Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Having a Daughter.
I'm nervous about the prospect of having a daughter, because I've studied so much, and I still study, and hopefully turn research to practice, but I am pulled in the direction of family and feel the balance sway in that direction. I don't think there is one best place for women, or one best balance.
I wonder how that will play out for my daughter, and I wonder if I can guide her so that she has an identity of her own and is also able to experience some of the joys I've experienced by being with a loving spouse and maybe having a baby or two. Guiding her and Noah, and being the biggest part of their lives while I can, sways my priorities in unexpected ways. In all the ways that matter, these are indeed the wonder years, but they're wondrous in a very collective way.
The mythology of women "having it all" in our generation raised my expectations of myself. We weren't saying at Wellesley, "I want to focus on my family in my late twenties and thirties"- it wasn't something that 18 years old worried about, it wasn't in our 5 and 10 year plans, and perhaps rightly so. Much of this stuff one cannot control. But it wasn't something we were consciously abandoning, either. We can have it all, but I don't think we can have it all and still sleep. Which is no longer having it all. Or "have it all" and still eat good food or be fully available to our babies. Which is no longer having it all. There's a tension in every member of the family having personal goals and dreams- dreams that pull in different directions.
Not that we get rid of dreams, but we have to choose the timing and direction of our dreams carefully. Men do too, but women's experience of parenting is uniquely physical and all-encompassing, and then there's patriarchy. I'm very encouraged that my dreams and Eug's dreams (and Noah's budding dreams) are not limited to our lifetimes. I'm convinced that God gradually prepares us for stuff, and the timeline is not as super important as it feels at 28. It's a paradigm shift that wasn't entirely natural for me. I've had to make choices, and make choices that allow me to hang out with Noah, Eug and others without thinking about furnishing our house or writing papers or researching the next proposal or charting where refugees live in Cape Town (yes, my work is fun). There's pain associated with those choices- not a bad pain, just a strange tension.
I'm glad I had high expectations, even as I now experience the natural boundaries of a 24 hour day. For my daughter, as for Noah, I hope I can imagine for her a really wonder-filled childhood.
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Coming from a family of girls and having a daughter & granddaughter, the "having it all" is really a matter of perception. What each of us deems of that "all" is what matters. And having dreams is, what I believe, the most important part of growing. Not growing up, but growing. While I have not achieved everything that I thought I would when I was younger, I now have other dreams, hopes, aspirations, that make up what I deem is having it all. Who knows, that could change next year when I start my 66th year of life.
And I'm not sure that we need to attribute anything to one gender or the other. Certainly gender can make a difference by our environment, but we have the power/control to make what we can out of life just as you and Eugene have done all along. Sons and daughters are each special. I have one each, but five grandsons & one granddaughter. It's wonderful to see them mature & explore different things and how the exposure to one new activity can change their dreams for themselves. As parents, we need to be supportive even if what our children decide to do is not what we had envisioned. The "surprise" is part of the joy & beauty of life.
I first heard of this from Bridget, this fear of showing a daughter the wrong model by staying home, and i have to admit I don't share it. My mom pursued a profession while trying to run a household and she was miserable for 20 years. If that modeled anything to me it's that work is stupid. I call shenanigans on the inner prejudice that staying home is somehow inferior to office work. Or, that it's okay if I choose it but I want my future daughter to somehow turn out more driven than me.
I shudder at the idea that work is stupid, though the way my mother combined work and family (and angst) taught me nothing of the joy I find in my kids. Should I draw any conclusions yet about being a modern woman though, it's that if we've learned anything from "feminism" it should be that women have more choices - and should embrace them. That means choosing to be mothers and/or career women, any combination of the two. Mainly, if we're lucky, having partners who can support us to pursue what's important to us whether that be work outside the home, dedicating 99% of our time to our children, a smattering of both. Our parents' generation of women was taught to burn their bras. Maybe our generation can embrace the opportunity to wear really sexy ones with nursing clips - and toss them all together on our days off. Still, even in our modern era, these choice are such luxuries!
Thanks Donna, Leah, Em- your comments were each helpful.
I'd say the inner conflict (the angst, as Emily would put it) is the thing that I hope I can transform rather than transmit (for Noah as much as for our daughter). I've found it hard when I felt I had to work full time because that was what our family needed-- I haven't yet had the reverse but I imagine I would. I don't want to be bitter, either way.
I think I want to go deeper than calling attention to the falsehood that work in the home is less worthy (which of course, is a real thing). We have to call attention to the economic system that makes it so necessary, much of the time, for both parents to work (particularly in places like the Northeast U.S.) and also challenge the acceptance that fathers (or mothers) should be working full time, when that can have it's own implications on the soul.
My younger sister wanted to do job sharing when both her children were born. However, the school district was not quite that enlightened in those days so it was her husband who became the caregiver. And I must say that both children, now adults, and one is a parent now, seem to be well adjusted. So I suspect that it does not matter which parent is "home." But with the advent of running businesses from home, telecommuting, I think that you have the best of both worlds that was not an option when I was your age.
I had to work, but found jobs where I could take my son, i.e. child care for others.
My mother did not go to work until I was in high school, but I really have no memories of her being home when I was younger. I know that she was the "bus" driver for us for all our activities.
I love working. Do far more volunteering now & mentoring others. I suppose my underlying goal was to make sure that my children were self sufficient. That they knew how to cook, clean, sew, and have good work ethics. I think that I was successful based on their adult lives.
I believe that it is best to treat children as equals when encouraging them to try things. So that one activity is not for boys vs. girls. But remembering that at the moment, females can do at least one thing that boys can't: give birth/nurse. And I know how to do things, i.e. change the oil & plugs in my car, I just choose not to do it. I think that gives me a certain amount of "power" in the world.
So, go with the flow...you will know what is right for your children at the moment. without a textbook/guide to raising them, we each will stumble at sometime or other. Just pick yourself & your child up...and keeping on moving (learning from the experience).
A daughter! This is wonderful. We will all be waiting for her, as much as we did with Mr. Noah. Her life will be different from ours, and we will support her as much as we can, as we will do with Noah. A daughter, this is a news!!!!
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