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I could, perhaps, have been a contender

January 19, 2010

Today I took in a part-time boarder, just as if I were a Victorian widow who had, through circumstances only whispered about, fallen on Difficult Times. She’s a professor at the college in town, and (it turns out) got her graduate degree from the same place I got mine. She’ll occupy my guest room two nights a week, teaching and holding office hours in between. When she arrived this evening, my children were (rather picturesquely) playing a board game in the living room; right now everyone is in his or her bed, asleep or reading or typing on a laptop.

Today I also got the page proofs for my first scholarly publication, a section of my dissertation I managed to turn into a chapter for an anthology. The book was co-edited by one of my advisers along with one of my friends (the latter, a colleague in grad school, is now an eminent professor), which is why I was asked to participate in the first place. I’m the only non-academic contributor to the book, which has me feeling slightly wistful. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see any part of the dissertation I sweated blood over in print. On the other hand…well. I myself made the decision not to turn my graduate degree into anything but a feather in my cap, since I chose a specialty that interested me (but was wildly unmarketable) and refused even to consider going on the job market after graduation. My ex-husband’s career trajectory was much more impressive, and much more lucrative, than mine ever could have been. He is now tenured at his university, while I am…what? The only non-academic contributor to a volume of scholarly essays, which I guess is something.

Once upon a time, I was accepted as a grad student at several fine academic institutions, one of which boasted (as the chair of my putative department) an illustrious gentleman who happened to be my intellectual hero. I met him briefly when I visited the campus, but in the end I decided to go somewhere else for my degree. A few years ago, this very man was reading from his latest translation at a college nearby, and a friend of mine (an impressive, tenured scholar herself) asked me to go with her to hear him. It was a rainy night. The hall was packed, and the Great Man was witty, erudite, and altogether divine. After the reading, a huge line of fans clutching copies of his various books stretched around the margins of the hall; I was ready to leave, but my friend pushed me into the queue, where I stood stupidly for a while, waiting my turn. I had with me a lovely first edition of the Great Man’s translation of the Oresteia, which I’d bought for myself for my birthday the year before. When I got to the front of the line, my hero glanced at the book, surprised, and looked up.

“I haven’t seen this in a while,” he said. “I love these plays.”
“They’re what made me decide to learn Greek,” I said truthfully.
“Ah,” he said. Behind me, the line grew longer. He seemed in no hurry to sign the title page.
“We’ve actually met,” I ventured. “I almost came to grad school where you teach.” He asked my name. I told him.
“I remember that name,” he said. “What are you doing now?”
“I…um. Well. I went to graduate school,” I said, feeling my face get hot. “But now I don’t do anything. I mean, I have two children. I take care of them.”
He looked at me closely. “It’s the most important job there is,” he said. “What you’re doing is the most important job in the world.” And, with palsied hand, he signed his name to my book.

About a year later, he died. His stunning translation of the Oresteia is dedicated to his wife, and there’s no doubt he appreciated what she did for him–raising their children, running the household, and (one assumes) providing intellectual companionship–ballast for the great ship of his brilliance. He was an old-fashioned scholar, a magnificent polymath, and I would never malign the blessing he meant to bestow upon me. But with all due respect to late and lamented geniuses, raising my children–who are wonderful children, and whose company I have thoroughly enjoyed for thirteen years–is not seriously considered, by anyone besides Robert Fagles, the most important job in the world.

Listen to me, for I know what I am talking about: If you forego a career in favor of staying home with your children, I commend you. And I understand you, too, because I did the same thing, and it has been rewarding and challenging and intellectually stimulating and, actually, quite a lot of fun. However, do not go into the childrearing business if you expect the world to give you kudos. You may, if you are exceptionally lucky, get a kind word from an aged scholar flattered by your dedication to his work. But you will not get a great deal of respect from anyone else.

If you decide to stay home with your children, make damned sure you are doing it because you want to. Because if, say, you decide that your kids are now old enough and capable enough to fend for themselves a bit, and you appear for a job interview in the field you have specialized in with your resumĂ© clutched in your fist, the person interviewing you will not nod understandingly and say, So, you took a decade off to raise your children, and now you’d like an entry-level position? Welcome to our team! Your career will probably not wait for you. The professional world does not consider childrearing to be the most important job in the world.

