Monday, April 15, 2013

Thinking Out loud

Baby love.
Recently I've been having conversations with fellow ambitious young women, all of whom are in the "years of the Baby Inquisition" and many of whom feel a desire to wait  a little longer before starting a family. The striking similarity in these conversations is a word that keeps coming up: selfish. "I want to be selfish for another year" or "I'm not done selfishly putting my own needs first". The word selfish is uttered with a pang of guilt or concern, like there's something wrong with feeling unprepared to jump on the baby train despite the ticking of biological clocks. (Even Destiny's Child isn't immune to feeling selfish!) So obviously this  got me thinking...

In a culture where women are finally being encouraged to chase their dreams, both personal and professional, in the same ways as men, it's no wonder that the uniquely female experience of pregnancy, followed by maternity leave and child-rearing is difficult for us lady folk to place. Is it really selfish to want to pursue your career goals without the additional responsibility of a child? Is it selfish to not want to share your husband's attention or affections, especially when many of today's women are getting married later in life than previous generations? These things feel pretty reasonable to me.

I often hear my generation's mothers and grandmothers speak wistfully about forgotten or never pursued careers and desires because of "the times". And while I have no life goal more important than my desire to raise healthy, happy children, as I read about "leaning in", "having it all" and "work/life balance", I find myself so confused and overwhelmed by problems and uncertainty that's it's hard not to yearn a bit for simpler times. This is not to say I want to go back to women in college getting their MRS. or women being shut out of certain career paths (hellllz no!) but our gender's social progress has created incredible competition between personal ambition and maternal instinct. With gender "norms" quickly becoming a thing of the past, I feel myself and other fabulous young ladies really struggling to avoid feeling guilty about whatever path we choose. 

I don't have answers to any of these questions, or even advice for people floating in this boat along with me, but I can help continue the conversation by talking about it. Because for me, thinking out loud is a way of leaning in to find balance and maybe someday, to have it all.