Career Girl

career+girl+barbieLike most little girls, I had some serious career aspirations. I wanted to be a singer, a dancer, a cheerleader, an actress, a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. Genetics didn't quite prepare me for a life in show biz. Physically and emotionally I'm pretty squishy. Dance class found me back into a corner (literally, that is where they put me during public performance) and truth be told, I don't have the grit for the sordid underworld of the theater. I also thought about becoming a District Attorney like my hero, Catherine Chandler on Beauty and the Beast, because it involved arguing and wearing really great tweed blazers. But that star faded when I realized I wouldn't get a hot Lion Man for a boyfriend just because I went to Radcliffe. Truthfully, I have had one ambition since childhood that never, ever left my heart. That was to be a mother. Not so unusual, most little girls enjoy playing with baby dolls, most women have a maternal urge. But the older I got, the more important it became to me, till it trumped every other ambition I ever had. I had but one goal in life, and that was marriage and children.

This did not always go over well. The one math teacher who could make me understand Algebra told me I was "wasting my brain." Friends of my faith understood, because they had the same goal in mind, but most of the time people reacted with disbelief.

I vividly remember sitting in my journalism class while the other students discussed their futures. I had several 1st place awards nestled away at that point and most people looked upon me as having a bright journalistic future. As I listened to the students discuss what school they were going to (Ball State being a popular choice) and how they planned to work their way up, I listened with an almost sinking feeling. Not only did I not have any such plans, but I hadn't even thought about it for a second. The idea of single-mindedly pursuing my education and putting my true dream of having a family on hold didn't make sense to me. I admit, it still does not.

I do wish I had finished college. I didn't obtain my MRS degree until I was 23, and I could have finished a college degree by the age of 22. But it was not the time for me. I can't regret the fact that I didn't know the future, and that the future was holding me captive. Do I believe that "women" can be fulfilled by something other than marriage and family. Certainly. Do  I believe *I* could be fulfilled by anything less? Not on your life.

If I had decided to work up the corporate ladder, I know for a fact that I would never have been able to squelch the longing in my heart to be elsewhere. Of course, women can and do work while juggling a career and a family. I don't know what it takes to successfully balance that. I just know that I'm not the one to do it.

Part of my ambition was not just about being a wife and mother, it was about being a particular kind. I never wanted to worry about infertility, or about cutting back from two incomes to one. I thought to myself, "I would rather be poor than ever be faced with having a lifestyle that was dependent on my income." I wanted to homeschool, and feel free to be with my children. I wanted to nurse my babies without worrying about a pump, and I didn't want to miss their "firsts."

So I made decisions that many people in the world would think were foolish or thoughtless, but for me they were carefully calculated. I didn't want to worry about infertility. I have seen so many women put their bodies through hormones to prevent pregnancy at just the so- called "right time", which usually coincides with a time of declining fertility. And bingo, they are faced with trouble getting pregnant. The thought terrified me. I have also seen many women establish their careers, get married, settle in to a comfortable two income situation and then panic because they "can't afford to have children." I didn't want to worry about that, so soon after I got married I started cutting my hours and by the time I was 7 months pregnant I quit my jobs altogether. That way we didn't have to adjust to having one income, it was just our life.

I grew up with very little, so I know for a fact you can raise a child with very little. You just have to lower your expectations of what your life should be like. My children have never once starved, have never been without decent clothing. I am learning more every day about how to stretch a dollar. Sometimes I complain because I want more niceties, but that is my fault, not the fault of my life in this rich nation.

This doesn't mean we are completely content with the status quo.  My husband is currently in school earning an accounting degree, which I believe will take him far. If I had a career to juggle, I wouldn't be able to support my husband on his career journey. I am proud to be his nurturer, for I know, when the time comes, he will nurture back. I have started writing again for fun and profit, for I know that is the second most important calling in my life. I have three and soon to be four bright, beautiful children who it is my privilege to teach and to cuddle every day. My life is very full.

This is the life I have chosen. It was not thrust upon me. It is not the work of bad decision making.  I made my decisions by choosing not to fear the future, but to trust nature's model and the example of women before me. Ultimately, I believe the decisions I have made for my life will bless me in the end. And Motherhood is not the end of me as an individual. It is the beginning. As a writer, my shelf life will only increase as more experience gets stuffed into my brain. This is my training ground for my own future. Many rich opportunities lay ahead. I just wanted to reap the benefits of these first.