And if you are negotiating a divorce settlement with the very man whose children you stayed home to raise, while he finished his degree in record time and went on to score numerous prestigious fellowships and even more prestigious job offers, and then to become the youngest tenured member of the faculty at the medical school of his university, do not expect him to consider your contribution to the family’s welfare on a level with his. Brace yourself, for there is a chance he may actually say, in the presence of both of your lawyers, that you did nothing, really, while he was out supporting the family. However, he will generously allow for the possibility that you will, immediately, begin earning as much as if not more than he does, thus obviating the need for what’s now called “spousal support” instead of alimony. After all, you have identical degrees. It certainly isn’t HIS fault that you opted not to make better use of yours.

The fact that you could have done something other than tend them will not be particularly appreciated by your children, either, even if they are kind, devoted children, who both love and respect you. They will not care that you have an advanced degree. They will, when it’s time to fill out your occupation on a project for school, blithely write “Nothing” next to your name. They will speak reverently of their father’s career, as they fling their backpacks on the floor and devour the snack that magically appears every afternoon. I know what you are going to say. You are going to tell me that the difference I have made to my children’s lives by being at home when they were young is so profound it is immeasurable, and you are certain that my personal sacrifice (although let’s be honest–it’s not really a sacrifice, since I know exactly what I’m doing, and even enjoy it) will repay me many times over when my children grow up. You are going to tell me that even if they don’t “appreciate” me now, they will, someday. And I am going to tell you, politely but firmly, that there’s a pretty good chance you are wrong.

Human nature is egregiously flawed. We fail to appreciate what we have, and pine for what we don’t. A parent (or husband, for that matter) who is seldom available is longed for, even idealized, while the parent who is loyally present is often overlooked. Likewise, the way we spend our days–caring for children, let’s say–is sometimes not enough to satisfy. And if I myself habitually answer “Nothing” when asked what I do for a living, what, exactly, do I expect?

The answer eludes me. I’d like another chance at it, though. I’d like to think that I am still qualified for the type of job I might once have landed. (It’s not as if Ancient Greek has changed a whole lot in the decade since I finished school.) But I’m no longer qualified, if indeed I ever was.

It’s not so bleak; I can probably wring another chapter or two out of my dissertation, and I might even manage to weasel some kind of part time teaching gig. But I’ll never join the hallowed ranks of scholars I admire, and–even though I wanted to stay home with my children, and still want to, at least for the present–I am, on occasion, stung by regret.

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 3:26 pm

    The marked plurality of my winces while reading these words is a reasonable litmus test of quite how close to the knuckle they come with me. Your posts are resonating in my head days and days afterwards: I find them a compelling mix of uncomfortable food for thought – my own marriage is under strain – and beautifully-crafted insight.

    (I now hold you in much increased awe: my BA Hons is Ancient History and I came to view both Latin and Greek as the bane of my existence. I am not, alas, a linguist. The fact that the language modules were invariably scheduled for 9am Mon – Fri did nothing to assist matters, either.)

    Superb, superb, superb writing.

  2. January 19, 2010 4:02 pm

    This was a beautiful written post and I strongly related to what you are saying-which is why I think we may end up a one child family-I DO need and want to have a full fledged career and as you said, the world will not wait. Have you read the book: A Season in Hell: A Memoir by Marilyn French? She wrote a lot about the right to have meaningful work in ones life. I wrote about this on my blog a few months ago as well: http://designermama-manaallamano.blogspot.com/2009/10/stuck.html

    Glad to have found your site via Julia

  3. January 19, 2010 4:42 pm

    I also found your site via Julia, and while I most likely not your intended audience, as a 24 year old female, I found your post highlighly enlightening. Lately my boyfriend and I have been discussing marriage…I lean more towards waiting, he wants to do it yesterday. However, the one thing that propels me forward is that I WANT to have children & I WANT to stay home with them. Reading your post has given me a good deal to contemplate…I am highly intelligent(that sounds AWFUL) and find it very frustrating when people assume I am not based on my looks. I imagine it will only get more frustrating when I tell people I no longer work. Definately something to take into consideration-and something many people wouldn’t say! So thank you!!

