We met when we were only eighteen and nineteen; I, a three-semester college girl, he a high school graduate. It was love at first sight. Our parents were thrilled we had found someone that would love us, piercings, dyed hair, dreadlocks and all.
Nine and a half years later, we married. Probably one of the wiser decisions we ever made-no teenage elopement or early pregnancy. College graduates, employed, and homeowners when we finally took our vows, but edging closer to that magic number: 30.
After dating for so long, my goal was to be 30, married and pregnant.
Despite my non-conformist lifestyle, something inside me knew that I needed to make this milestone. My twenties were chaotic at best, but eventually had smoothed out and created a life path that I had planned: marriage and motherhood. I was of the generation growing up after the women’s movement, but before many of our mothers followed an nontraditional path. I knew how it was supposed to go.
I made my goal, and after that, nothing went as expected.
Turns out, working and mothering are an excruciatingly hard combination. What I thought I could handle ended up rocking my world upside down and sideways. Navigating an infant, a breast pump, a husband and a classroom full of fifth graders proved to be…challenging. Full time motherhood and full time teaching didn’t seem to be a great fit. I wanted them both. I felt my dreams crumbling away.
The next year I took a chance and changed jobs, thinking that 80% employment would be better. I was right; working with my more familiar middle school aged kids allowed me to focus less on the curriculum and more on my baby, but…there was still no free time, no long nap times to get papers graded, and the household responsibilities were still there, waiting. The 12:30 baby handoff allowed us to escape childcare, but our couple time disintegrated into late-night dinners and frantic eye-contact while trying to rock the baby to sleep. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I grew frustrated that I couldn’t handle it all: job, marriage, motherhood. Didn’t I have exactly what I’d always dreamed of?
Sixteen years and one more child later, I’m learning that actually, it went exactly as it was supposed to. That’s how life is. I learned I am living out my dreams. I have what I wanted, and actually, much more. But more importantly, I’m learning that women like me, all throughout history, have and continue to walk this line of confusion in the search for their ideal life.
While we share the same desires and dreams for the milestones in their worlds – love, family, success, fulfillment, and comfort – today’s women face challenges like never before. The centuries of liberation which benefited women have come with a price, and today’s we’re charting a new course. We have more options, more choices, and more demands than ever. We try to balance it all, while maintaining that sense of what women are supposed to do with what we know we need to do. Our mothers and grandmothers had no idea what a blessed curse they were bestowing on their daughters and granddaughters as they fought for equal rights, and with them, the absolute blossoming that would come decades and centuries later.
Today’s women push non-conformity in interesting, dynamic ways, all the while grapping with what happens to women who bend today’s rules of propriety and customary behavior? We wonder how we will have to pay for blurring the lines between what is expected of us as wives, mothers, and women and the urge to have it all, to do it all, and to blossom into what we were meant to be? Can we chart the course for our own daughters, who themselves will be past the image of stay-at-home moms as the norm?
Sixteen years ago, I had no idea this is what life had in store for me. Sixteen years from now, will my baby girl blossom into a kind of woman I could never imagine?
I certainly hope so.
This post was inspired by Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Click here to purchase your copy of Saturday Night Widows at Amazon.