Can we really have it all?

I remember when I was 25 and it was the year 2000. That birthday was hard for me, because I remembered 10 years prior, when I was 15 years old thinking of all things that I wanted for myself when I was 25. I thought I would have it all. I would definitely be married, have at least one child, have gone to college and had an awesome job. I grew up hearing I could be anything I wanted and I believed it! So, at 15 years old thinking of 10 years down the road; I couldn't wait for the new mellenium and my 25th birthday. I would be happy beyond my wildest dreams. So, when 25 rolled around, I had an associates degree in a field I didn't like anymore, I had been in a so-so relationship for 8 years with no engagement ring, no children and was just completely lost. What happened to having it all? Kids, marriage, career? I longed for it because I just knew it was the golden ring to my happiness.

Nine years later I have the great marriage, two beautiful children, the college degree in a field I love and my career is just within reach. This is it! Right? Then why do I lay in bed each night, thinking and feeling guilty about having both? If I put my kids in daycare to work on a career that I love, I miss out on them. If I give up the career to stay home with my kids I miss out on doing something amazing that I know will leave a positive mark on others. If I do both part time I run the risk of making myself crazy which in turn bleeds onto my kids and my husband. A couple of weeks ago as I told this to one of my girlfriends on the phone, I said, "If this means 'having it all', then I don't want it."

And how dare I say that! With all the opportunities I have. A fantastic education, the gift of fertility and healthy children, and a hard-working husband who is an amazing father. Women would give their right arm to have some of the things I have, if not all! But here's the thing: As women who grew up hearing "you can be anything you want" topped with society's pressure of doing it all well, the overwhelmingness of it all can be unbearable.

I recently read an article by Jill Berry where she states,

"The truth is that modern women can't have it all. They may succeed in their careers and they may succeed as mothers, but to do both at the same time? No, that is not possible without making huge sacrifices which many will find simply too much.
The fact is that life is not a level playing field. Men and women may finally have equal opportunities, but that doesn't mean women should make the same choices as men. The sexes are different.
Most women want children and they want to be the principal carer. Encouraging young women to aim for the top at the same time as raising a family is unrealistic and, I would argue, damaging."

I have to agree with Ms. Berry here. But what do we teach young women? I can't imagine telling my daughter, "Honey, let's be realistic. You just can't do both. Choose one. Go to college, but don't go for your dream job because you'll just end up wanting to leave it anyway when you have children. Or, don't bother having kids, they'll just get in the way of your awesome career."

When I had children, I finally understood what it meant to want to give them the world. They smile, and I want to hand it over. But has a disservice been made to my generation? Courtney Martin talks about the "feminists unintended side effect" in that women who were told they could be anything grew up feeling like that had to do so and do it perfectly. Our mothers only wanted the best for us- better than what they had. But they had no idea that they may have been setting us up for disaster.

I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. I'm so proud of that. And I have always wanted to go to grad school and am encouraged by my fellow girlfriends, most of them mothers. But when I really sit down and think about it, it sounds absurd. Grad school, 2 toddlers, a career, a marriage...with a side order of cranial lobotomy, please. When my son turned one, I went back to school to finish my degree. I bought a ticket for the crazy train and took 21 units. That was the hardest 16 weeks of my life. Regardless of how the gap of parental roles has closed (somewhat), mothers are still the primary caregiver. It was difficult to leave him to go to school, study, write papers, be a wife and a mom to a toddler. I have a hard time believing women who say they don't feel guilty leaving their children 40 hours a week. I feel like they are either lying to me, or themselves. Or both.

So, what's your take? I'm curious what other moms think, or even if you're not a mom, do you feel like you were pressured to do one or the other? Or perhaps you have spent so many years on your education or career, now your biological clock is quietly whispering to you?

Oh my gosh, my life is over!

Todays post is written by Pamela Candelaria. She and I have become "cyber-friends" through a VBAC support group and Pamela herself has had 3 VBAC's!! Please enjoy this beautiful ode to motherhood. Thanks to Pam for letting me re-post this.

Every time I've been pregnant, I go through a period of blissful happiness, envisioning the sweet tiny newborn I'll be holding, the quiet moments we'll share during 2 a.m. feedings, the soft innocence of that new life cradled in my belly. I close my eyes and breathe deeply, and I swear I can almost smell that precious new baby, so new to the world.

And then at some point, the pregnancy becomes real. The sweetness does not go away, and I'm not unhappy, exactly, but I find myself longing for my life before. I think of all the changes this baby is going to bring- and it's number four for the love of God, not like I haven't done this before- but I think of the changes and I have some kind of premature need to reminisce about my life as a mother of three. And two. And one. And, of course, none. I think of the freedom, the spur-of-the-moment trips, the parties, the concerts, the smoking and drinking and laughing and sex and spontanaeity and overall coolness I had. I think of the career I gave up to stay home with my kids, the financial sacrifices my husband and I have made, the difficulties we've had in our relationship as we've adjusted to our roles as parents. I realize we haven't even found our groove after adding our daughter to our family, and yet we thought it was a good idea to go ahead with another baby- what were we thinking?!?

