One of Liz Lemon’s running in-jokes on the show 30 Rock is that she’s trying to have it all: Career, personal fulfillment, a family. That she rarely achieves even 2/3 of her goals is the source of much of the show’s humor, but it’s also an interesting examination of the plight of the post-feminist woman.
I’ve had plenty of time to think of this, especially during the first year of my time as a stay at home mother. I loved my job. When Aidan was small and the challenges of new motherhood seemed so much bigger than I was capable of handling, I wondered if I wasn’t a little crazy to give up my much-beloved career.
After all, what did it say about me that I was willing to trade in an engaging career for a never ending river of spit-up?
Don’t get me wrong, staying at home with Aidan has been and will always be the right move. It’s in line with my goals and priorities as a parent, it fulfills me in ways no career ever could, and I can see the benefits of it every time Aidan decides to behave himself.
The writing certainly helps. I have a stimulating hobby that manages to not only give me a creative outlet but also makes me feel like I’m still doing something tangibly worthwhile with my time. It helps. And it’s fun.
Now that I’m pregnant and have let my writing simmer on the back burner, that old post-feminist pestering is back. My ambitious nature goads me daily, telling me I should be working, not napping. That I’m willingly letting my dreams get hijacked by two little people who don’t even realize it.
Someone I follow on Twitter recently asked whether it was always necessary to choose between kids and goals, and why that was. I notice a lot of my peers struggling with this same frustration. They have goals, dreams, and ambitions and feel stymied by the limitations incumbent to a mother with young children.
I struggle with this myself. I hesitated to get pregnant again because I had so much I wanted to do first. Finish another book, get another book published and out there, maybe attend another writer’s conference.
Instead, I got pregnant again because it was important to us that our children be close enough in age to be able to relate and enjoy a relationship with each other.
All that to say, what ultimately made the decision for me was having a hard discussion with myself about my priorities. My kids are my most important priority. Everything else comes second. Not because I think my darling precious angels are the be-all end-all of my existence, but because they deserve to be my focus right now. I am half responsible for bringing them into the world so I darn well owe them the best I can possibly offer.
If that means my writing will have to wait until they’re both in school to really get going, I’m cool with that.
There. Struggle over.
The disservice I think post-feminism does women my age is it makes us feel like choosing our children is weakness of character. Like if we settle for anything less than running ourselves ragged trying to raise great kids and have ambitious careers all while wearing the jeans we wore in high school, we’re doing it wrong. Settling for less.
And what I think it’s producing is a lot of guilty women who are at war with their circumstances. If you only have a set number of hours in the day and trying to fit everything in is making you crabby and miserable, prioritize and let things go.
That’s my take on it, anyway. Maybe I’m just a big ol’ quitter. If so, at least I’m a big ol’ quitter who’s happy. I’ll take happy over stressed out and miserable any day of the week.
My goals and ambitions will still be there waiting for me when I have time for them again. My little kids, however, who need love and attention and guidance? Won’t be.