Sunday, August 11, 2013

Britt, Her Decision to Opt Out and Why I Couldn't and Wouldn't (But Sometimes Wish I Could)

Social media is an amazing thing. It has allowed me to reconnect with people from my past and get to know them in a way I hadn't in the first place. My friend, Britt is one of those FB reconnects, who through status posts and her most excellent blog I have come to know in a way that wouldn't have been possible 25 years ago. I have had the privilege to watch Britt battle and beat breast cancer with a grace and dignity I could only hope for, had I been dealt the same hand. She is truly inspirational and I think of often when I need some perspective on my life. So, yay to Britt!!!

Today, Britt posted a blog regarding her decision to opt out of the work force 10 years ago, leaving behind a career as a doctor in order to devote herself to a much more important job called motherhood. Opting out for women in the workforce has been with much controversy, taking into account all of that feminist hoopla about getting in there in the first place. Much has been written on it in terms of the effects on mothers, children, marriages and society at large. What is great about Britt's blog (notice how I continue to plug her blog??) is while she speaks to the larger issue, she does what everyone who has ever been a mother and had a career should do; she throws all of that research bullshit out the window and talks about her own personal experience (which is impressive in its own right given the fact that she is a scientist). Go ahead...check out her blog.

All of this opting out stuff truly came to my attention when the "opting back in" controversy started in recent years. Suddenly, many women who had opted out wanted back in while other "opt out-ers" looked down there noses at the women who were apparently jumping ship right back from where they came from.

So, how does this affect me? I never opted out, therefore, opting back in isn't even an option. But I have struggled daily with the decision of being a working mom (even though it's a necessity). I always believed I wanted to be a stay at home mother. Why wouldn't I? My mother had been one until long after we were grown and I relied heavily on that security blanket. I believe motherhood is a sacred gift. How could I not want to embrace it in every way, shape and form?

When Max was born, I was a stay at home mother. For exactly three weeks. And then this thirty-something called her boss and offered to come back two days a week. The overwhelming neediness of an infant consumed my psychic energy and I thought I may lose my mind. While the love was as instant as any mother will attest, for my sanity, and the long term sanity of my child, walking out the door those 2 days a week saved both of our lives.

I returned to graduate school when Max was 9 months old and shortly after he turned 5, I graduated with a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. During those 4 years, Stephen and I parented "tag team style", with one of us with him every part of the day except for 2 half days of preschool a week for socialization. Stephen was incredibly supportive of my work part time, school part time schedule but we were literal ships passing in the afternoon as we handed Max off to one another. It did not help our relationship.

It was shortly before Max turned six that I returned to the work force on a full time basis. And it was shortly after that when Stephen and I split up. But that decision was the right one for all parties involved, including Max and we still maintain our own 21st century style nuclear family unit. We are truly blessed.

As for the decision to opt in or out, I believe this about myself. I never wanted to have it all. I never wanted to be Wonder Woman. I never wanted to be bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan. But I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be a mother who my child could look up to, admire and know loves him first and foremost. And I also wanted to feel fulfilled in an intellectual way that pursuing my degree, my career and my teaching has allowed.

It is hard to do it all. But it fills up those places in my life. And pays the bills.