Thursday, September 24, 2009

the new feminist revolution

Back in the day, before I knew I wanted kids, when I was in the heyday of my youth and falling in love with the freedom of college, the knowledge it offered and the opportunities it gave me to meet some of the most important people in my life still, including my husband, I felt I was unstoppable.

I guess it started as early as high school, when I started my 'countdown to freedom' sometime in my junior year. I saw college as an opportunity to spread my wings, exercise my independence and learn about the world that I was so curious about. I remember when I was making light of my best friend getting stressed about whether she was going to get her college application completed in time, she told me "you don't understand, you want to be successful and do something with your life, I just want to be a mom!" I remember being completely shocked by this statement for many different reasons but mainly because at that point in my life I couldn't imagine only aspiring to be a 'mom.' I had bigger plans.

I remember feeling at a very young age that I was out of my element and people my age just didn't get me. This is why college was such a revelation, it was the first time in my life where I could have thoughtful conversations about significant issues and really felt like I was on the same page with these people. It let me explore my 'radical' side and really articulate my thoughts and beliefs. This was also where I found what I really wanted to do with my life(only after realizing that being a veterinarian would require a better grade than a D in Chemistry!). It was a long slippery slope of going from marriage counselor to sex therapist to finally social worker. Although at the time I didn't realize that's where a degree in Family Studies would land me, I knew I didn't want to be a social worker, too messy and not enough pay, but I did want to help families, that much I knew.

Getting my degree was a bumpy road filled with failures and successes, but I did it and armed with my degree and idealism, I was ready to save the world! I got what, at the time, was my dream job, working for a residential program for adolescent girls with mental illness. I quickly worked my way up to managing the program and staff within 3 years. Ever since then I have been working my way up, including earning my Masters in Community Services something I hoped would offer me more opportunities and more money. Whenever the subject of children would come up in it's usual hypothetical way in our lives, we both would joke that he would be the stay-at-home parent while I continued to exercise my feminist rights climbing the professional ladder. I dreamed of being a Director for a non-profit or possibly even starting my own non-profit. I even went so far as to see us living large on my salary, taking great vacations, partying with our friends, going out to nice dinners and following our every whim. He didn't mind this dream either.

This dream came to a screeching halt when we finally got pregnant after nearly two years of discussions, planning and trying. As the due date approached I found myself hoping for an alternative to working full-time so that I could stay home longer with my baby (I could not imagine having to hand my 3-month-old over to a stranger to take care of for the majority of the day, and I was becoming blatantly aware of my inability to do this). I found myself no longer looking for positions with more money and power but with more flexibility and no travel. My future began to quickly take on a completely different look. What had happened to my dreams, goals and ambition? I was a feminist damn it, I need to be out there chasing that carrot for all the women before me that didn't even have the opportunity to enter the race.

Then I remembered a conversation with a roommate in college, one that started when she said something along the lines of "if it weren't for the women's movement, I'd be married with kids and not spending all this money on tuition!" I was shocked that she had it all so wrong...the point of the women's movement was not to limit women but to offer women the choice. I guess I am finally realizing this reality...because now my dream consists of being able to be a full-time mom, being the primary influence on her growth and development and showing her the world. Now, my best friend from high school is an inspiration to me because, I finally understand that being 'just' a mom is probably the most important job there is.

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