I don’t often receive nasty comments about the direction of my life. Not being in jail or on drugs or having a suitcase full of hateful ex-boyfriends, I’d have to say my life is pretty good. Sure, I’m not going to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry tomorrow and I haven’t written a bestseller (yet), but I think I’m doing OK at this thing called life. Not so! I found out this week, when two women from my past just couldn’t help but share their disdain at my latest endeavour, if you can call it that: the birth of my first child.
“What a waste [me] having a baby.” Pow! If that doesn’t knock you sideways you must be built like an Olympic weightlifter. I didn’t know that putting my reproductive organs to good use would actually cause the rest of my mind, body and soul to wither away into nothingness. Not to mention render invisible any great feats achieved during my first 29 years of life. I guess if I had read more of those pregnancy guides before I even got knocked up I would have found this out and maybe reconsidered my options.
But, not to worry, I had a few days to push this drivel to the back of my mind before the next gold nugget of unsolicited insults came my way. “You were such a smart girl.” Double pow! Did you know that giving birth diminishes long term brain function? Yeah, me neither. The nurse in the antenatal class must have forgotten to mention it.
Yes folks, like all humans, I’m not getting any younger. And yes, like many women, I was thrilled at the idea of starting a family of my own. So thrilled that I didn’t think about it for more than one second, didn’t consult my husband, didn’t mull over my possible career trajectory should I choose to remain sans bébé. I mean, who has time to think about all that stuff!
I know I’m not the first woman to come face to face with the dilemma of having a career and a family, but there’s nothing like being slapped in the face with it to make you suddenly take notice of what the female sex has been grappling with for over half a century now. I guess I am shocked that there are still those who somehow believe that you are a failure as an intelligent woman if you choose family over a career at some point in life.
In the dictionary, a career is defined as “an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training”. Let’s stop right there. Not too many men I know have two of these going at the same time! So why should women be forced to feel inadequate just because they focus their attention on the occupation of motherhood whilst leaving paid work by the wayside? Of course, everyone knows that once you select your occupation, you can never change it. You’re stuck for life. Nobody ever decides to change direction or pursue a different career path… Hang on, sorry, just had to push the ghost of my grandmother off the keyboard.