Having had a monster of a sinus infection all week, rendering me unable to do little other than to sit and think (and cough), left a lot of time to ponder life. Because much of what I am normally able to do without a second thought was not an option this week, I focused my internal discussion on the aging process. This blog is the short product of that discussion.
What do you see in the distance, trying to cross the street? There. That little baked potato on tooth pick legs with a cotton ball hair-do. What do you see? Who do you see?
She is a grandmother and great-grandmother. You probably would have guessed as much. She was once three whole inches taller than she is now and loved to dance. Her long flowing body and beautiful auburn hair attracted the fiery passionate love of another. Until, it didn’t. Broken heart in hand, she moved through the bitterness. She gained a few pounds, gained a little wisdom, gained a few gray hairs. Then, she was loved deeply and truly. She was thought of as utterly beautiful. Her true love gave her four children, three of whom she is proud. The last one is rotten but never forgets her birthday. She is educated but not smotheringly so. She had a career. And then, she didn’t. She served her God and her community. She traveled the world and sampled weird food. She struggled through debt, death, loss, and grief. She loved through births, marriages, new traditions, and new friends.
She is now old but she still remembers all of these things, although sometimes not exactly in the right order. She is a treasure trove of love, laughter, loss, life. Just ask her.
There is a nagging feeling that many people have, most likely around age forty, which comes from being out of balance in some way. Feminists tell us the feeling is due to our oppression. Christians tell us that the feeling is due to missing our heavenly home. Psychologists tell us that the feeling is some sort of existential, mid-life crisis due to thinking about our mortality and what we have not yet accomplished. Economists, especially nowadays, tell us that we have a niggling feeling that something is wrong because we are in a recession. Talking heads on morning newsmagazines give us ideas to help us move up the ladder/please our boss/deal with coworkers/quit or get a job. We are also told that the key to finding balance is to be better/more efficient/more progressive/more traditional/more satisfied mothers. Our mothers tell us to get over it because we cannot have it all. Our friends seem to have it all.
Several years ago I completed a research project that explored why women in professional careers would quit their job to go home to rear their children full-time. Most of the women that I interviewed echoed the same theme – you cannot have it all because, for women, “having it all” is too much. More than over-whelming; it is over-bearing. Different from mommy guilt, trying to have it all is simply too hard – logistically, emotionally, physically, psychologically. There are only so many hours in the day and spreading oneself as thin as you have to in order to have a successful, professional career AND be a successful mother does not produce a happy, satisfied, calm, balanced person. Thus, for the women in my project (physicians, attorneys, CPAs, professors, and business women), having it all was not the neat and easy solution that slick magazines and celebrities want us to believe. Since the women in my project couldn’t quit their children, they quit their jobs. But, after accomplishing so much in their careers, how can that transition be successfully managed?
Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think that I would be in the exact same situation. After being single for twenty of my adult years while getting an education and building a career, I married the love of my life. My love’s son lives with us so the minute I became a wife, I was also a mother of a young teenager (with no experience). Four months later, I became pregnant. For reasons primarily due to the economy and the characteristics of my profession, I kept my job which was two hours away. After four and a half years of commuting once a week and being apart from my family at least one night a week, I quit my full-time position to stay home. While I am able to keep part-time employment by telecommuting from home, the fulfillment of a career and the financial stability that goes along with it are gone. In a matter of five years, I got everything that I wanted but lost myself.
Now, at forty-five, I find myself questioning everything in my life. While on paper I seem to have the things that most people desire, I do not feel fulfilled. I am not alone in this feeling. The way that I have gotten to it may be somewhat unique but the feeling, most assuredly, is not. So, here I sit, alone in my home office trying to stem the tide of dissatisfaction.
Hopefully, this blog – http://www.geauxmommy.wordpress.com – will be a sort of self-therapy. If others can relate and enjoy the journey along with me, all the better.