I Am to Blame

Alyssa - East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Entered on May 31, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: citizenship
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I am to blame. This is a realization that hits me every day in my thirty-minute commute home. That’s right—a commute for a liberal leaning child of liberal parents who is now living the conservative dream of one husband, two kids, two cars, and one house with—you guessed it—a picket fence.

Not exactly where I thought I would be ten years ago as a passionate, idealistic/feminist/pacifist/environmentalist/activist. Then, I lived in the city, turned my nose up at sprawl, and spent the bulk of my energy on changing the world by educating one mind at a time. I was a member of NOW and the ACLU. I contributed to NPR and my liberal alma mater. In addition, I recycled with a vengeance, ate whole foods, and turned off the lights when leaving a room.

This all changed sometime in the seventh month of my first pregnancy. It wasn’t a sudden U-turn, but a slow downshift. First, I stopped working to care for my daughter. Then, I exchanged my political memberships for the La Leche League. Then, our fourth-floor walk-up became unbearable, as I longed for a house and grassy lawn during my second pregnancy. Once settled in a much larger, more remote home, my husband insisted that we trade up my small vehicle for a larger, “safer” one. My children weaned, I dropped my last liberal group membership for swim class, karate, piano lessons, and T-ball for my children. My charitable donations gave way to my mortgage. I went back to work, but added in a long, gas-guzzling commute. Leaving the light on at night became the new norm.

This change left me reeling for much of the time I spent as a stay-at-home mom. I struggled daily with my own self image as a world changer and the reality of my housewife status. This guilt mutated, but remained strong as I shifted into my roles as working wife and un-super mom. I now understood my own mother—a hippie turned housewife sell-out—in my formerly inexperienced mind.

I am often reminded of my guilt as I listen to talk radio on my ride home. When the political guests ask why the American public puts up with the government’s eavesdropping of tens of millions of American citizens, thousands of civilian and military deaths in a war of choice, numerous administrative scandals, a declining middle class, rising underclass, increasing urban violence, dwindling work opportunities, mounting health costs, and slowly eroding personal freedoms, I search for who to blame.

It doesn’t take long to understand that I am to blame: me and the countless others who trade their ideals, their activist energies, their risky efforts for the ease and security of their families and children. I am, as part of the middle class, just the one with the wherewithal to make a difference, and I don’t. Until I do, all of these things will remain my fault. This I believe.