    • Pinky permalink
      January 21, 2010 8:04 am

      It’s not that you would no longer work. You still do as a mother. You just aren’t working for pay. And this lack of pay is the demarcation line in valuing/not valuing women’s work in the home.

      This is one of the reasons I advocate prenuptial agreements — it gets partners talking and articulating. When it’s the first blush of marriage, everyone seems to be in agreement, but if it comes to divorce, all bets are off.

  4. January 19, 2010 4:52 pm

    You are so right. Thanks for putting this much better than I could have. Good luck while you plan your next step!

  5. Leslie permalink
    January 19, 2010 5:12 pm

    I’m at the beginning of giving up my career to stay home with my kids. My dissertation remains unwritten while I stay home with my 2-year-old and plan for the next child. I have this idea that I’ll find my own way, that I’ll carve out a small place for myself in the world of scholarship. I hope that happens, though your post makes me think it’s probably wishful thinking.

    You, though, should tell people that you are writer, rather than say you do nothing at all. Because you are obviously a very wonderful writer.

  6. January 19, 2010 5:28 pm

    I enjoyed this post. It’s a topic that’s frequently on my mind, as a lawyer who torpedoed a promising litigation practice in favor of personally caring for my three small children. I still work, but part-time, in a much less-demanding and less-compensated job. I have some thoughts:

    1. You might be right about “never” joining the ranks of those hallowed scholars. I worry about that a lot, that I might have permanently destroyed my potential. If so, I guess, so be it, right? In this life, the best we can do is make our choices and hope for the best. However–

    2. You might be wrong about that “never.” With any luck, life is long. Why should our achievements necessarily be limited because we devoted this stage of our lives to our children? Plenty of people wait until their 40s to pursue graduate and professional degrees, and they have a perfectly respectable career trajectory after graduation.

    Wishing you the same kind of luck I’m wishing for myself.

  7. Ellie permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:43 am

    It seems to me this regret is born of the fact that, really, we have so far to go in achieving true equality between the genders. I think the issue is – and always has been – that the goal of equality has been viewed as a feminist movement, and it never should have been. It’s true that women deserve and should aspire to equality in the workplace, but men also deserve and should aspire to equality in the home. But, unfortunately, even as women have increasingly entered the workforce and secured advanced degrees, the expectation that women remain the primary childcare provider has prevailed. There has been no countervailing movement to include men in greater roles as husbands and fathers. And, the result is that women’s roles as workers is not valued as much as men’s, despite the prevalence of women in the workplace. And, men’s roles as fathers is not valued as much as women’s roles as mothers — despite the fact that they are (assuming a heterosexual partnering) half of the family unit. We are all aware of and internalize these different values placed on our respective roles — even if we, as individuals, are overcoming expectations and achieving great things on our approach to parenthood. At the end of the day, it seems to me, it is so hard for all of us – men and women – to value ourselves equally in both roles and to expect our work in both roles to be valued. I think this failure to truly equalize gender roles has been a huge detriment to both men and women, and leads to a lot of regret on both sides.

    My husband and I have worked to counter these divisive gender roles in our own marriage – and to value each other as professionals and parents. We both have advanced degrees and promising careers. When we were deciding whether we wanted children, we talked about how having a child would put pressure on both of our careers and take those careers in potentially different directions then we had originally anticipated. We also knew that we would only have children if and when we were both at a point that we were willing to put the same time and effort into a child that we were willing to put into the degrees and careers. It wasn’t so much a political stance — it just didn’t seem like raising a child was something that only one of us should have primary responsibility for and, on the flip side, neither of us wanted to miss the joys of parenting and having those special moments with our child.

    When we finally decided to have a child, we figured out how to rearrange our working lives – even though we both have careers that are not easily rearranged. Today, we each spend a day a week home with our child and she is in daycare the other three days. We also both took parental leave (overlapping for a month and having independent leave for a couple of months while the other person worked). We take turns putting her to sleep at night and divide up many of the other “chores”, but also do a lot together as a family. We work far fewer nights and weekends then we used to – and, as a result, our careers have slowed down a bit – but we are still both achieving much of what we want through our jobs, and appreciate the ability to empathize with one another about the new struggles we have in meeting the same demands of our jobs in our newly constructed work weeks. And we both get immense pleasure out of our time with our child, even as we struggle to make all the other pieces fit.

