A teacher friend of ours raised his children with the concept of choices, as in,
“That was a bad choice, son.”
“Do you think that was a good choice?”
“What were you thinking when you made that choice?”
He always sounded so patient, but I’m sure that, when outsiders weren’t around, the questions may have sounded more like,
“What in God’s name were you thinking — if that isn’t too powerful of a word — when you made that monumentally stupid CHOICE?”
The word choice is bandied about in this society where we, fortunately and unfortunately, have an array of options concerning everything from our lunch sandwich to our career.
In the potluck table of life, we’re allowed one pass through, with some people’s options stopping shortly after they have picked up the plastic cutlery, and others wending through all the way to the desserts — not much choice in that aspect. None of us really know if we’ll be called off the planet just as we’re deciding between the scalloped potatos with the cheese, or the dish that features ham but no cheese.
But while we’re here, we’re faced with choices, and one of the biggest is what we ultimately plan to do with our life. From the time we are very little, we announce that we will be a teacher or a fireman or a policeman (I have always liked those job titles — they’re so concrete and identifiable. Few 7-year-olds proclaim, “I really want to be an environmental consultant in offshore drilling litigation!”).
As a teenager, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist, despite my mother’s longing that I go into computers (Oh, please, mom. This was in the day of punchcards and Cobol — which sounds like a misspelled color — and Fortran — always associated with after dinner cookies). My mother, being a mother, wanted me to choose a career that was secure, well-paying, and safe, and journalism just didn’t fit into that category.
As it turned out, I never wound up as a journalist, having found something that paid even less:
I became a homemaker.
I’ve heard it all before: “Being a homemaker isn’t a choice nowadays — it’s a luxury!”
“Women work outside jobs PLUS take care of the house — what makes you think you’re so special?”
“What a waste of a brain — home with dirty diapers and sticky faces!”
I have always found it amusing that, in the early days of the feminist revolution, women were promised that they could do anything that they wanted to do, including stay at home with the kids, but when all is said and done, the particular potato casserole that is homemaking was taken off the table and put, well, in the kitchen.
The Norwegian Artist and I made a conscious decision, before the first child was incubating away, that I would stay home and focus on raising them. Now anyone familiar with the word artist probably associates the word starving in front of it, so enough said on the luxury aspect — only in Movie World do graphic artists make enough to afford waterfront property that isn’t the puddle formed in the street when the drains are plugged.
Without getting into the Mommy Wars of us versus them, our particular choice involved exchanging more money for more time. Interestingly enough, in the process of cooking everything from scratch, shopping the thrift stores, and sitting down with our financial advisor to learn how to translate his words into English, I was able to set aside enough money to buy our 7 acres in the country where the Norwegian Artist and I literally built our home, which we own outright. The deed to the land reposes in our filing cabinet. Not bad for a single, very moderate, income.
The brain drain part?
The average office, with its cubicle world that looks like an experimental maze for rats, does not exude acadamia. Listening to most people talk about their day jobs, one gets the strong idea that life begins after 5 on Friday.
Even those people who find incredible satisfaction in their paid work also realize that they are much more than a teacher or a fire fighter or an environmental consultant in offshore drillling litigation. And within these proper, paying, real jobs, hours during the week are spent on mind-numbingly boring meetings, superfluous paperwork, and purposeless acitivity — dirty diapers are no treat, but unlike meetings, they eventually come to an end.
So what has my choice brought me? In more than 20 years, I have spent copious time around children — not just my own — of varying ages. Kids are a kick.I have run four businesses from the home, including the latest, Steve Henderson Fine Art. I’ve put in more writing hours than I did when I worked in public relations. In the process of homeschooling (“Good God! And she drinks goat milk, too”), I have revisited my trigonometry days, said bonjour again to French, and joined the debate club as the little feet and hands sprouted teenaged hormonal horns.
I spend as much time on laun
dry, dishes, and cleaning the toilet as my office counterparts do — really, homemakers do not finesse these domestic equivalents to filling out forms in triplicate — but I have had more mental time and energy to pursue my interests which, if I work hard enough, eventually become paying interests.
Oh, and I knit, sew, and cook. Not because my middle name is June (enough with picking on June already — gosh, Beave), but because I actually like doing these things.
I am acutely aware that, because I live in a country where such choice is available, I am more fortunate than many. I am also aware that, if the choice is available and I don’t take it because someone else, somewhere else, does not have my options, then I am throwing away opportunity, which is stupid.
And homemakers aren’t stupid.
Oh to have the self-confidence to make that choice! Certainly it takes not only smarts and the forsight to see that in the end, being a homemaker would be more rewarding…it takes maturity as well. Here I am, a young mother and “professional woman”, thinking about baking pies with my children and painting paintings while at work, and about translations and career growth while I am at home. Perhaps this problem is endemic to our whole generation…The symptoms are the failed attempts to live two full lives and the stress that comes with the territory, and the root cause: a lack of inner peace and contentment.
Sometimes we do things because we have no choice — food has to hit the table. But when we do have choices, it doesn’t hurt to ask, “What do I really want — deep down, if I’m not worried about what anybody THINKS?”
Your generation has been attacked with barbs of guilt, and the ominous warnings of, “You have to stay in the field to be competetive, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Reach for your dreams. Check into what it takes to make them reality. Think about what is the very best for you and your family and go for it. People will comment and critique, but they always do — you have your life to live, and they have theirs.
I wish you the very best — wisdom to make good decisions, freedom from unnecessary chronic guilt (when guilt gets to the chronic stage, it’s either becoming a habit or a problem you need to address and solve), the self-confidence to stand up straight and be who you are, and a good night’s sleep — something every mother needs.
I admire anyone who can stay at home to raise their children AND make it work financially. Bravo!
The sad thing is, all the feminists tout having choice, and then frown at women who choose marriage over a career. I got married partway through college, and you Would. Not. Believe. the fuss I had to deal with from my “empowered” female classmates. Every last one of them was convinced (CONVINCED!) I was throwing my smarts away, because who in their right mind would MARRY when I could be doing something so much more productive with my life than being happy. (Oh, and don’t even let me get started on what they thought about farming! Or being a writer!)
I think it’s lovely to have the power to make the choice that best fits you. If that’s a career, great! If that’s family, wonderful! Do what makes you happy — as my great-grandfather said: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Heather — I admire you for all that you do — your writing, farming, and willingness to teach and share your impressive computer expertise.
I don’t know about your feminist college friends, but you look to me to be an intelligent, creative, fulfilled person fully engaged in using her many skills and abilities to make your life, and the life of those around you, full and rich.
What on earth more do these dissatisfied divas want out of other peoples’ lives?
Thank you for the lovely compliment. 🙂
Their reasoning was beyond me, but sometimes I do wonder what happened to get their dander all in a fluff?
For all that some people preach tolerance and diversity, they really have trouble when others think on their own feet and walk their own path.
I agree — what difference does it make to them? Possibly your self-confidence nudges them into thinking that they’re not really doing what they want to do after all, but they’re not strong enough to stand up to the pressure.