Breaking my back has given me a lot of time for reflection. I find myself riding the roller-coaster of life with more dips than rises. I am grateful for these dips because they are giving me time to re-evaluate and reflect rather than just keep my head down with blinders on.
I am struggling with being a single, forty-year old woman, childless and broke. Yes, I have accomplishments, but they feel hollow compared to the apparent rich connections that come with marriage and the nuclear family. I am really enjoying reading about other women in my ‘condition’ ; )
It helps me to see that my life isn’t so empty and I am not alone in trying to find my place in this ever-changing world.
here are a few references that I connect to:
(snippets from the links, but the links are worth reading in entirety)
1. A woman who looks like ‘she has it all’:
written by: Anne-Marie Slaughter , who is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011.
I have been blessed to work with and be mentored by some extraordinary women. Watching Hillary Clinton in action makes me incredibly proud—of her intelligence, expertise, professionalism, charisma, and command of any audience. I get a similar rush when I see a front-page picture of Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, deep in conversation about some of the most important issues on the world stage; or of Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, standing up forcefully for the Syrian people in the Security Council.
These women are extraordinary role models. If I had a daughter, I would encourage her to look to them, and I want a world in which they are extraordinary but not unusual. Yet I also want a world in which, in Lisa Jackson’s words, “to be a strong woman, you don’t have to give up on the things that define you as a woman.” That means respecting, enabling, and indeed celebrating the full range of women’s choices. “Empowering yourself,” Jackson said in her speech at Princeton, “doesn’t have to mean rejecting motherhood, or eliminating the nurturing or feminine aspects of who you are.”
….But now is the time to revisit the assumption that women must rush to adapt to the “man’s world” that our mothers and mentors warned us about.
I continually push the young women in my classes to speak more. They must gain the confidence to value their own insights and questions, and to present them readily. My husband agrees, but he actually tries to get the young men in his classes to act more like the women—to speak less and listen more. If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing beside us.
We’ll create a better society in the process, for all women. We may need to put a woman in the White House before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart. But when we do, we will stop talking about whether women can have it all. We will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.
2. an argument for NOT having kids
…If you live in the U.S., look at the blue line representing “liberal” democracies (that’s what we are). The top graph shows that, among 20-39 year olds, having one child is correlated with a decrease in happiness, having two a larger decreases, and so on up to four or more. If you’re 40 or older, having one child is correlated with a decrease in happiness and having more children a smaller one. But even the happiest people, with four or more children, are slightly less happy than those with none at all.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Long before Slaughter wrote her article for The Atlantic, when she floated the idea of writing it to a female colleague, she was told that it would be a “terrible signal to younger generations of women.” Presumably, this is because having children is compulsory, so it’s best not to demoralize them. Well, I’ll take on that Black Badge of Dishonor. I’m here to tell still-childless women (and men, too) that they can say NO if they want to. They can reject a lifetime of feeling like they’re “always… failing at something.”
I wish it were different. I wish that men and women could choose children and know that the conditions under which they parent will be conducive to happiness. But they’re not. As individuals, there’s little we can do to change this, especially in the short term. We can, however, try to wrest some autonomy from the relentless warnings that we’ll be pathetically-sad-forever-and-ever if we don’t have babies. And, once we do that, we can make a more informed measurement of the costs and benefits.
3. a response to the previous argument that resonates with me from a blog that I enjoy:
But that’s the problem. The things I want, in order of importance to me, are:
1)Kids (very, very much)
2)A good marriage
3)A solid career
Let’s assess the options
This is ‘having it all’. There is not enough time in a day or caffeine in the world for it.
OK, but can I afford it? Depends entirely on how much my partner makes.
No way in hell, if possible. I was raised in this, and some other people may be able to pull it off, I don’t see how I personally could. I do not want to spend so many hours at work and spend so few with my kids, only to be slightly above the poverty line. Besides, I’d be lonely. I’d be spending all the free time I got with my kids, I’d miss adult company.
This is what the article suggests. I’m not doing this. I’m not giving up on the thing I want most in the world just so I can have cash, a fulfilling career, a guarantee of companionship/sex, and free time. If I didn’t want kids so badly, it would be awesome. Too bad I do.
(+ time constraints. Everyone in my family has had children early. I don’t want to find out at 35 that I’ve missed the boat)