Leaning in...to something a little different, I think
All this Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg stuff that's been going on the last month or so has been TOTALLY up my alley and I've read a million different takes (many of those hours spent deep within the Penelope Trunk vault (this was my favorite.)).
But as someone who actively chooses to stay home and raise children, I don't feel like I have a lot (or anything?) to add to the debate. I don't have any opinions about it - I haven't tried to be a career mom or the Woman Who Has It All. so what do I know - but I do have THOUGHTS. Lots and lots of thoughts.
Mainly my thoughts revolve around: what if I WAS working? What would that be like? Would I be happier? Would I feel more like I am doing what I am supposed to do? Have I lost out on something because I'm not pursuing a career?
It's not that I feel "judged" or whatever for staying home, or that I've let the Sisterhood down somehow, or any of those dumb un-feminist things. I actually feel the opposite. But just knowing ME, the kind of person I am, the [vague, silly-ish] dreams I had as a teenager, my potential, my resources, being a Three, even being the oldest (I've started a BIRTH ORDER book you guys, there's your warning!) - did I make the best choice?
There's no point in REALLY raking this over the coals, since I think I'm long past the point where I could easily change my mind. We have three kids now, I'm appalled at the cost of daycare, I'd basically be working to pay the daycare bill, and I haven't put any effort into looking for a career that would be WORTH working to pay the daycare bill (with the hope that eventually I'd move up.)
But I do wonder if that's where I missed out in the first place, the never finding a CAREER that suited me. Well, if I'm being honest, not really LOOKING for a career. It wasn't that I always planned to be a SAHM, I just... well, basically I wanted to earn enough money to travel. Not really Yahoo CEO material right there.
Nearly all of my mom friends work, though, and nearly all of them do because they LIKE working and they LIKE their jobs and it adds a wonderful meaningful dimension to their lives. It's not just for the paycheck. Sometimes I feel like I should have worked harder to find that! For a long time I would say, "Oh, but I didn't like my job anyway" and my friend would say, "You never found the RIGHT job."
And I'm smart, you know. Well, smart enough. I'm obnoxiously detail-oriented and organized, I'm driven, I love to learn, I follow through, I'm reliable, I get stuff done. I know I COULD succeed at a career, if I ever managed to pick one. I could be good at something other than folding laundry.
Then again it's telling, isn't it? That a firstborn Three, a total gets-her-value-from-achievement DIDN'T pursue a career. At times I thought about getting a teaching certificate, pursuing a public policy path, there was my fling with web design. Ultimately nothing felt right. And for so long I've thought that's because the one thing I've always REALLY wanted to do was write. OBVS am supposed to be a writer! You can't get excited about doing PR for the chamber of commerce if you're REALLY supposed to be a middle grades rockstar author.
Except now? I'm not even sure if THAT'S true anymore. In this last year I feel like I've lost a lot of my writing mojo. This is good because 1) I haven't written anything since I got pregnant with Emma and 2) I think there's a way that I made Be A Writer into an idol. As in, my parents will be the most proud of me if I become a published writer, my teachers will think the best of me, it's the biggest way to impress my friends, etc. etc. Is it really because *I* want to be a writer? (A Three has to ask herself these things. Pathetic, isn't it?)
I think I do. But I also think, right now, age 33.5, that I'm okay with NOT being a writer. Or at least not the next Lois Lowry, which was The Dream. I have never admitted that out loud before. I read about these women who apparently have it all, women changing the world, women making heaps of money, women working really super hard, women who get tons of respect and accolades and I wonder if I could be doing what they're doing, but I also feel like: but nooooo. I don't WANT to!
I actually quite like my life. I mean, as tired and done with parenting as I feel right now on Tuesday afternoon, I'm pretty sure I would not rather be sitting in the CEO office on the phone. And the ideas I have for my time are so NOT career- or profit-oriented ideas. I had to ALLOW myself to HAVE them, simply BECAUSE they so not about achieving success. Maybe adoption or fostering is in my future, maybe one day I'll go back to school to become a SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR! (Ha. The not-churchy people in my life are all "huh?" and the churchy people are all, "Ummmm, I don't quite think that's the right choice for you.") I have this kind of nutty idea to make my house a place of prayer once or twice a month, and that would COST me money because I'm thinking about hiring babysitters and feeding whoever shows up! I'm hoping to go to some conferences in the nearish future that would be "spiritual education", I guess, just for ME. I feel like THAT'S the direction I'm supposed to go. Even this bakery-with-my-sister idea (that I DO keep kicking around) comes from a place of wanting to do something fun that would fill a need in other people's lives - not entrepreneurial ambition. (Don't tell the bank when I ask for my loan.)
So I salute you, Sheryl Sandberg, and I think you kick major amounts of booty. But I don't share your picture of success - not your personal picture or the perspective you advocate. Lots of women do and more power to them, but for me it's been good to think about changing the world from a different sphere of influence. And to think about power as something I receive through the grace of God, not something I fight for in an office.
When I was in college someone told me that they see a lot of women who take a back seat to their husband's career but then powerfully emerge on their own once the kids are mostly grown. Like it was this good thing that I could be happy about. At the time I was super offended by the mere IDEA that that's the lot women were stuck with. How UNFAIR! Now I think: that sounds good. That sounds really good. And I think the experience of being with these kids will inform whatever powerful thing I do in the future. And it WILL be powerful, even if I'm not wielding that power in a conference room or selling it on Amazon.com.
Perhaps I am even wielding a bit of power right now. ??? I do get to decide when certain people can eat their Curious George fruit snacks.