“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I am nothing, if not fair. 

I think some disclaimers are in order.  Somehow, I, a liberal-leaning moderate, became an unwitting poster child for the right.  After the exposure that my post on delayed childbearing garnered, I received several comments and private email conversations that made me realize that some of my post may have been taken in ways that fell a bit astray from my original intent.

So let me set this straight.

 I do not regret having my career.  I am the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree, with the exception of my paternal grandmother (she got a Normal certificate from SUNY- Elmira back when it was the Elmira Normal School).   And I am the ONLY person to have finished a PhD.  Not only did I go to graduate school, I went on a coveted National Science Foundation Fellowship and a Food for the 21st Century Fellowship that together guaranteed me six years of graduate school as a fully paid research fellow.  And I did this as a non-traditional student, starting graduate school at the ripe old age of 30.  I am proud of this accomplishment.  For somebody with my lower working class background, it is monumental.

I do not regret being a working mother.   I have the benefit of a flexible job, a quality daycare blocks away from my son, and a fantastic husband who allowed us to keep Harry in the home until he was over 18 months old.  My husband was a fantastic stay-at-home Dad, a role he is finally leaving to step back into the full-time working world for the first time in two years.

When I say I regret not having my children earlier, I do not mean in my twenties.  I was too self-centered, emotionally unstable and married to entirely the wrong man for my personality.  I assure you that having children at that stage in my life would have been an unmitigated disaster.  Your personal mileage may vary.

What I regret is the years between 34 and 37 – my late graduate school and postdoctoral years.  Those were the years when I was settled enough, with the right husband, and far less self-indulgent than in my younger years.  I needed the confidence that self-discovery of college gave me, but by my mid-thirties all the elements were in place for the life I have now.  Those years were the perfect years and I didn’t recognize them because I was following the time schedule of my much-younger classmates.  That schedule was a bit more malleable than I realized at the time by listening to the dogma of the academic world.  So many other options were open to me, if I had only thought to look.

Waiting until 39 and 40 WAS too late.  A fact which I am only now recognizing. 

And folks, here is where I will get all political on you.

It is a national shame that we hobble the potential of 50% (or more, to be fair to the responsible men out there) of the population by not acknowledging that liberal parental leave policies, quality daycare and education, and affordable healthcare are necessary to a healthy, flexible and stable workforce.  It is a national shame that we do not support women in ALL their potential – as students, daycare workers, teacher, businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, scientists, AND mothers.  It is our societal shame that we do not recognize that fathers are perfectly capable of caring for their children and giving them the support, in fact demanding of them the responsibility, of doing so.  We continue to undervalue careers that are traditionally female dominated at the same time that we build glass-ceilings that depend on sacrificing our roles as mothers on the altars of supply and demand.  It is shortsighted and it simply isn’t good business.  In no model of stable capitalism does the hinderance of workforce potential, both current and future, make any sense at all.

Make the decisions that are best for you.  Make the decisions that maximize your potential.  But make those evaluations in proportion to the real risks.  Ask yourself what “enough money” or “enough time” really means.  Is that promotion what you really want?  Will your career really be compromised by taking a year or two (or five) on the slow road? 

Ask yourself if what you have, or what you think you want, is what you actually need, or if you a shooting for an ideal that doesn’t really exist.  Ask if you are making real compromises, or just settling.  Ask yourself what actually constitutes a good life,  a life of value, a life of meaning.

But keep your eye on the clock, because you don’t have forever to do it in.

April 5th, 2007 at 5:20 pm
8 Responses to “My newest attempt to piss off everyone equally”
  1. 1
    jodi Says:

    great post! I looked around at my job today and thought, why are all the lawyers in my office women? And then I remembered, I work for the government, but there are great benefits and it’s flexible. So we gave up high paying power jobs for this,and that is the trade off. Women make these choices, men don’t.

  2. 2
    Heather Says:

    Really I think whenever you have a child it’s the right time for you. Because it’s sooo not up to us.