    But, it is far from ideal. We have almost no time for each other as we juggle our jobs and parenting duties. And, even with our efforts to achieve equality, we feel differently judged and differently valued by our peers, colleagues, and the strangers we meet on the street. The expectations of me, as a mother and professional, are so different than they are for my husband, as a father and a professional, even though our division of labor is almost identical. It’s been hard for both of us to deal with those different judgments, the different hits we’ve taken in our careers, and the different bonds that are forming in our relationship with our child. Because of the pervasive gender roles and expectations, most people don’t understand my husband staying home once a week or taking 3 months of leave — and don’t value the time he spends in his domestic pursuits. And, I feel like I am not valued in either role — because I haven’t dedicated myself fully to a single pursuit. I’m half-mom, half-professional, and half-valued as both.

    I guess what I am saying is there is no easy answer to the balance… but, your post makes me realize, again, how important it is to make sure that our striving for balance continues to be a two-way street. Our husbands/partners have to be part of the discussion and the solution. From my own experiences, it is difficult for me to see how you can achieve balance if the labor is divided in such a way that the spheres are isolated (the domestic sphere and the working sphere) — so that one person occupies the domestic world, the other the working world. But, I know I am coming at that from the perspective of someone who very much values working and having a career — and worked many years to establish that career. I knew my husband also valued his career and worked long to establish it — so, when it came to having a child, we spent a long time discussing how we could “have it all” – our careers and a meaningful home life. I don’t know if we’ve gotten there — but, I think these kinds of discussions help (meaning both the personal discussions we had and these public discussions through blogs and other forums). But, without everyone at the table, I think we aren’t going to solve the underlying problem. Both genders need to value – and revalue – our work both in and out of the home… and to do that, we need both genders willing to engage in the dialogue (and the solution).

    • October 26, 2010 1:08 pm

      This is a great and very comforting post to read for a Swede, who is used to long equal-terms parental leave and subsidized high-quality daycare for everyone who needs it.

      We can indeed have it all, but as you say, it requires hard thinking and hard work from bort parties. And support from the society helps no end.

  8. Smumzie permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:01 am

    Ah, regret.

    Would you say you regret every decision you ever made though? I would (with the exception of marrying my better half).

    I’m not sure words can adequately express the range of emotions I felt reading this. You are an amazing writer and whatever you end up doing, if writing is a part of it, it’s clear that you will succeed. And I sincerely hope that you end up loving it.

    I come from the flip side of your coin. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and flitted from college to college, major to major, job to job, before I decided to finish my undergrad. I ended up with a degree in Women’s Studies (concentration biomedical ethics) from Yale. I imagined myself living in New York writing articles about women’s health issues for some cutting edge magazine. By graduation, however, the job I had taken as a “temp” got serious and I became an assistant director in marketing at a Fortune 500. And I’d become accustomed to a lifestyle that a writer’s salary would never accommodate.

    I was promoted several times and traveled the world on the company’s dime. I met many interesting people but my career was far too important (and time-consuming) for me to have a relationship. By the time I woke up and took stock of my life, I was 37 years old. Single with my Ivy League degree not even hanging on the wall because I was ashamed that I’d done nothing with it.

    Today I’m 46 years old. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 38 years old. Good thing I banked the bucks while working all those years because that’s all I have to show for the last 25 years of my life.

    And I’m spending every cent of it trying to have a child.

    After 5 miscarriages I’ve found out that I’m already in menopause. In 2 weeks, we start our final (20th) IVF cycle with our second surrogate and third egg donor. I’m not holding out hope that this one will suddenly work after all the others have failed so miserably. Even if it does work, I gave up the chance to have my own biologic child in exchange for money (it sickens me to even write that) – for a career that means, what exactly, in the long run? I’ll never see reflection of my mother’s smile or the twinkle of the green eyes that run in my side of the family shining back at me from my own child. And there is not a single thing I can do to change that.

