of people think that I must be disappointed not to have had a daughter, what with all of the closeness I feel to my sisters and my mother and my grandmother and that good old maternal line. That I must feel as if I am daughterless. Pining away for my own little girl, wishing to fill some girl/woman-shaped void in my life.
And I’ll admit: there was a time when I really, really hoped for a daughter.
This hope wasn’t ever about possessing some strange anti-feminist, super-gendered wish for a girly-girl daughter who’d wear pink tutus and play pretty pretty princess all day. No, my hope looked a whole lot different from that.
I’d raise this imaginary daughter to be a kickass feminist. I’d someday bequeath to her my Fender Stratocaster and my Marshall stack. I’d teach her all the family recipes. We’d paint our nails. We’d share secrets over coffee, laughs over margaritas. We’d go on trips and get in trouble and talk politics and poetry. And okay, okay I’d also get to buy some of those ridiculously cute dresses that I see on the racks in the kids’ clothing stores. But I’d also see in her that maternal line, tracing through her to me to my mother to her mother to all of the mothers that came before us.
She’d be part of that line right along with me.
I’d say that with three sons (and no plans whatsoever for another child) , I don’t have this. I won’t have this.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a whole hell of a lot of what I’d ever want in a daughter.
Because the kickass feminism? You’re darn straight I’m raising all three of my boys to be kickass feminists.
My guitar and amp? You’d better believe I’d well with pride to hear one of my sons say some day to his friends, “Nope, I didn’t get these from my dad. They’re from my mom. ”
The nail painting and the family recipes? I already have a son who loves to get his nails painted and who counts “helping Mommy in the kitchen” as one of his favorite things to do.
The coffee and margaritas and trips and trouble and talks? Who says that they can’t happen with my three boys?
And the cute girl clothes? Well, that’s what my nieces are for.
I love the reality of an all-boy family. Love it. And everything I’d ever want to do with a daughter I can and will do with my sons.
All except for the part about having women in the house, just like I once did.
All except for that old maternal line.
If you were to look at my mitochondrial DNA–the DNA located in my cells’ mitochondria, DNA that was inherited exclusively from my mother–you’d be able to track the DNA ancestry of my maternal line for potentially hundreds of generations. My mother, her mother, her mother, her mother before her. Their DNA is etched into my cells.
My sons have inherited their mitochondrial DNA from me, but if they procreate, their children’s mitochondrial DNA will come from their mother. So, basically, as far as my whole maternal line obsession goes, the buck stops with me. No more passing on of my mitochondrial DNA.
No more passing on of my maternal line–that line of women to whom I am so deeply bound.
In fact, if you could trace this very maternal line all the way back through the generations, you’d find that I was the first in this line that runs all the way through me not to have a daughter. That’s thousands of years, and in this one specific line of mothers, I am the first not to have a daughter.
I am the first to be the only woman in the house.
As someone who grew up in a house full of women, as someone who has a house full of sons, as someone who is smart and sassy, as someone who likes to think of herself as a kickass feminist, I’ll just say this: maybe this line of women stops with me because I (and all of the other mothers with houses full of sons out there) simply broke the mold when it came to being women.