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I Want Children, I Just Don’t Want Yours, and Other Conundrums

There’s an interesting post by Kat Lombard over at Once a Month, called I Hate that I Love Babies.

Boy, can I relate.

It’s another article, in a long line of articles marching through the years, about whether, or how, women can have it “all.” Otherwise known as the question that has no answer.

I’ll get back to that idea. For now, I want to talk about that irritating conundrum for women: we aren’t all alike. Okay, you knew that, and you’re okay with it. Everybody’s unique, right? No one expects all women to be the same.

Except, what really gets people up in arms, is that we are all different, in different ways.

We get that some women want to work outside the home and some want to work inside the home. We haven’t reconciled it completely, but we get it. But we don’t have room for the woman who wants to do both. Who wants to have children, but is breaking her own heart by putting it off because she also wants to be CEO. What is she, schizophrenic?

No, she’s just human. None of us are just one thing. Maybe this is easier for me to understand, because I am very much more than one person. All my life, I’ve flitted from one interest to another, and often have more than one thing going at any given time. My head is forever in the clouds because there is so much to think about. So it’ s no surprise to me that a woman can both love babies, but not want to have one. Or she wants one, but wishes she didn’t want one.

Because there is still so much to do, you see.

As a young woman, I was desperate for children. It’s all I wanted in the whole world (well, along with the perfect husband. I knew I couldn’t do it all alone). Yet, I most emphatically did NOT want to work with children, as in a day care or teaching school. At the time, I did not see any conflict in these desires. I still don’t. It’s perfectly logical to want your own children, but know darn well you don’t have what it takes to corral a hoard of other people’s kids all day. I haven’t changed either. I adore my grandchildren, love to spend time with them, and if I lived close enough, I would gladly babysit once in a while.  But take care of them all the time, with no break in sight? Nope.

I loved taking care of my own kids. I loved them, of course, but I also liked the day-to-day challenges of running my household. I was a single parent by this time and very, very poor. But I reveled in things that other women run from. Menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking were at the top of my list. I liked washing dishes and making beds, and sort of liked doing laundry. I loathed other housework, and only did what had to be done, and never until it had to be. But I’d read to my kids all the time. I’d help them with homework. Heck, if it was math, I’d do their homework, and they knew it. I played games with them and took them to the park and the library as often as possible.

I worked outside the home because I had to. My feelings about this were mixed, even for me. I enjoyed working – being with other adults, learning new things, experiencing the satisfaction of doing a job well. I also went to college, because I knew I’d never make much more than minimum wage if I didn’t. Going to college was a never-ending thrill for me – a confirmation that I really was intelligent and capable of higher pursuits.

But against all this satisfaction, was the knowledge that I was not giving my children all the time they needed. Yes, they needed me to work so that they had food and clothes. College was less easily justified, but making more money was not a greedy wish – it was the difference between Top Ramen for dinner three nights a week and fresh meat and vegetables, or the difference between an apartment on the drug-dealing side of town and a rented house in a safe, clean neighborhood. But there’s no doubt my children suffered from not enough mom-time.

So I understand about wanting it all. And I understand that “all” must be defined by each person for herself.

Or himself.

And here’s where we come back to the possible answer to this question. Kat Lombard sums it up here:

But the part that is frustrated by this fact, I believe is frustrated for a reason that’s not so new or revolutionary. It is one of the bases for Slaughter’s article: the idea that my mom and my grandma and women of their generations hoped that by now we should NOT HAVE TO HAVE THE “WOMEN HAVING IT ALL” CONVERSATION AT ALL. At least, not in the same way. And changing the conversation to me, starts with something simple: don’t just ask women how they plan to have it all. Ask men, too. Seriously, ask them. Because by doing so, it means we expect them to be involved parents, to the point that their home life might cause work conflicts as much as it could for a woman. And that means, suddenly, it’s not a “women’s” issue. It’s a worker’s issue. It’s a human issue.

It is both this simple and this obvious. We need a society that values people. “Work” is important, yes. But the work will always get done. We don’t need to turn people into automatons to do it. Every business, everywhere, should have a policy of “balance” for every employee. It should be intrinsic and all-encompassing. Even single people should have a balance between work and life.

I’ve heard the argument that it’s the people who devote themselves to their job who get the advancements. The man who never shows up for his kids’ games/plays/shows because he’s working late every day and on weekends is the man who is on the CEO track. He gets to do this because he has a wife, who may be working at her own job, but who is not also on the CEO track. If he doesn’t have a wife, or he does and she is on her own CEO track, then they have an army of nannies/housekeepers/gardeners to raise the children.

The people who show up nearly every day and do their job, but go home at closing time, don’t get the promotions, bonuses, or opportunities to advance. Because they need balance in their lives.

So in my world, balance would be required of everyone. The damn CEO track stuff doesn’t really need to get done, and certainly doesn’t need to get done in the time and manner they seem to think it does. It’s largely useless drivel, far less important than actual people. We all need balance, whether we have children or not. Most of us, after all, were children once, meaning we have parents, who may need care and attention at some point. Even if you’re an orphan, you still need balance. I’m sure you can find something to do with your non-work life.

As Kat points out, once this is in place for everyone – men, women, rich, poor, smart or not-so-smart – then balance is not a women’s issue. It never should have been “just” a women’s issue, after all. It’s a human issue. It always will be.


1 thought on “I Want Children, I Just Don’t Want Yours, and Other Conundrums”

  1. Very thought-provoking post. As a single mom and working outside the home and pursuing a writing career at the same time…there is definite conflict involved.

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