    It’s with bitter sadness today that I write that I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. What you’re going through is devastating and I absolutely do not mean to trivialize it. But you still have a chance to make this work. With the education and talent you have, it’s only a matter of time and effort (and networking with everyone you’ve ever met who might be able to help you), before you find something. Even if it means entry level positions are the first step, you’ll eventually get there. And you’ll still get to kiss your kids goodnight and glow with pride when they graduate and start building their own lives.

    May I suggest looking into teaching at a private school? Greek and Latin are enjoying a surge of popularity right now amongst high-schoolers. And you don’t need the teaching certificate if you have an advanced degree (at least my friends in CT and MA didn’t).

    If that doesn’t work, there’s always Greece…Mama Mia! (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  9. Sharon permalink
    January 20, 2010 2:27 pm

    Just spent the last 30 min of a rainy, blue (for me) day reading your exquisite writing. I ‘found’ you (not that you were lost) through Julia, who I should’ve known would only point her readers in excellent directions. Thank you for putting this out there.

  10. January 20, 2010 11:12 pm

    So, so, so beautifully written.

    You are a contender.

    The real deal.

  11. LJP permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:41 am

    I can not stop thinking about this post. Thank you so much. I’ll be a faithful reader.

  12. Leigh permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:21 pm

    Thank you, honestly, for this post. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately – I’ve been working full time since I graduated from college (all of 3 years ago), but have applied to grad schools and am waiting to hear. The whole time I filled out applications and emailed professors about letters of recommendation, I kept trying to figure out how to do everything that I think I want to do, which includes marrying my boyfriend and someday having children. With (hopefully) a Ph.D and tenure-track position at a nearby university. I’m sure there aren’t any good answers, but this piece has definitely given me another frame of reference that I don’t have from anyone I’m close to – it occurs to me that I’d be the only person among my family or friends with anything other than a BA (with the exception of my boyfriend’s mother, who has 2 MDs from 2 countries from before there was any sort of limit to the hours a resident could work in a week – I literally cannot imagine).

    What you said about your children not appreciating the fact that you stayed home and took care of them rather than pursuing a career out of the house? I’m not sure that won’t happen. My mother stopped working when I was born, and had a hard time getting back into the professional world when I was 8 and my sister was 5 – she went from orthodontist assistant (which was completely unrelated to anything she’d ever done before) to dentist assistant and has now worked in telecommunications for over a decade. My sister had a harder time adjusting to our mom not being home, and she might not remember that she was home with us for so long as well as I do, but I am definitely grateful that she did take the years at home (even if I feel a little guilty that it was so hard to get back into the 9-5 job-with-a-salary she’d had before). I’m 25 now, and remember all the trips to the library, cookie baking, quilts she sewed for us, chaperoning school field trips, and just walks in the woods behind the house where we used to live. I know it wasn’t easy, and I know that it had a greater impact on her life than she’d probably thought it would, (and am sure that I won’t really understand until and unless I have kids of my own), so I’m extra-thankful that she did take the time at home. I’ve told her all this a few times, and am sure it bears repeating.

  13. Kim permalink
    January 21, 2010 3:17 pm

    irretrievably,

    I’m a new reader and a new fan.

    smumzie,

    It’s nice to hear your perspective. It’s pretty much mine, too, and it’s a lonely one for me, although my own choices let to my own circumstances. I’m the 38-yr-old in your scenario. When everyone else is talking about their families constantly, it can be hard.

    Love and best wishes to all

    • Smumzie permalink
      January 23, 2010 5:34 pm

      Hi Kim, thank you for the kind words. It seems like everyone I know is pregnant and even the women whose blogs I’ve followed for years all now have kids – some through egg donation, some with surrogates…still, they have theirs. I sincerely hope that whatever you’re trying it works for you! Do you blog? I’d love to follow your journey… Thanks, Smumzie

  14. January 21, 2010 3:42 pm

    From the bottom of my heart thankyou for writing this.

    I have two daughters under 5, a 15 year old redundant Masters degree from Cambridge and I manage a small medical practice 4 days a week. Some days I think I’ve got the balance right (my husband also takes one day off a week to look after the girls) but increasingly, lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m treading water while the careers I used to be a contender for sail right past me. I want recognition, I want respect, I want to not be the person who cleans up after the patients have had an accident in the bathroom. I’m also completely devoted to my girls, and am considering a third. I’m happy they see both their parents sharing their upbringing, sharing the workload, but I’m also pained that we live in an absurdly wealthy town where we constitute the ‘working poor’ and they will grow up thinking money=success=happiness.

