What is Success to YOU?
"Are they all yours?"
"Oh, you home school?"
"You're already back to work?
"Are you done?"
"Are you sure you want her to be an only child?"
"How will they be socialized?"
"You're not going to put them in private school?”
“Have you looked up the public schools in your district though?"
"I could never stay home. What do you do all day? I feel like I would just sit and watch TV." "You don't take them to the library?"
"They're not playing any sports or trying any organized activities?"
"You started your child in daycare at six weeks old?"
"You were only twenty when you had your first?"
"You will be almost sixty when your child graduates high school?"
Y'all. What are we doing to one another?!
My choices are NOT a judgement of yours.
There seems to be a block in people's minds that allows their imagination to carry them only through picturing a happy home with as many children as they personally have or desire in the future, but not beyond. "Oh! You're expecting?" The incredulity in the mother's voice who was facing me in my living room as she stopped in for her daughter after a play date was blatant. We had matching families up to that point which apparently gave her comfort. Family of four: mother, father, girl, then boy and done. I fit nicely in her idea of enjoyable family life. But now I was expecting a third. I could feel her suppressed desire to ask, "Why?!" the curiosity shining in her eyes as she managed to give a more controlled response and offer congratulations.
I have never asked my neighbor why she chose not to have children, I honestly could not care less, but while explaining herself regarding something else that happened between us, she brought the topic up and told me there were many reasons why they had chosen not to have children and that she felt I judged her for not having any. I don’t care! Simply because my husband and I decided to have four does not mean I think everyone should. Simply because I chose to have any children doesn’t mean that it bothers me when women don’t want them at all. A life as a parent is an entirely different adult life in many ways from one where you are not. I wanted four. You can want three, or seven, or one, or none. What family do you want to have? Have it! I am joyful for you.
What does success mean to YOU? Only you, no one else around you, not even your family and friends. Potentially your spouse should be involved in this contemplation, but for some parts of it, not even them, only you.
Don’t live someone else’s life! Our current society has an incredible variety of options available, overwhelmingly so honestly, so there really isn’t a good reason to not create the closest to YOUR particular vision as you can.
The pressure that society places on people is maddening. There used to be the stereotype that women were meant for the kitchen, having babies, managing the household and little else. Now that scenario is discussed and portrayed as an insult in mainstream movies, articles, books, shows and conversation. But do you know what? Motherhood and homemaking and being a wife with no other “career” to show beyond those shouldn’t be an insult. There are hundreds of thousands of women who DO dream of that, who DO want those as their highest aspiration. It is no wonder that I gather from so many avenues that women still feel undervalued, even with all the progress that has been made and rights that we have gained. Yes, it is fantastic that as women we can now vote, own land, run businesses, aspire to be senators, judges and CEOs, and have all the rights that every adult in a free society should have.
But do you know what? Some women don’t want that.
Some women do not care about career laurels, nor will they ever. In the past, those women would have been celebrated, put on the pedestal and praised, to the detriment and suffocation of the women who do have career ambitions and desires for personal monetary success and accomplishments, who were not allowed to pursue them, ridiculously so, due to their gender. But do you know what I find horrendous? Instead of making progress by celebrating that women are INDIVIDUALS and we consistently want very different things for ourselves than the other women around us, the discussion seems to have simply shifted towards the opposite spectrum. Now a woman who does not desire a career or individual “success” (as defined by the working world in terms of money, position, and power) hears from every direction that she should. This woman now hears that by not wanting or pursuing those markers of success she is upholding the patriarchy, harming women’s rights, and holding back the progress that we should collectively be making. She learns that she should desire a career, that daycare should be her automatic go-to following a child because she should not “waste” herself at home becoming “dependent” on a “male provider” and living “like a 1950’s housewife.” If she wants a baby before 30 she is told that she is “missing out” and questioned if she is sure that she isn’t too young and will be “wasting her potential.” It is now extremely more acceptable in our current society for a 36 – 42 year old woman to be attempting to have her first baby than it is for a woman younger than 25.
Why are we doing this to one another?
If a young girl in high school talks about wanting to get married and have children now as her grandest goal for her future, she isn’t met with smiles and joy and discussion of what it is about family life that interests her. She is probably sent to the college and career counselor and directed to apply to some schools, hints dropped about the high level of divorce rates and need for a financial fallback of her own to support herself on. That is speculation, I have not been to a high school counselor, but I know that if not there, the girl would hear those same ideas from other sources in our society. Michelle Obama’s publicly posted response to the recent Roe vs. Wade decision stated her sorrow for “the parents watching their child’s future evaporate before their very eyes” and spoke of her heartbreak over “the teenage girl, full of zest and promise.” So, a woman whose greatest desire is to become a mother, when no formal career holds a similar spark for her, has now heard from our former First Lady, even as a parent herself, that her opinion of mothering includes a future that has “evaporate[d]” and visions of all “zest and promise” being gone. Yes, she was discussing an unplanned pregnancy, but planned or not, the end result is simply motherhood.
I have posted in previous articles how women have just as much drive, ambition and career desires as men. But I am saying here equally as emphatically, that many women desire to be a wife and mother only and that should still be just as encouraged! Neither the career woman nor the homemaker should be receiving feedback that they are going about life incorrectly, and yet sadly, they both are. I frequently see or hear that career-oriented women feel judged or expected to “parent like they stay at home”, even while juggling a demanding, energy-depleting and time-consuming career. I also frequently encounter the opposite, that stay-at-home mothers feel they are derided, questioned and judged that they aren’t pursuing “more” with their life beyond parenting.
Instead of making progress by allowing all motherhood styles and decisions to be accepted, honored and praised, we have advanced only to all of them being criticized! I say it again, what are we doing to one other?!?
My. Choices. About. My. Family. Life. And. My. Career. Path. Are. Not. A. Judgement. Of. Yours.
Shall I say that again for those in the back?
Let us all live the life we want to live, and pursue the definition of success we want for ourselves without critiquing others for their perhaps extremely different version!
If one family can thrive in the heart of New York City, surrounded by city shopping, theaters, international food, the financial district and every other lauded opportunity that it offers and yet another family can live in a barely accessible mountain town in the heart of Kentucky, enjoying hunting, fishing and 4-wheeling as their family pastimes, while a third delights in the coastal warmth of a midsize town on the coast of California, delighting in the ocean surf and beach town feel that pervades their every activity, WHY oh, WHY are we holding all women to the same standard and expecting all women to now desire the “new acceptable normal” of college, career and finally motherhood only after all of that is achieved?
It is infuriating to think of all those women whose talents were suppressed and wasted during the decades and unfortunately, centuries, that many societies believed that women’s only potential interests were their husbands, homes and children. But do you know what is also angering? That a woman in our current society who does primarily desire those things, is made to feel that she shouldn’t, and that she is letting down other women and damaging their progress by doing so.
We are women. We are individuals. We can want what we want and it doesn’t have to fit in anyone’s little box that they want to put us in!
Live YOUR version of success please, and celebrate me as I live mine.
P.S. I would love to hear your stories, thoughts and experiences with any of this! If you enjoyed reading this, please read my previous posts and subscribe to always be notified of any more! Thank you!
Credit for photo: Kristen Marie Hotek