(The following is based in personal experience, anecdotal evidence, statistics, and other various reading. As a disclaimer, I know that not every working woman has the experience that I mention, and I know that not every housewife has the experience that I mention. I speak in generalization, so please don’t take it personally.)
I know you’re still only 2, but already my heart is heavy with how in the world I’m going to raise you. When I was still pregnant and found out you were a girl, I was completely terrified; how can I help you to become a competent, responsible woman in today’s society? That was before your father and I really figured out how to navigate our marriage. I sure as heck didn’t think I could give you relationship advice when the time came, considering how things were going for us.
Back before you were born, I thought I knew the right track to set you upon. We’d send you to a private school maybe, you’d get a solid foundation, we’d send you to college, then you’d go out into the world to pursue your dream job. Go get ‘em, honey! You can do anything you want to! Maybe you’d get married eventually. But now, I question if that’s the way to go. I regret my years spent at college, mostly because of the loans that accrued. I feel like the education I got was fairly worthless for what I’ve ended up becoming. But I didn’t know I’d end up wanting to stay at home with you, possibly homeschooling to make sure you don’t get lost in a public school system that so often lets kids fall through the cracks. As much as I’d love to send you to private school, that isn’t gonna happen.
I don’t want to tell you that you should forgo the corporate career for a family. It’s how I was raised, what was pounded into my skull my whole life. Women should have the same goals as men, right? They should spend years and years in school before ever getting married. They shouldn’t even dream of kids until their 30′s. But no, that’s not a recipe for happiness.
The more I think about it, the more I do believe you should go to college if you want to, BUT, I won’t tell you I’m disappointed in you if you don’t go. Not every person needs to go to college. There are so many other things to do in life that don’t require a college degree. Trade schools are wonderful. Do you know how much electricians get paid? It ain’t bad. You can get many, many certifications in all kinds of areas without wasting time at a 4-6 year college. I wish I’d done that instead of spending 4 years goofing around with nothing to show for it but a crapload of student loans. But whatever you decide to do, leave your options open.
If you meet the guy you want to spend the rest of your life with (this will be a separate letter), by all means, marry him. Don’t put silly time restrictions on yourself like “I want to finish grad school first!” Or “no kids till I establish my career!” Both your aunt and I got married before we graduated college, and it wasn’t the end of the world. I had kids before I figured out what I wanted to do with my career, and it won’t prevent me from finding employment once you’re old enough to go to school (or once you’re out of the house, if I decide to homeschool you). I don’t need to be a doctor or lawyer to feel satisfied with my life, or prove that I can because I’m a woman, and neither do you. Be confident in your femininity, and if you feel driven to start a family, do it, societal pressure be damned.
If you feel called to be a doctor, or a physicist, or a mathematician, or any other career that requires a ton of schooling and hours, consider what you’re trading. Those are careers that you can’t drop for 10 years to start and raise a family. Women are fully capable of handling those jobs, absolutely… But they give away much in return. The rolls of each spouse aren’t as clear cut, which (edit: can) cause power struggles. There is increased fighting because of the strains and pressures, the lack of time to spend together. If he has a job that pays less than yours or that he perceives as “less important” (or especially if YOU perceive it as “less important” and make it known), there (edit: might be) resentment, either blatant or hidden. It’s a tough thing to navigate.
When you decide to have kids, know that the United States ranks the worst in paid maternity leave among the major nations (as in, you get none. 12 weeks of unpaid leave is all you’re entitled to). And if you expect the father of your children to stay home and help you during those 12 weeks, don’t count on it. The US sucks at that too. He’s entitled to none, and will have to use all his vacation time that year for helping you during those first difficult weeks. It’s absolutely absurd.
So you get to hold and care for your precious child for 12 weeks, then send them off to daycare. I really don’t know how career women do it. You go to work for 9 hours a day, and only see your precious sweethearts in the evenings, when they’re absolutely fussy and irritable. There’s so little time to enjoy them, to watch them go through the little and big milestones. They get sick more often because they’re around so many other children. Discipline becomes difficult as they get older, because you may have differing ideas and methods from their day-caregivers. You’re never really sure what questionable things they’re being exposed to by other kids or, God forbid, adults. There are so many daycare horror stories, I don’t even want to think about it.
So really, if you want to have a demanding career, move to Canada so you can get at least some time with your family without being pressured to go back to work before you even have time to heal. But you damn sure better be making enough money to pay for plane tickets between Texas and Canada.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing working moms here. I’m just telling you what you’ll be trading in. Staying at home with your young children brings it’s own set of challenges. It takes self discipline, patience, understanding, and a stomach of steel to deal with all the spit, poop, and vomit. You find yourself craving adult attention, because you’re around children that speak childese all day long. You find it difficult to talk to women without kids, because your half of the conversation always comes back to kids, because IT’S WHAT YOU DO ALL DAY. You lose old friends because of it. You miss the ability to do what YOU want to do for lunch, or after school/work, or just whenever. You can’t call in sick. But watching you and your brothers play, getting hugs from you all day, knowing how you’re being raised, it’s something I personally would never trade in.
It’s a trade off, and you MUST consider carefully when you’re planning your life. I didn’t give it any thought and drifted through life till your father and I figured out what works for us. We’re working so hard to get by on one income. We’re not “lucky” that we can do it, as I’ve heard said to me many times… We make it work. And that is something to consider when looking for a mate, when considering going into debt for a car or school, when you’re trying to decide what you want to do with your life. Where are your priorities?
This assumes that you want kids, of course. If you don’t, I won’t lie to you, I will be disappointed, but I’ll get over it. I’ll love you desperately no matter what.
I’m sure I’ll write more of these letters as you grow. I’m still scared thinking of how you might grow up and make bad decisions, but we all make a few. All I can do is try to impart my wisdom on you the best I can, better than my parents did
I love you,