    I’m conflicted and in denial about all this inner rage. You voiced it beautifully, and yes, I think if you choose to pursue a writing career you will not fail to be successful.

  15. Jan permalink
    January 22, 2010 10:06 am

    Whoa. Beautifully stung. I *did* go to graduate school in classics there and studied with Fagles. And although I tried to get one, there were about three jobs open to 400 contenders, and 30 years later I work at a college as a non-academic. Those doors are shut tight. Even though I know I would have hated the politics and the tenure process, from the outside it looks so sweet. From still a “wannabee.”

  16. January 22, 2010 11:09 am

    Good morning. I, too, am one of Julia’s lemmings and when she says “go read…here” I go. I read. Here. I’m glad I listened.

    I stayed at home and raised my children when they were little, and then when they got to middle school/high school age, I went back to college to finally finish my degree. Only it took a little longer than I anticipated and suddenly they were high school/college age, and we needed MONEY not a well-educated-but-financially-insolvent mother. So I quit college (with just a year to go) and went back to work in a dead end job. C’est la vie.

    The children do thank you, by the way. Not in the ways you might think, say, over a cup of tea from a mismatched tea service, but in the following way. One night I was reading my 19 year old daughter’s Facebook in which she had taken a quiz. One of the questions was “Who is the first person you turn to when you are upset/scared/hopeless.” Her answer was “Mom.”

    You’re welcome, love.

  17. victoria permalink
    January 22, 2010 11:11 am

    I came here via Julia, too.

    Academia will break your heart worse than any man every could. Sometimes I think college is sort of like heroin: So great! Makes you feel so high! And you don’t even have to pay for it (your parents do). Then you get hooked, you go to graduate school, and the whole enterprise becomes a wretched soul-suck that leaves you broke, your self-esteem shot.

    (I too cherish The Secret History. It was pretty much what Wellesley was like for me, absent murder and ancient Greek.)

    But what I really wanted to say was — this post prompted me to buy that translation you referenced. I also picked up a copy of the Twentieh Century Views essay series on Aeschylus. If you were willing to link to any other publications on this topic (for those of us who don’t read Greek) I would probably buy those, too.

    Thank you for writing this.

  18. January 22, 2010 2:21 pm

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday – http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2010/01/five-star-fridays-edition-88.html

  19. January 22, 2010 2:53 pm

    I wish I could write something witty and erudite in reply to this post, but unfortunately I’m on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I’m thirty two, back in college, and I have no children. I gave up my dreams for entirely different reasons, but the simmering rage at resumes is the same.

    I wish there was a way to tell employers that I have lived hard. That I have loved. I have seen things that don’t translate into I worked here for ____ years. One day, I may just figure it out, but until then, words like yours put the fire back in me.

    You’ve reminded me to fight for my dreams, and for that I thank you.

  20. January 22, 2010 8:39 pm

    After staying at home to raise my three children, I’ve come out on the other end of things, and can pretty much assure you that your children WILL thank you and appreciate you for being at home with them while they were growing up. I think part of it is that they have seem so many of their friends NOT have what they had (and still have), so they know there is a difference and that having a mother who wants to be there raising them gives them the confidence to move through the world knowing how loved they are. Home is always the safe place where they can land when the world feels hard. Home is where they can recharge their batteries then go off again to fight the daily battles.

    My children are older now (in college) and they tell me all the time how happy they are that I stayed home with them. I attended all their school functions and at sports events, I was always their number one fan. I knew who my kids hung out with–I knew where they were most of the time. None of my children did drugs or got into serious trouble because I made it my mission to keep them involved in things they loved–be it sports or music or art. Watching my children grow, struggle, win, lose—those are some of the happiest moments of my life.

    I constantly struggle with not feeling as though I’ve done anything really important in life because, just as you point out, while there are people who will SAY it’s the most important job, the real world tells you in a million ways that they don’t really value what you’ve spent a great portion of your life doing. It’s disheartening and tends to crush the spirit, I think. I think it’s important that women support each other, no matter what decisions we make in regards to raising our children. I’ve come to recognize that I’m a really good caretaker of other people and maybe that’s why I am here. I think the truth is that we cannot have everything, but are told by others that we can, and so we do not allow ourselves to enjoy what IS because we are always looking for something more.

