I knew I couldn't have it all, knew there was no such thing.
So I didn't try.
That was my first mistake.
I thought, if I never reach for anything beyond my grasp, I will never be dissatisfied.
That was the first lie I told myself.
I don't know why I equated every career with long hours and brief cases and day care and nannies and pumping or formula feeding and never being able to care for my own kids.
I didn't want that, so I thought I wanted nothing.
Not that my kids are nothing. My children are not nothing.
But when faced with their voices being the only voices I hear, and the only tasks before me the preparation of food, the washing of clothes and the scrubbing of toilets, I lost a piece of myself.
I was told it was enough. I am not sure whose voice I was listening to. It wasn't my mother, or my grandmother, or my aunts. It wasn't my teachers. It might have been a woman I imagined out of whole cloth, based on a world that doesn't exist, but that I wanted to. An imaginary lady I built out of sadness and fear, out of a little girl's wish that things would never change.
Sometime in my formative years the lady with the apron and pearls became, not an object of satire, but once again, a goal.
And I was determined to make it happen.
Never mind the socio-economic climate had changed.
Never mind that in our technology-driven world it's easier than ever to telecommute.
I romanticized the pioneer, who would give her eye-teeth for my washing machine. I decided that being "poor" was an admirable goal.
I didn't know anything different. What I didn't know, I couldn't miss.
How foolishly did I dismiss my capacity for desire.
Let me be clear. I will never be sorry that I have been present for my children.
I will never be sorry that I have breastfeed for 8 years of my life (I counted!)
What I do regret was dismissing my chances at am education. That I took for granted the joy of learning at the feet of an elder, of being critiqued by a wise instructor. That I missed the chance to sit in a group, and talk about Shakespeare and Flannery O'Connor. That I shouldered the burdon of my education myself, and found myself wanting as my own teacher.
I could have gone to college for free.
I said no.
Now, as my children age, I am face with the fact that my talent cannot save me.
I have diminished my earning power by not recognizing early on that I deserved to have some.
I am nearing 35 years old, and I don't know what to be when I grow up. Or I do, and I realize I am 15 years behind.
I have watched my friends who were like me go in their own directions, becoming like the Proverbs 31 woman. They are present for their families. They are also doulas, midwives, photographers, fashion designers, antique dealers, realtors, soap makers, cloth diaper and cloth pad makers, yoga instructors, accountants, and teachers (even if it's just their own little ones.) They have found their voice, sometimes in their own fingertips.
I do not sew. I do not have a scientific mind. There is no product I can make that someone else could not do 1000x better. And I recognize that while not everyone requires formal education, I do. Even if I am never hired for a position, I cannot dismiss the fact that there is a wealth of knowledge in this world that is not mine, because I did not gather it. All I have is my voice. It is strong. But not strong enough for me.
I want my daughter to know that she is greater than the sum of her parts. That perhaps she can not have it all. But she can have MORE. She is allowed to help her families financial security. She does not have to find her fulfillment exclusively in homemaking (although that is a fulfilling thing, no question. But it's not the only one.) I want her to be defined by a myriad of things. Wife and mother yes, she will probably choose that. But she will choose more.
Because she can.
It won't hurt a thing.
Perhaps...it might even help.