Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

What If What If

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

This is probably the opposite of how most people feel, but the further I get from my teenage years the more I love going back to my parent’s house in the town where I went to high school. Even though I no longer run into people I know at Starbucks and I barely recognize parts of the county thanks to tons and tons of development I get more and more comfortable there. My current life as I know it fits into my teenage year memories better than I ever expected it to – like at the party on Christmas night where my mean, scary 9th grade French teacher played with my kids for an hour. If you had told 15 year old Suzanne that would happen some day she would have laughed right in your face. Or when another high school friend’s mom hugged E, greeted him by name and said it was great to see him again. I have been dragging him around to my social stuff for such a long time now that he KNOWS these people, people I sort of hoped figured I’d never see again after graduation but have somehow continued to reappear in extremely pleasant ways.

Of course, it’s also impossible to go back to the place where you went to high school without being FLOODED with memories. I think I drove E a little crazy, pointing out that one road where that one guy I knew once almost ran into a tree. But honestly, the number of memories I DIDN’T say out loud was somewhere in the thousands. It was exhausting, both mentally and emotionally, to be surrounded by so much personal history.

Swistle posted earlier this week about imagining life as a choose-your-own-adventure book, which is something I’ve been sort of obsessing about for the last week. Except instead of imagining how things would be different if I changed BIG things – like going to a different college or marrying someone else or buying a different house – I change teeny tiny things. What if I hadn’t come home late from curfew that one time and been grounded? What if I hadn’t gotten that part in the play my senior year? What if I hadn’t gone on that one date? Or that other one? What if my first car had been different? I have a habit of getting carried away with “what if” thoughts whenever something bad (BAD bad or broken dish bad, doesn’t matter) happens, especially as a result of my choices. Like, what if I hadn’t skipped that french exam to leave early the Friday before Thanksgiving break in 2000? I could have been on the road at a different time, I could have been in an accident, I could have met someone at a rest stop who changed the course of my life. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating but if you think about how many tiny coincidences you CAN trace directly to visible things in your life (the best example of course seems to be getting pregnant – SO MANY tiny things worked together to create THAT SPECIFIC baby) it’s not too much of a stretch.

Of course, all that imagining is pointless and time consuming and although it gives me something to distract me from what I’m pretty sure is an extremely painful collapsed lung* on my right hand side, it’s also starting to prevent me from focusing on IMPORTANT and HAPPY and REAL things happening in my life. I especially need happy thoughts now, since we’re starting that dark, cold, boring part of the year where I expend all my energy practicing for the non-existent Moping Olympics. Maybe this year I won’t even enter!

*Not actually a collapsed lung.


What’s In A Choice?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Obviously, by now everyone has heard of Occupy Wall Street. The other day, a friend posted a link to this chart, which is a great summary of what OWS is about and why they feel that way.

I’m not going to talk about the movement itself, but I am interested in something my friend said in reference to the data in that chart: “…to say that more women {with children under the age of 18} work today because they have no choice and not because they like having a career in a society where it is acceptable and because discrimination has been drastically reduced is silly.”

And my immediate response was: Well yes. But also no. And definitely. But really not at all. Why do women work? Or more specifically, why do MOTHERS work?  Can there possibly be a more complicated question?

The stickiest part of my friend’s statement is “no choice”, isn’t it? On the one hand, yah for feminism and the opportunity to have careers outside the home that aren’t just placeholders until we can snag a husband! On the other hand, pretending your cashier at Target would rather be making $8 an hour ringing up your face cream and Funions instead of at home with her own kid is bullshit.

I know plenty of moms who love their jobs, love their work, love having adult conversations around the water cooler about The Real Housewives of Wherever but who would quit and stay home with their kids in a HEARTBEAT if they suddenly won the lottery and could never work another day in their life. I also know that if childcare was free and I could have any job I wanted in the whole world I would absolutely leave my kids to be raised by strangers (said in your best judgy voice) a few days a week while I trained dolphins at Sea World (hey, sometimes your dream at 6 years old is STILL YOUR DREAM).

But real life doesn’t give everyone those options. If you’re a single mom? You have no choice. In a lot of cities there is no way to support a family on one income. Sometimes your partner gets laid off. Or maybe their job doesn’t offer health insurance. Or maybe they’re in school pursuing their dream and you’re supporting them – so you have no choice but to work to put food on the table but it is BY choice that you have chosen that choice.

There are days where my choice to stay home doesn’t even feel like a choice. SOMEONE has to watch these kids and we can’t afford a nanny. I mean really, if I had my CHOICE I’d spend one day a week at the spa getting massages and drinking cocktails so I could be the super calm, zen-like mother I aspire to be.

I don’t think “why women work” is something that can be measured or put in a pie chart or even summed up in a sentence. There is no box on a questionnaire that says “all and also none of the above” so using it as part of a your political movement can be tricky. I think the only thing you could get everyone to agree to would be that in an ideal world all women could make the choice they WANTED to make and not the choice they had to make.

So, why do you/do you not work?

Here’s my answer – I always planned to be a stay-at-home-mom eventually. We are able to afford it right now. I became a military spouse right after college and never established a career I would have wanted to go back to post-kids and I haven’t found anything I can do from home (besides blogging, obviously, which doesn’t exactly lead to BUCKETS OF MONEY.) So I think it is about 80% by choice and 20% not by choice although that’s the least scientific percentage ever.