August 25, 2016

Now is Your Time: Week One continued

"This is your time," they said, "now you can finally do all the things you wanted to do!"

What those platitudes never took into account is that I did want to do what I was doing. I was raising two incredible children. I loved every single minute of watching them grow and become young adults. I love seeing their faces and bodies change, I love hearing their newly formed opinions and thoughts on the world, I love meeting the people they surround themselves with and I bask in their accomplishments with pride. I had a front row seat to their transition through every phase of life and it was fascinating. I cannot imagine anything else I would have wanted to do.

Additionally, after years of putting the needs of other's first, I am not even positive what my own needs are. I'm no martyr, but I'd become a bit of an accessory to my kids' lives. Think about it. I was a band mom, a drama mama, a choir chaperone. I have a well worn shirt that says CollegeU Mom, and a corresponding mug from my second child's college.

baby feet

Our generation of children may have had the most over-educated moms in the history of parenting. By over-educated, I mean in the art of parenting. We devoured books like they were pickles and late night ice cream runs. I can say the word Ferber and I am certain everyone of my peers remembers that technique. I can say What to Expect when You're Expecting and expect a bevy of dog-eared books and several people who also bought the accompanying sequels for the first year and subsequent toddler years. We all had an opinion about James Dobson's Focus on the Family books, and probably giggled a time or two, but owned a copy of Everybody Poops to help our little ones learn to use a toilet. If not a book, a VHS tape with the potty song.

If there was a PhD in parenting, we'd all qualify for it. Not so much with our parents and theirs before them. We were parented by instinct and discipline. Our mothers began to enter the workforce in record numbers, to the point that it was never a question of whether or not I would have a career, but rather what it would be and for how long. Then the question of whether to stay home when we had children.

With each choice, we became more determined to justify it with reams of studies and education. We educated ourselves as perhaps a way to defend our decision to "go backwards". I know that my personal sparks of feminism were really challenged when I went the traditional route. I felt like I had proven my elders right and only went to college to get my M.R.S. degree and have babies. Rather than diminish the education I wanted so badly, I wanted to prove that parenting could be an academic pursuit as well.

Now 21 years into a career which I prepared myself relentlessly for, that job has been outsourced to my children themselves. The things I wanted to do before I became a mother loom as an utterly unachievable pursuit. There was a time I wanted to become a lobbyist and use my communication and political science degree to work in Washington D.C. I wanted to make the world a better place for all people.

I am the same woman who marched on a picket line when I was eight months pregnant, carrying a sign that said, 26,000 AND ONE reasons to shop union. I am the same person who won a class action suit for our employees and who worked for pay raises as well as benefits during the contract negotiations. I am the same person who chased shoplifters out of our store. I have gotten countless volunteer awards in community organizations. I need to remind myself of all the things I know how to do that didn't require me to give birth to two children 21 and 18 years ago.

Now is the time to revisit that line of thinking and start to ask, "Why not?"

*this is an opinion piece, not intended to speak for all women, but rather to reflect on my own experience* 


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