Friday, November 20, 2015

How does it all come together?

*Disclaimer: I am not trying to add to the Mommy wars, but am simply trying to make sense of what is in my head.

I read a book for a book club I was part of until recently when I decided it wasn't for me, it was called "Everything I Never Told You" and it was about a biracial family in a time period when that would have been thought of as not okay and a lot problems that stemmed from that. But besides that it featured a woman who was trying to be a medical doctor because she strived to be everything different than her mother a home-ec teacher. She wanted to stand out and break the mold in a field dominated by men at the time. A very women's equality situation. But then she fell in love, got pregnant, married and never finished and it hung over her head every day. There was even a one liner about birth control being developed around the same time, eluding that maybe this woman's life would have been everything she wanted because her children were a burden and derailed her from her dream. But honestly there were deeper issues with the characters in the book that birth control would have just masked instead of solved.

I have to say that this book made me anxious for a while. I had to sort through a lot of insecurities of my own. One being that I chose to be a stay at home mom for the most part (I teach part time now). I went and got a doctorate and then stayed at home. Most people might wonder why I did this, or maybe they don't care and that's okay too, I can be a bit boring I admit. :) But one of the main things I remember is that my own mom was a stay and at home mom for most of my child hood and I liked her being home with us. I liked that she was available and that she was engaging with us. And granted the latter probably doesn't have to be associated with at home moms, but for me, most of my positive learning memories came from her interactions with us and it made me not only want to stay at home but to want to homeschool. And I know she thinks I'm a little crazy sometimes, and we don't have the perfect relationship, but this staying at home with us and being there and engaged, well that was big to me.

For most of childhood me, I wanted to always prove that I was better than the boys. I played on the boys soccer teams, I did science Olympiad and any kind of activity that proved that I could be equal to a guy. And there was some underlying issues there too, but what was interesting was that I wasn't the only girl doing this. In some ways girls dominated the higher sciences. The girls were the presidents of the science clubs and the pre meds and the highest achievers of the crews. It never occurred to us for it to be different or for science to be a man's thing, very different world from the novel mentioned previously.

Even in grad school, in chemistry, the amount of women equaled the amount of men and it didn't feel like much was that different .... until you wanted to have a life outside of school. Wanting to get married, have children, those, well those were not talked about within the department or dealt with. And while every so often you might have a family friendly advisor, it wasn't normally so. I remember going to a seminar on how you could potentially have a family and remain in academia. Certain times were listed as better than others for having babies, but the consensus was that a lot of advisors frowned upon it because, well, it meant that it would take away from your research. Research meant money potential, research was supposed to be your life, family was second not super healthy family environment.

So growing up I told myself that I wasn't going to get married or have children because I was going to do something, in some ways I reminded myself of one of the protagonists in earlier mentioned book. I was set on working for NASA, I loved everything about space and space travel. I also very much enjoyed my small stint at NASA and hoped to make it career worthy. But deep down, I had something in me that wanted something different, deep down I wanted to get married and perhaps have children some day.

And what do you know, I found this guy the first week in grad school that kind of turned my facade on its head and made me think about my true feelings. And I wanted him and this all to stick. But it was scary because for so long I had put up this front, I went after guys that I didn't have a chance of having anything lasting before. But this one I married him, and I don't regret it one bit. And those children we have, well, they are amazing and so  challenging and yet so beautiful.

But there were many obstacles to climb, because I did condition myself to think elsewise, and I didn't want to let anyone down that I had told elsewise, a fault of mind. I want confident in my decision. I felt like I was a disappointment. So much money and time was spent on me to succeed and I wanted to run the other way. I think the only person's words that stuck with me in a positive way, oddly said to me when I still had my façade about career versus children and I had just put down someone for choosing children over a career, were simply that she wasn't wasting her education on her children, but instead was truly using it, it just might not look that way. Those words stuck with me and made me say to myself it's okay to want this.

So it's interesting now when I think about the struggle of career and children. I think I chose the right path for me. It's not that it's been all smooth sailing. For me, being a stay at home mom has been harder than getting a PhD. I've spent about the same time on both now, and its feels so very true to me. And then I've chosen to homeschool, so I'm probably just clinically insane for all this. But this craziness, this is right for me for right now.

The thing is that I don't think there is a one right path for everyone, as in a one size fits all kind of measure. In our insecurities, we want to know that what we chose is best, but to enforce that on another? I'm not sure that's best. And the culture may promote one choice more than another, and it may make us feel inferior for choosing differently, but that's not truth or love. And maybe if we remember just that and try to be us, the person God created us to be, maybe this world will be okay.

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