Have you found a nanny yet? This is the most popular question I'm asked by any and everyone.
Not, "Boy or girl?" or, God help me, "Are you getting an epidural?" No, people want to know what I'm going to do when I go back to work. They not only assume I am heading back to the mines after twelve weeks, but that I won't even complete the full mandatory leave given. When I'm not feeling bitchy, I just say, "I'm not getting a nanny" and walk away. When I'm feeling particularly nasty, I say something along the lines of, "What makes you think I'm spending half my income to have my kid raised by someone else?"
I have noticed that there is a war going on between traditional and career-oriented women. Many people these days cannot fathom being a mom who primarily stays at home to raise her child, and God help you if you're the man who suggests your wife should. Maybe this is predominately a New Yorker thing, where the stereotype is that most of the women here work just as hard as men do to climb up the corporate ladder. However, I get asked by many women all over the place. I can understand some of their reasoning: Money is always a concern. What used to take only one man to earn now takes both parents, and I would be lying if I said I had no concern about my income for those three months of leave. But it seems as though so many people gauge their value by how much success they have had in their career.
I have a salary and my husband has commission. The salary is full of a large burden of responsibility, but it keeps us afloat during the times he has no deal, and this is fine with us. My salary will be gone for three months, but I am confident that our savings and his hard work will keep us going.
So since I have all of these responsibilities, you would think I'd run back to the office and be one of those mothers split in two, but it's not happening. I am fortunate to have a relatively understanding boss and she and I are working out an arrangement that will satisfy both of our needs.
What bothers me is the actual question itself. Note that it isn't will you get a nanny?, but have you found one yet? Nevermind not being able to afford one. It is being asked on the assumption that I will go for a nanny without question, and this irritates me. I am coming to the realization that many women are trying to have it all -- the high powered career, the adoring husband, and the apple-cheeked children who attend the best schools the city has to offer. However, you cannot have it all, and this is something that some feminist, do-it-yourself, independent women are still struggling with.
Take, for example, Ann Marie-Slaughter, a woman who left a high position of power to be with her family, and then wrote about her experiences in a piece that is still being discussed today: Why Women Still Can't Have it All. She writes:
"I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).
...the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be -- at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office -- at least not for very long.
...I realized that I didn’t just need to go home. Deep down, I wanted to go home. I wanted to be able to spend time with my children in the last few years that they are likely to live at home, crucial years for their development into responsible, productive, happy, and caring adults. But also irreplaceable years for me to enjoy the simple pleasures of parenting -- baseball games, piano recitals, waffle breakfasts, family trips, and goofy rituals. My older son is doing very well these days, but even when he gives us a hard time, as all teenagers do, being home to shape his choices and help him make good decisions is deeply satisfying."
I think women are strong and fully capable of having an amazing career. I think women, should that be their goal, should go for it and be paid just as fairly as men. There is no argument there. I also think that SAHMs are not to be overlooked, as they are running a full-time job, as well. ;But the aforementioned testimonial points out clearly that women who shoot for both are going to be very disappointed, because it is not possible. Marie-Slaughter's experience is a very eye-opening one that essentially shows that both require so much energy and attention, that you cannot have both operating at optimal levels. If you focus so much on your career, your family will take a few hits. If you focus mostly on your family, your career will not be the best it can be. It is simple logic: when your attention is split, you cannot give those things as much as you could if you focused on just one.
I do not think you have to give up work entirely to have a great family -- and all of this applies to Stay-at-Home Dads too. I think you have to settle for a career that isn't as high up as you hoped, and for many -- including myself -- that is fine. My personal priorities go to my family, and then money. Recognizing that I cannot be jobless, I am settling for my happy medium. I am not as high up in the chain of command as I could be at work, but am doing enough to pull in money while still being able to focus on my family. I am not aiming for the highest high, which is what some people try and, whether they realize it or not, fail to do.
I am not getting a nanny. I am not sacrificing multiple recitals, soccer games, and PTA meetings so that I can be at the top of my field. There has to be a balance, not a competition. Although it will finance them, working eighty hours a week is not going to nurture your relationships at home, and I cannot accept that a career is more important.
We cannot have it all, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Photo Credit: nateone.
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