Has anyone else read this book and care to share their thoughts about marriage, family, staying at home for the children, or building a career, or trying to do both?
I am personally very conflicted, more than usual, as I've posted about my struggle and journey in the past, but after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's advice, more or less, I just feel like I've got some more thinking to do on this topic.
OK, so anyone who reads Ms. Gilbert's work (or looks at the title of the book, really) sees that she is a skeptic about marriage, but that she makes peace with it and that she eventually ends up finding love and marrying a second time after a nasty divorce and lots of self-reflection and self-exploration which is written about in "Eat, Pray, Love."
Elizabeth seems to have, in my opinion, fairly solid advice for teen and 20-something women. Don't go boy crazy, find yourself, finish your education, build a career. Then think about marriage and family. She cites many statistics about men benefiting more from marriage financially and with regard to health and living longer lives. Women on the other hand, her stats and studies show, are happier, wealthier, more fit, and live longer the longer they wait to get married.
OK, I was pretty much nodding my head on this part because I see where she is coming from. I get it. I did those things. College? Check. Career before baby? Check. Trying to juggle career and baby? Check.
But then, sort of out of nowhere, Elizabeth drops the story about her own mother (a part time nurse for Planned Parenthood in the 70s) who gave up her career when Elizabeth and her sister got the chicken pox at a young age and caring for her children conflicted with her work schedule of an out of town conference. And Elizabeth Gilbert says that her mother's sacrifice of career for family really benefited her sister and herself when they were kids. She goes on to say that her childhood was much better after her mother quit working, and her mother always being home to greet them at the door after school allowed her the stability to study hard, do well in school, and become the accomplished person she is today.
Whoa. What the??????
I read this section of the book and felt my sinking heart and panic.
I work. I work part time. It's hard. It's hard because I miss A LOT of my pre-school age child's activities. ALL THE TIME. My job causes a lot of stress for me, for my child, for my husband. I have meetings and my husband has to take time off from his job to fill in the gaps of childcare. We spend boat loads of our money on child care from other people. It was our second largest expense last year.
Yes, some days my child likes day care, but after several days of it, there are the pleas that we have a "stay-at-home day." We never get to do anything except on weekends, and then it's usually just catching up on laundry, dishes, groceries, all that stuff. I am too exhausted at the end of the day after working to really read a story to my child, or teach anything. I fall asleep at 8 p.m. and it's a major accomplishment if I go to work AND do a load of laundry in a single day or go to work AND manage a quick run to the grocery store. We constantly are out of clean clothes, food, and my house is a mess.
There just isn't enough time.
But, on the other hand, I like that my child can go to a really good day care, something that just wouldn't happen financially if I weren't working. We are not a family that could afford a stay-at-home mother and preschool. I like that I earn my own money and I could support this family through some sort of crisis if need be, and I like that once a year I see my retirement statement and it looks pretty good.
And every once in a while, I love my job and the things I work on, and have good days. Most days are tedious and I'm tired, but some days I think, "OK, this is why I am doing this. I see the end goal." Of course, I had those sort of conclusive days as a stay-at-home mom, too.
Everyone says it gets so much easier when your children are school aged, but kindergarten is looming for us, and you know what? I don't think it will get any easier. Not schedule wise. My child now already goes to day care the same schedule as the regular kindergarten and grade school schedule, and I have to work part time, not full time, to accommodate this. To drop a child off at school at 8:00 a.m. and pick up by 3:30 p.m. - well, that just isn't a 40 hour work week. It doesn't line up. Yes, before and after school care is available, but then my child is very cranky, and we are rushed 5 days a week out of 7.
I am feeling very, very, very unnerved by this book, and by my doubts that I made the right choices.
Maybe what Elizabeth is saying is prepare yourself to be yourself and find out what you want. To do that, get an education and your own career before marriage and children. Then do what you want. But she didn't really say that. I just interpreting her meaning to try to make sense out of the conflicting stories she gave.
And if there is no resolution of those conflicts, well, than that is just unfair to women and to mothers. And it's unnerving to me personally.
Please share your thoughts about this, especially if you have also read her book.