25 -- wait, no, 35 years later...

I vividly remember reading Lisa Belkin’s 2003 article, “The Opt-Out” Revolution.  My sons were 9, 13 and 16.  

Belkin’s article was the best I’d seen about the pros and cons of choosing to stay home with children.  It was also the only article I’d seen.  I had dutifully read what felt like hundreds of pieces about women-in-the-workplace, even though I’d left my own career in the film industry more than ten years before.  So when Belkin’s article came out, I was thrilled.  But I was older than the women in her article and had older children.  It made me feel a bit late to the party — like I feel when I see all the great baby paraphernalia invented just after I could have used it — the car seat that would have saved my back, the stroller that really does collapse easily.   
The next year was my my 25th Yale reunion.  I think the Belkin article contributed to my confidence in “coming-out” as a stay-at-home-mom among all my classmates and their extraordinary accomplishments.   I filled out the catch-up-with-your-classmates form (which I’ve edited it for length) as follows:

If you'd ever told 20 year old feminist-me that I would be raising three sons and not working I would have laughed in your face.

Nonetheless, here I am, 25 years later, and it's the most satisfying thing I could have done… One of us needed to be around [for the kids], and I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that I wanted it to be me.  Also (and don't discount this as motivation) at home, I am the chief.  The person in authority.  The Queen.  And even though two out of three of our progeny are now teenagers, I still get listened to more in my house than anywhere in the outside world.  

However, Yale career codes notwithstanding, [alumni forms offer a list of career choices to check off] I am not a homemaker… What I am, and am proud of, is a mom.  That's why I picked the “career counseling” code option [when I filled out the form], though I do not work outside the boundaries of my family circle or have any degree that would entitle me to advise non-family members.  Whether it's on the soccer field today ("KICK IT") or their eventual careers after college, I'm here to tell them how to do it.  They don't have to listen, but I'll tell them anyway.  

.… In the meantime, I'm really busy and mostly surprised and pleased to have found the value and contentment that I have in the life I lead.

I was happy and proud.  I was in the thick of it, I felt needed and I was busy.  If I wasn’t writing that novel yet I could see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel where I might be able to do something “for me.”  I had a certain amount of guilt about all the outside-world promise I had not fulfilled, but as the above indicates, I was singing, “Always look on the bright side of life…” for all the world to hear.  

When the Ten-Years-Later follow-ups to Belkin’s article appeared last year,  my newly empty nest gave me the leisure to read most of them, starting with Judith Warner’s.  I learned some valuable things which I hope to share in the upcoming months.  For example, why didn’t the bright side stay all shiny, especially when my kids got older and I could and did start writing?  My answers, of course, are specific — to our family, my heritage, my friends, and where I live.   

By the way, a few weeks ago, I attended my 35th reunion.  And however bright — or not — my current outlook, the funny thing is I still felt right at home at Yale and with my fellow Yalies.  But more about that in another post.


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