I remember when I was pregnant with #3, I had left the kids at home with my husband and was driving to the library to check out some baby name books. I was stopped at a light when a song came on the radio- I don't remember which one and I guess it doesn't matter all that much- and in the second it took me to reach for the volume knob and start turning it up, I was overwhelmed with the realization of how much my life had changed, and was about to change again. I ended up pulling into the library parking lot and sitting there in my minivan- so not my Miata- crying my eyes out because this was "me" time. Getting baby name books at the library without having both my boys with me. What had become of the woman I'd been? I felt so lost, so uncertain about the new role I had taken on. Motherhood is so much more than having a child, it is a soul-deep shift that forever changes how I view myself, and the world. Every child I have has increased my capacity for love and learning and life- but every child has taken me further and further from my life before. Every flutter I feel in my womb is a reminder that my potential is being passed down now; the future will soon enough be in their hands and not mine. One day they will exceed my ability to shelter them, and one day I will look into their faces and see all the things I used to have.

So I sat in that parking lot and cried. I cried for the woman I had been, and for the woman I am, and for the woman I will become. I went inside and got my baby name books and drove back home. I pulled into the garage, reached over, and turned the radio down so it wouldn't be too loud when I got in next time, with the boys. When I walked into my house, I was greeted by their little voices shouting "Mama!" and asking what I'd brought them.

And I realized then, as I will again soon, that my life was not over. It had really just begun.


Random musings of my feminist nature

I read somewhere on a list of rules for bloggers never to start a post by apologizing for not posting to your blog if it's been a while. So, while I won't apologize, I did want to mention it because thinking about it is what brought me to open this blank page and start typing.

As many of you may have noticed, my blog took on a life of it's own as I started writing about body image. I attribute it to my own evolving life and I have to thank my coach, Annamaria Poluha, because over the many months I was coached by her, I was able to pull out my own passions and live them authentically. It's still a work in progress, but coaching sort of thrust me to live for what I was meant to be. Pretty cool, huh?

At any rate, today marks my daughters 8th week of life and as I type this she sleeps peacefully against my chest in the baby Bjorn carrier. I've been feeling guilty about not writing, and many times have forced myself to sit with my laptop and start a post. I have 3 or 4 started that went nowhere. So I started thinking maybe I lost the gusto. Maybe I was just meant to serve cut up hotdogs to my toddler and wipe spit up off my t-shirts and that's it. That I'll just go back to work at a gym training clients that don't really want to work out in the first place for not much more than minimum wage.

Wait a minute. Is that who I really am?

I started thinking about how I got to be so fiercely passionate about empowering women. It suddenly dawned on me that it didn't just happen over night. I didn't wake up one morning and think, "You know, it would be cool to encourage women to kick ass and stand up for themselves and to live their best life." No, I truly believe I was born to do this.

I was a shy child. Believe it or not, I was that kid that clung to my moms thigh and hid from new people. But once the teenage years started I had an awakening. There was something about men disrespecting women that really got under my skin. My friends can attest to the fact that I would flip the bird to any man that would whistle or cat call at us when we were 14. It would embarrass my friends, but I didn't care. I thought it was so rude (and gross) that a grown man would be that way towards young girls. Eventually I would yell back at them to leave us alone. One sophomore year during a spring break trip to Palm Springs a man probably in his mid to late 30's grabbed my butt while walking by with a group of his friends. I promptly turned around, ran after him, hit him in the face and told him not to touch me. His friends laughed at him.

The behavior on my part was obviously immature, but at that age, I didn't know how to channel my feelings. As I got older I learned to censor myself somewhat but I never lost the drive to want to put a stop to what I felt was wrong. When I was 20, I moved out on my own for the first time and had 2 roommates. One of my roommates came home crying and told me some construction workers paving the parking lot asked her where she was going. When she told them she was going to work they said, "Where do you work, Hooters?" She did have large breasts, but that was unacceptable. I called the leasing office and had those men fired. I hope their mothers were proud of them.

Years ago when Howard Stern began filming his radio show to be on the E! channel I saw an episode where women allowed men to throw bologna at their butts. It was a game. I shouted at the TV, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU STUPID?" I didn't get it- why would you think it was funny to be totally degraded? And no, you're not in control. You're letting people throw lunch meat at your butt. It burned me to see women act this way.

I remember learning that 1984 was the first year women were allowed to participate in the marathon race in the Olympic games. I was 9 years old in 1984. I was astounded that in my generation I was seeing historical things like this. I thought sex discrimination was a thing of the past- something my grandmother had to face. But I was wrong.

No woman deserves to be disrespected or discriminated against because of her gender. And as equally as important, every woman deserves to feel beautiful and to live her life the way she wants. To find what lights her up inside and go for it.

Perhaps I was a born feminist. Or just a mouthy girl from the suburbs. Call it what you want but I hope my granddaughters remember me as the crazy lady that crusaded for all women to love their lives and embrace what makes them happy.

Photo courtesy of DownTown Pictures