Mother and Stripper
First and Foremost, I am a Mother.
And although it is true that I am also a stripper, my child comes first and my job, not even second. Or does it? And I think therein lies the conflict. With barely enough time to nurture my relationship with my spouse, what little time I do spend cherishing my daughter, very little time to sleep, tan, exercise or buy groceries or go down to the lobby to get the mail, it seems that this “job”, which undoubtedly takes up the lion’s share of my time, becomes the unconscious “priority”.
Consider this dilemma: (I heard this story from a dancer about a dancer and I can’t remember either of their names, so if this is you, I’d love to find out your reaction to this article.) A woman is working at the Drake. The Drake has very strict rules about calling in sick or walking out on a shift. There are no exceptions. So this woman calls home to check on her child(ren) and finds out that he/she is very sick. When she explains to the bar that they should find a replacement for her because she must go home to take care of her child, she is told that if she leaves, she will not be paid for any of the work she has already done. This is the part where I assume that she is working because she needs the money to support her family, which is the reason most of us work, right? Let’s say she has rent coming up or a payment on a loan that is already late, or she’s getting low on groceries, needs gas in her car… What should she do? Should she give instructions to the sitter on how to deal with the illness, what to watch for, and a number to call in case of emergency? Or, should she forget the money and rush home to her child who is in desperate need of her? How will she pay for medicine if she has no money? How could she even consider staying at work when her baby needs her? What would you do if it were you, then how would you explain your decision, either way, to those who would condemn you?
And there’s that. The condemnation that is prevalent when a mother is a stripper.
How do you admit to your mother-in-law that you are stripping to contribute to the family income? Or your own mother, for that matter. How does your husband feel when those around you condemn him for not earning enough for you to stay home? Or pity him because he has to deal with the mother-of-his-child getting naked in front of other men? Do we live in shame? Not care what they think? Stop going to church? Lie about what we’re doing? Or worse, hate what we’re doing?
Should I explain our rationale? Why do I strip? Well, I strip because I can take a week off whenever I want. I strip because I can make more money than I can waitressing or doing daycare. I strip because I like performing and being my own boss (at least in theory). I strip because that’s what I know how to do. I strip because I get to spend time with other women when I am at work. I strip because I am empowered by being able to contribute a substantial amount of income to the running of this household. I strip so that I can buy my daughter nice things and afford to buy gifts for weddings and housewarming parties. I strip because if I quit stripping, then need money really fast, all I have to do is make one phone call and I’ll be working in the next few days or week. I strip because even if the whole world makes me feel like a bad mother for stripping, when I’m on stage doing what the whole world condemns me for doing, I just don’t feel like what I’m doing is wrong.
To combat at least some of this conflict, I choose to work part-time. I work nights or days or just do contests and Sundays. That way I have more time to spend with my daughter. That way, my daughter has more time to spend with me. I also lie to my family about my job. They think I am waitressing, or cleaning houses or some shit like that. And when I have a full week or two off, it all seems quite worth it. I haven’t run into a problem where I have to leave work to be with my sick child so I don’t know how I will handle it when it happens. My common-law husband has mixed feelings about it. He also liked it when I had a whole week or two off. He also liked it that we could both have some semblance of a comfortable life due to the little bit of time I did spend working.
Being a mother who strips is different from being a mother who drinks. I can tell the woman I meet in the park with her child that I’m going out to have a few drinks tonight, would she like to join me? But I wouldn’t dare tell her that I’m going to work as a stripper. She might not let her child play with mine. Or she might try to avoid me when we, again, run into each other at the park. Deeply and to the core, I am not ashamed of what I do. But to protect my child, to protect my heart and to protect my home, I keep it a secret. I know a woman whose ex-husband has a very wealthy family who used their money and power to take her children away. Their biggest weapon? She is a stripper. Can that happen to me? When my neighbors call social services on me because I smoked pot outside of my house, will they take my child away? And if they do, will it be because I smoked a joint outside of the house, at the end of the day, after my daughter was in bed? Or will they do it because I am a stripper with a “drug problem”? Does the fact that my daughter is the most important thing in my life and I do everything I can to make sure she is healthy and happy even matter if I am a stripper?
I don’t have the answers.
But I’ll tell you what I do have.
When I go to work, I am less likely to be sexually harassed and more likely to be in the position of doing the harassing. When I go to the bank, I feel empowered to demand to be treated respectfully and given special incentives because my bills are paid every month and lots of money goes through my account. As a mother who strips, I do not work all the time, but if there is a need for money, I earn it and I am not going into worse and worse debt like many of my non-dancer girlfriends. That is not to say that I am not in debt. Getting pregnant and staying at home for the first year with my daughter ensured that my debts would sky-rocket and minimum payments keep me in good standing so that I don’t work more than I absolutely have to. But that’s a matter of priorities. If I worked full-time, say 2 or 3 long shifts every month, with my husband’s net income of $2000/month, we would have our debts paid off in no time. But that would be at the sacrifice of being with my daughter. Since I love being with my daughter, the choice is obvious, as it is with most dancers with kids. I don’t work that much.
Another thing I have is confidence. Men in the world do not intimidate me. And I feel sorry for the women in the world who don’t realize their power. Before I was a dancer, I felt insignificant when I walked into a bank or had a suit-and-tie-guy look down his nose at me. That affliction no longer ails me. I feel stronger and stand up for myself more since I became a stripper.
And now that I’m a mother, I stand up for myself more as a stripper. I don’t work if I don’t want to, even if they try to bully me into it by bumping me out of gigs or threatening to do so. And the other dancers who talk condescendingly to me don’t faze me. This is not a popularity contest; I am here to earn a living. My family depends upon me for it.
So what am I?
First and foremost, I am a Mother. I love my child, like all mothers. I pay my bills, like most mothers. I try not to be away from my kids too much, like most mothers. I smoke pot after my daughter goes to bed, like some mothers. I earn a living as a stripper, like some mothers.
I am a woman with legal employment, out there “shaking my money-maker” like many women have since the beginning of time. In Europe, stripping is not that shameful an existence and much more widely accepted. Why, in this land of “tolerance”, should I feel compelled to behave as if I am ashamed of what I do?
Well, I am not ashamed. And I will continue to strip until I choose for my own reasons to stop. And when my daughter is old enough to understand what stripping is all about, I will deal with her honestly. I won’t encourage her to become a stripper because I don’t want her to experience the stigma associated with it. But I will accept her whatever she does. Straight or lesbian. Cop or killer. Success or failure. Doctor or stripper.
Because first and foremost, she is, and will always be, my daughter.