I’m listening to a conversation between baristas about why Beyonce and Jay-Z rented out an entire hospital floor for Blue Ivy’s birth. Was it simply a matter of opulent extravagance in the gilded age of celebrity? Or was it about Beyonce competing for the title most caring and concerned mommy – a mommy who would go to any length for her child , and a mommy who, mere months after her daughter was born, again took to the stage flaunting an impossibly toned body? Who says women can’t have it all? Tell that to Beyonce.
Oh yeah, the article. The one everyone is writing about, the one that left my fallopian tubes tied in knots and feeling like I’d never find a life that would be complex and full and fluid enough to leave me feeling disappointed, compromised and utterly blessed all at once. Sure, the Atlantic article on whether or not women can have it all (according to Anne-Marie Slaughter, we can’t) had quite a few merits, and made many astute points. But I just want write about how I felt in my gut after reading. Or should I say my empty, 31-year-old womb? In a word, hopeless.
UPDATE: As I’m writing this, I’ve read that Nora Ephron has died. This feels planned, somehow, but I won’t drag Harry and Sally into this.
There’s been lots of debate about just what exactly “having it all” really means, but let’s just say, for sake of argument, that “having it all” is simply having kids and having a career (other than the job that is taking care of children) that brings at least a iota of fulfillment. Using that broad definition, it puts me in the category of women who want it all. So long, long before my water break (I’m not even pregnant!) I’d like to get these questions and concerns out of the way:
1) How should I handle the fact that no matter how supportive a man (sorry for my hetero-normativeness, but this is personal) I may find, at the end of the day I’ll always be the one with the uterus and ovaries? Should I simply accept my biology as destiny, or try to overcome the inevitable? Would I be happier trying to get pregnant, say, yesterday, or should I freeze my eggs and take the “wait and see” approach? In short, is it un-feminist of me to even worry?
2) When I was a teacher, one woman I worked with had just returned to the classroom after a three-month maternity leave. She’d go to an empty room during her free periods to pump her breast milk, which I think on occasion she’d have to bring home to the sitter, her mother-in-law. Then she’d be back in the classroom with a bunch of bratty 6th graders. Then, in the evenings, she’d leave some of her extra breast milk on the stoop to feed the stray cats roaming around. For some women, this is having it all. Or is it?
3) Aren’t we just in a reproductive-fetishizing, baby-centric historical moment?
4) ”While “happily ever after may indeed be a farce,” there’s something to be said for uttering I do.” From this week’s Modern Love by Jessica Bennett. Just think about it, and read the article.
5) Is taking a two-year (or more) break and then “falling behind” in my career really a failure? Will I feel bitter about not being as far ahead, or if I chose to have children, should I simply suck it up and accept that opted for a path that requires compromise?
6) Let’s talk about what this is really about: staying skinny. Right now I’m lucky to get in two decent runs and a yoga or pilates class each week. I see a lot of moms in my neighborhood who look like they work out all the time. Am I going to feel like a failure if I can’t touch my toes or run six miles in 3 months after I have a child? Probably. Do you know why? Because I’ll compare myself to Beyonce and Park Slope moms.
7) I want to know how I’m really going to feel about a kid. Will I decide it’s worth it to stay home because I feel it crucial, or, like my own mother, will I raise kids and then scream at my 11-year-old, “I’ve raised kids long enough! It’s my turn to have my own life! Go live with your father!” (Um, my mother loves me, and though I can’t re-create this scene with perfect accuracy, it was probably instigated by adolescent my angst. I’m sure we were just having a moment or something.)
I know, I know. You don’t have answers! No one does, and that’s the crazy thing about having kids: it’s the biggest decision I may make in my life, and it’s also the one I’ll make with the least amount reason. But the heart wants what the heart wants.