I diverge from my normal nutrition/cooking posts to post a paper that I wrote for my Women’s studies class this week. As my readers are women and mostly moms, I want to offer a platform for feelings, frustrations and thoughts on the many roles that women play and the balancing act we employ to meet our goals. Sending love out to the ladies today!
“When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer so I can make a lot of money.” I can still remember that sentence, the headline I wrote in first grade under a picture I had drawn in crayon of a woman wearing a black dress standing on a hill. I’m not sure how I made the association between law and money at 6 years old, but that dream held tight until high school when my life got a little bit more complicated. I didn’t become a lawyer; in fact I didn’t even go to college. The typical teenage rebellion lasted about eight years for me and by the time I pulled out of it, I had an established career. By 26, I owned a construction company, was married and had my first child. By 28, I had my second child. I embraced the notion that I could do it all. Not only could I do it all, I could do a “man’s job”. I was the boss and had many men working under me.
The anxiety ran deep with two young kids, a husband, a home and a business to take care of. The balls were juggling but I was dropping them left and right just waiting for someone to notice. Company bills were going unpaid as I struggled to find time to sit down at my desk. Patience with my kids was waning. The real estate market was floundering but I didn’t have time to notice or to plan. The slow embers of failure were glowing day by day until finally, the fire began to burn my house of cards down. That was not the end, that was the beginning of my questioning.
As my ball of yarn unraveled, I maintained the momentum of moving forward and never looking back. My goals, plans, and ego could not embrace the idea of being a stay at home mom. What would people think? How could I show my face if I was only (which as Oprah says, is seriously the hardest job on the planet) a stay-at-home mom. My mother and grandmother were successful career women. I had so much to prove for my own failures not to mention the legacy that women had been fighting for almost 200 years. With two young children and a closed sign on the business, I went back to school.
The stress had caused my immune system and adrenals to fail and I became sick more than not. But, I was not listening, I was forging ahead. I eased into school not knowing what direction I would take but at least knowing I could check off the college box when I was finished. My passion for cooking and nutrition grew as the terms went by with meals to cook for my family each day. I settled on a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and have since been pursuing that goal.
My children are now 5 and 7. I have one year left of school. My immune system has recovered as has my self-esteem. However, most days I wake up wondering if this is the right idea. Many of my nights and weekends are lost to studying for exams instead of playing with my kids. I forego the glass of wine with my husband to write papers. I maintain three home-cooked meals per day for my kids and husband often spending 2-4 hours a day in the kitchen to insure they are eating whole organic foods made from scratch. Each week hours are dedicated to laundry, cleaning, volunteering at the kid’s school, running errands and grocery shopping.
The balls are up in the air again and at the end of each day I wonder, am I making the right choice? Are my kids suffering for my goals? Are my intentions selfish? Just because women have fought for equality, for rights, for a voice, does that mean I have to forge my way into the workplace to maintain these strides? Are my skills as a mother less valuable than my skills as a dietitian? Am I less than my CEO best friend if I pack lunches and fold laundry?
Does my husband have these thoughts when he is resting his head in a hotel for 5-10 days out of each month on work trips? I doubt it. Does he wonder if having a career is the right choice for him? No. He knows it supports our family. Does he wonder if he is doing enough? No. He believes firmly that he is. These are not the questions of men. By in large, these are the questions of mothers. These are the questions of liberated, strong women. These are the questions of ladies that have been told that they must be everything to everyone to the detriment of themselves. These are my questions. We as women have fought for these rights with commitment and perseverance. In all honestly, what choice to we have? With the divorce rate at 50%, what insurance do we have for our own well-being if we are dependent on our husbands? None of us plan on our marriages ending, but I will be damned if I am going to be on the losing side if it does.
We are not yet equals to men in the workplace or society but we are closer than we have ever been. We have proven that we CAN juggle and balance and wear heels while changing dirty diapers and running companies. That doesn’t mean that we are not suffering for those choices. It doesn’t mean that our children, our marriages, our immune systems, our well being and our quality of life are not paying the price for being the amazing, multi-tasking women that we are. So, the question I ask myself is just because I can do it, does that mean I should do it? I honestly don’t know, but I’ve accepted that I will spend my life listening for the answer that feels right.