Friday, May 10, 2013

More on the Ultimate Career

There are a couple of myths, contrary to each other, that both need a reality check:
·         Women are as smart and capable as men, and therefore should do the jobs men do in order to fulfill themselves; taking time out to be a mother can be a nice hobby for some, if they can handle that as well, but the real living is in the traditional man’s world.

·         Women who are only mothering ought to be doing better than they are, like everyone else does, because it sure isn’t rocket science.
We’ll take them in turn. First, women are smart and capable. In fact, a higher percentage of women currently graduate from college than men. While there are a few jobs women aren’t as a rule physically strong enough to compete in (pro football for example), most jobs can be done by a woman. Some jobs are preferred by women, but practically everything is open.
The part that is untrue is that doing a man’s job is a better life choice than giving birth and raising children, which just gets in the way of that real life. Having children isn’t a hobby for some; it is the purpose of the rest—the ultimate career. (See the two quotes at the end of Monday’s post, Home Making.)
My friend's baby #9, with big sister looking on,
the hour he got home at 2 days old
I’ve been noticing in media for quite a long time that almost every TV character is a single, attractive, young adult with the story potential of connecting in love with possible other characters on the show. Married family people are anomalies. (As are unattractive, undesirable characters, for the most part.)
When a person in media is a parent, it appears they got that way without sacrifice. Example: remember The Cosby Show back in the 80s? Cliff and Clair Huxtable reminisce about high school dates, so they have known each other since childhood; presumably they got married during college, or between college and graduate school. She is a lawyer, which required no less than seven years of schooling post high school. He is an obstetrician, which must have taken about twelve years for college, med school, and residency training in the specialty.
They are still youngish parents in this show. The oldest child is in college, so probably 19 or so years old. There are five children, spread over, I’m guessing, some 17 years or so of childbearing. Clair looks to be maybe 40, but we could stretch that to maybe 43. (In fact Felicia Rashad was only 10 years older than the actress who played the oldest daughter.) So Clair got pregnant probably during her first year of law school, at age 23. I’m not sure of the other ages, but she probably gave birth again her first year after law school, as a working lawyer, at maybe 26. Then again at 28, and again at maybe 32. And then there’s a gap of, let’s say eight years, so she’s 40. (I really don’t remember the ages of the children, so I’m guessing, but this will do for our purposes.) The first three come while she’s either in law school or early in her career as a lawyer—while her husband is in med school and essentially unavailable to help with the diaper changing and walking the floor at nights.
We don’t see them until they’re upper-middle-class successful. They are one of my favorite TV families; the kids are realistically age appropriate, and the parents handle their immaturity with patience, eye rolling, and humor. They’re a great example. But we never got to see how this family survived pregnancies and babies with neither parent available for in-person parenting. Was it impossible? Technically no. But very improbable.
If we, as non-fictional humans, are unable to get through law school and med school simultaneously while giving birth to child after child, so that we look lovely and comfortable by our early 40s, maybe we should shrug off the comparison. Just doing the best we can, under whatever our circumstances, ought to be enough.
Which brings us to the second myth. Taking care of children at home is a challenging job. It requires so much patience and understanding, and toleration of messiness of many kinds. It does look like drudgery sometimes; sometimes it is. And it does look idyllically easy sometimes; sometimes (though rarely) it is. But there are challenging moments every day. And if we’re open to notice, there are also some blessedly beautiful moments every day. But one thing there isn’t is a perfect version out there, of someone whose house is always clean and beautiful, with décor and food and party planning always worthy of Pinterest and mommy blogs—some impossible myth we don’t measure up to.
We need to trust that, if God is entrusting his beloved children to us, He wants us to succeed in loving them, and with His help we can do whatever qualifies as enough and then some. Let go of the angst; it’s not helping anyone.
To end, I’m sharing a link to a piece about accepting less than perfection; I love their not-ready-for-the-blog photos.

And then, please enjoy this rather beautiful little video called, “Life Doesn’t Come with a Manual; It Comes with a Mother.”

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