    • October 26, 2010 1:12 pm

      How are the kids relationship with their father these days? Was there enough time for him to be involved or did he as the sole breadwinner live under a lot of stress?

  21. January 23, 2010 12:27 am

    I, too, found you through Julia. I had a long drawn out comment to share but have deleted it. Others have shared many of the thoughts I have about a subject you so eloquently explored in this post.

    Many years ago a wise woman told me that I could not have it all. I have learned that I have to make choices. I do the best I can with what I know at any given time. Maybe the best I can hope for is to enjoy the journey.

  22. January 26, 2010 10:56 pm

    You are a powerful and honest writer and I owe Julie many thanks for leading me to you.

    I have nothing good to offer. I’m lucky that I found a balance between part time work and raising my two boys. Finances didn’t allow for me to stay home with them, and looking back I would have hated it.

    To Smumzie I just want to say that you are in my thoughts. I have a child via adoption and one via embryo donation. I used to think that I would be sad that my children would not have “my eyes.” Now I know that part of having a child doesn’t matter at all. The one that worked for us was “the last one.” We were out of money and options. But it worked. I wish for you the same.

  23. January 28, 2010 2:16 pm

    I stayed at home with my boys until I was lured into a post at a University in the Counseling department. It was my dream job, and I can remember standing outside the interview that I nailed, calling my ex husband in absolute joy.

    He proceeded to have an 8 year affair.

    I was in love with my profession. In love with my practice, and had a 2 & a 4 year old. Life was good.

    And then…it wasn’t.

    I went back to work. I would give my left arm to have stayed home as I had originally planned…as I had done…

    I love your writing…my ex husband left almost 3 years ago. I’m almost over it, although have just found out about the affair.

    Your blog is absolutely the most wonderful blog I have on my blogroll. You speak my heart.

    ~Ms.V
    …and why am I now crying…

  24. February 7, 2010 5:58 am

    I too, am not likely your intended audience, and couldn’t really be any further from the world of academia, but i whole heartedly agree with an earlier comment, that you should proudly call yourself a writer. this was a stand out read for me in a sea of blithering and blabbering blogs – thanks

  25. February 16, 2010 5:16 pm

    Found you via Julia. Love you so. It’s so nice to find someone in the world who can actually write well, and says things meaningful enough to evoke an emotion.

  26. April 2, 2010 3:45 pm

    I am an old, long-standing fan of Alexa and Julia and am just now getting around to reading your archives.

    THANK YOU for this post in particular. It is stunning and beautiful. And possibly very close to home.

    I am so happy you are writing. So happy you are writing this story. So happy you are sharing POETRY on your blog.

    Thank you.

  27. November 16, 2010 10:06 pm

    I ran into your blog yesterday and started reading from the beginning. You do write beautifully. I wish I were able to put the thoughts and feelings into word as I went through the final years of an unhappy marriage, the lonely years after separation and divorce and now new marriage.
    My ex and I had a farm so in a sense I had my work at home (he had a job in addition to the farm). However we gave up the farm when my 3rd child was on the way and I spent the next 8 years as a “full time mother”. I never called it “nothing”, though I too, felt the lack of value that society places on this most important job. Even today, I put “full time mother” on my resume to describe what I did from 1989 to 1997. It was very odd to discover how much more recognition I got when I started minding someone else’s little girl. I did nothing different than with my own children, and yet getting paid for it seemed to make it “worth” more. It’s a crazy world!

    I was 38 when my 4th and youngest child started school at age six, and I went to college to get a degree in nursing science. Until then the Norwegian State had given support to single mothers until the youngest child was 10. The rules have become stricter now. Now they stop support to single mothers when the youngest child is 3. When my youngest was 6 they were just changing the rules, but I convinced them to support me for three more years with the argument that I would be better equiped to support myself and my children with a college degree, than with just a high school diploma.

  28. Sarah permalink
    March 11, 2013 10:23 am

    …this is me… in tears because of the universality of this story.

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  1. The gay divorcée | Divorced with Kids
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