    We’ve been trying for #3 for more than a year and I’m only 32. (shhh. don’t tell anyone) So even if you don’t wait, you can still have problems.

    I’ve felt that I had another baby in me since my #2 was born, but I’m starting to realize that I may have thought wrong.

    I agree that if you wait for the “right” time to have a baby, you never will. I believe that any time you have a baby is the right time for you. In most cases, the parents will wonder why they waited once baby arrives.

    (Found you through Antique Mommy.)

  3. 3
    kathie Says:

    Hear hear! I totally agree with you.

    I had a fairly high level management role and found that the expectations were just too much and I couldn’t do both to my satisfaction. I chose family.

    Flexibility in the workplace? Hah! Not at that level. The expectation is that you have a significant other at home to take care of you and the home, so that you can devote yourself to your job. I chose to devote myself to my family and took a pretty large step down the career ladder. And I could’t be happier.

    They talk about a “glass ceiling” for women. But I wonder if many women aren’t opting out of the career race. There’s a bigger picture (for me) than getting to the top of the pyramid and earning more and more dollars. And although I never saw a ceiling applied to me overtly, I guess there was a subtle ceiling; a level when I said “enough is enough”. The wellbeing of my family will always come before the wellbeing of a company. And it seems that it’s mainly women who have to make that choice.

    Oh, and I worked in human resources :).

  4. 4
    Kat Says:

    I am glad I’ve put it off until now… but looking around me, I notice a newsroom full of 20-somethings. The job arc is pretty tight for producers — you have pretty much until you’re 30 to establish yourself and move on to big markets or the network — move into middle management — or get the heck out. In such a ruthless, cutthroat arena, it’s hard to justify taking time out…

    if your career is what’s important.

    At this point, it doesn’t seem as important as it did at 23. There’s no more “firsts” I have to accomplish, no more being the youngest of the bunch, just a 16 year career — for a 33 year old.

    Naw, didn’t see your original post as being the least bit political — just a wary warning for those of us who are still debating the possibility of children at this age. And a very welcome post, too.

  5. 5
    Tammy Says:

    I am so proud of you!!! I wish there were more women in the workforce that had your same candor. I totally agree with you. I was an early Mother, had children in my early 20’s and have to over compensate for all of our actions. And yes, I have been through a divorce. Women have to face trials and tribulations that our government has no clue…healthcare, a joke, childcare, even bigger joke, and I live in SC where education is failing greatly. Our school systems need grave help!

    So, needless to say, I totally agree with your boldness, and love reading your efforts on being the least bit politically correct! Continue writing!

  6. 6
    ariadne Says:

    Wow. I didn’t read any of that into your original post. Maybe that is because I have known you through all of those years. I think you and Kris are doing a wonderful job as parents. You are both mentally young with enthusiasm and physically healthy. In your case, I don’t think it was too late to start a family.

    Regarding support of women in the work place – I completley agree with you. When we decided I would stay home 8 years ago, the lack of support in the workplace had a lot to do with it. If I had to take a long lunch to take my child for a check-up, I caught a lot of flack. If a man needed to take off to get a hair cut, it was perfectly acceptable. I won’t even go into what it was like when I had a sick child and needed to stay home.

    When I started staying home, I was afraid that I couldn’t care for my children as well as the women that was keeping my son could. Silly, right? Anyhow, I quit work because by the time I figured $200 per week for daycare, plus clothing, car maint., gas, lunches out, etc… I would have been working for very little. It was in part a financial decision and in part an emotional one. Even with my doubts, being a SAHM grew on me. I do wish that the workplace was conducive to letting each woman/family make that decision for themselves. There is no one right decision for everyone. Sorry, I have gotten off track now. I will stop 🙂

  7. 7
    Kylie Says:

    I didn’t read anythig political into your original post either- it was a warning, it was a reality check.

    My immeadiate reaction after reading this post: “AMEN!”

  8. 8
    Peregrine Says:

    Damn, woman, but I love how you write!