Today, as we celebrate the many fierce, strong, admirable women who have helped pave the way for a foundation of equality in our country, I’m left pondering a question I’ve been pondering quite a bit the last few months.
Am I woman enough?
I can’t make babies. For the most part, I don’t particulary care about this fact, more of an annoyance that I have the equipment that functions quasi-properly that I have to put up with (IE: visits from Aunt Flow), but doesn’t do the primal function a woman’s body was made to do. Don’t get me wrong, I am every bit a mother as the woman who gave birth to her child through her vagina or via C-section, but my “womanly” body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, and sometimes that kind wears on you.
But more so than my crappy ovaries that do more harm than good most days, is the fact that I am getting ready to pause my career, yet again, to raise my child. While I know many of my fellow moms will tell me this is the most important job a woman parent can have, I know there are the nay-sayers who say, “don’t you want more in life?”
I am blessed, so blessed, to be surrounded by incredibly successful women with incredible careers who are also amazing mothers. I am in constant awe of their ability to be both executives at the office and snack leader at school. But I am a selfish being and I hate the thought of missing anything.
In my early 20’s, I characterized success as having my own office, business cards with my name on them, a company paid for cell phone, and a reserved parking spot. And I had all of that. Today, when I think of what would make me, Jenn T., a successful person- none of those things come to mind. I had an abrupt end to my own professional career and I worried I would never be the same because of it. That I would fall behind, my skills would become atrophied, companies would see a lapse in professional experience as a weakness. And truthfully, I’m not that person. Honestly, if I met 20-something year old me in an alley, I don’t think I’d recognize myself.
And then, after 3.5 beautiful years at home, I realized- I can’t do that type of corporate work again.
I mean, God forbid something happen to my husband, if I needed to, I could go back to corporate America. I would make the sacrifice for my family in a heartbeat if it was needed. But I am blessed that as of now, I don’t need to.
So, when the time came that I had more time on my hands, I found a new passion, nursing. And I pursued it. And I realized in the pursuit that nothing is exactly what you think it will be. That you can’t just “go to school when your kid goes to school.” That there is homework, and outside opportunities that you take to give you an “edge up” not only career wise, but to BE a better nurse to your patients and their families, because when I do something, I don’t just do it…I DO IT. And what is required to “do it” is sacrifice.
And now, my sweet baby girl is getting ready to start Kindergarten and I’ve realized, I don’t want to miss it. I want to volunteer at her school and know the teachers and staff, I want to be there to send her off for her day saying, “learn lots”, a phrase my dad still to this day says to me before I go to class. I don’t want lunch visits from mama to be a surprise or special event, I want them to be normal for her. I want to chaperone field trips and shuttle her from school to dance, or soccer, or whatever extracurricular she has picked. I want to help with homework and listen to childhood giggles as we escort her friends to our house for afterschool play dates. THIS is what success is to me now.
Did you see how nowhere in there I mentioned Straight A’s? It’s because I’ve had to realize that all of the above is not possible while being full-time in my nursing blocks. It’s just not. I literally don’t control my schedule with the exception of ranking three boxes 1-3: Traditional (daytime), Evenings, or Hybrid. That’s it. After I’ve checked that box, my schedule is completely at the mercy of a scheduler juggling 300 nursing student schedules.
So, over the past few months as the deadline to apply for my nursing program has been looming so heavily, I’ve pondered, and debated, and asked if by pausing my nursing program to commit to being a Stay-At-Home parent to my kid, am I an embarrassment to feminism. Am I putting to shame the pathways that millions of women before me have not just worked hard for, but literally suffered for?
My answer is – maybe. To make myself feel better, I tell myself that feminism isn’t about DOING it all, but about the choice to do what it is you want to do. My husband certainly supports my decision to stay at home, but would also adamantly support any professional pursuits I had. Maybe, just maybe, I had the taste of professional success early in my life to know what it felt like which is why I don’t have fears of “missing out” on something now. Or maybe I tell myself all of this simply to justify my decision knowing that there are extraordinary women out there every day who have both professional success and are amazing mothers.
Regardless, today among many days, this is the question that weighs on my mind in the few moments of silence I have at home with a sick preschooler.
Am I truly woman enough?