My friend Liz at Eternal Lizdom asked me to answer that question as part of a blog chain that she was starting, where several bloggers would answer the same question. I haven't read any of the other posts because I wanted my answer here to be solely my own. But it will be interesting to see if any of the other bloggers have similar feelings.
The first thing that came to mind when I thought about the question, "What does it mean to be a woman?" was that Enjoli commercial. "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never, never let you forget your a man..."
But that really doesn't have anything to do with how I view my own existence as a woman. Words that come to me when I think about the question include "responsibility" and "strength" and "connectedness."
I find it really hard to separate being a woman from being a mother. From the earliest days of my first pregnancy, I had a sense of the privilege it is to be a woman with child. To know that I was growing a baby deep within me. To feel the first flutters of movement. To see how my baby responded to music and noises on the outside. It was like a secret relationship, one that was mine to share with others or not. And I felt grateful that it was my experience to have.
Giving birth to Charlie put me in touch with the sense of power that was mine by virtue of my womanhood. All three of my children's births are special, but Annie and Robbie were born by c-section and I was a passive -- though quite interested -- onlooker. But Charlie's birth, a VBAC, was a physically, emotionally and spiritually powerful experience for me. An absolute gift.
Now that they are older, I am acutely aware of being responsible for the management and coordination of all the day to day activities of each of my kids. And I'm in touch with the frustration of trying to balance nurturing their souls and their personalities with making sure the homework gets done and they get to soccer practice on time.
But I know that being a woman is about more than being a mother. For me, it's about being connected. About wanting to know others' stories and wanting to share my own in return.
I never understood married women who insist that their husbands are their best friends. I love my husband, but there is something lifegiving in a different way about my relationships with my closest of girl friends. In a way, I feel sorry for men who don't seem to need or to want those kind of connections.
Being a woman brings with it, for me at least, a certain sense of spirituality. Not in an organized religion way, but in a more organic, cosmic sort of way.
It means having the choice to be strong and stoic or to break down and cry and not having anyone question me for doing either. It means being unsure that what I am doing is the right thing, but being courageous enough to go with my gut.
On a more practical level, being a woman means paying good money for a haircut and not feeling guilty about it (much), getting a pedicure as a treat for losing 10 pounds and thinking that there is nothing weird about ordering a Diet Coke with my fat-laden french fries. It's saying "I'm going to bed," but stopping to do the dishes or fold the laundry or make lunches for tomorrow before actually going upstairs.
To me, being a woman is chocolatey, curvy, freeing, heavy, joyful, mysterious. It is full of endless possibilities and limitless emotion.
It is who I am, in whatever way I choose to be.
How about you? What does being a woman mean to you? Leave a comment here or blog about it on your own blog. If you choose to post about it on your blog, leave your link in McLinky below. Be sure to visit Liz's post for her thoughts and for links to more ideas of what it means to be a woman.