“Hi you guys!”
It’s my son’s friend’s mother, a woman I don’t know well but I do know that when we moved here just over a year ago she talked alot about how much she loved her job. It was one of those dream jobs where she was director of a department responsible for using creative methods to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives in America and create a more peaceful environment. I remember her enthusiasm was of cheerleader proportion. I also remember thinking: how does she do it with three kids in third, fifth, and seventh grades?
“I quit my job,” was the first thing she tells me before we even get to the bottom of the escalator.
It was too much for her. Three kids, schedules, 2 au pairs who didn’t work out this year, 6 babysitters who have come and gone, and through it all she has got herself dressed and out the door by 8am every morning.
“My oldest daughter is in middle school, my youngest is about to go,” she tells me. “I only have a few more years they’re going to even want to talk with me.”
A few more stops on the train and she was off to work. But my head was still spinning.
Why do mothers have to make so many tough decisions?
I remembered the Enjoli perfume commercial jingle I loved so much as a young woman growing up…
I can bring home the bacon,
fry it up in a pan,
and never let you forget you’re a man.
Okay, now I want to slap the people – and culture – that created that song. The song that told me I could “have it all,” that a career and raising kids and having a relationship would be easy to juggle. That choice for a woman was only about abortion.
Boy, were they wrong.
Motherhood is all about hard choices. For the mom I saw today, she has chosen to leave a job she loves, to half their income in order to be more present for her children. I understand this choice, it’s why I work from home with flexibility and never took that dream job traveling around the world working for international women’s organizations in developing countries (I was on that track but quickly saw how when you’re a single twenty-year-old it sounds romantic to take your baby on a work trip to Ethiopia but when you’re a mother it’s a nightmare of epic proportion).
But do we really have to give up our dreams to raise children? Do we have to stop bringing home the bacon so we can make sure something gets fried up in a pan every night? Or for moms who have to work do we have to forget about the dream job because the practical job pays the bills?
“What tipped you over the edge?” I asked my neighbor this morning.
“My daughter’s upcoming bat mitzvah,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a joyous ocassion, but all it felt like was outrageous stress every minute for me.”
So out goes the dream job.
I know that compromise is all part of life but today – with all the promises made to women when I was growing up (“go for your dream job and you’ll be happy”) – I feel like I need to acknowledge that the choices mothers make are never easy.
Yet deep down I’ve got to believe that we can still dream, and live out those dreams. They just might not be what we thought they were going to be.