Saturday, March 24, 2007

"Be Open to Change"

Recently, I posted here about this post at Pandagon, in which Amanda said that SAHMs were not "free to choose," that life. The nut graf, as we say in the business was this:

Basically, the “opt-out revolution” is a patriarchal myth headily promoted in places like the NY Times, where readers are relegated with wishful stories about the supposed majority of female Ivy League graduates and other high paid professional types who want nothing more than to get married and give up their careers to be support systems and full time stay-at-home wives for their oh-so-much-more-important husbands. Basically, conservative upper middle class types are still pissed off about The Feminine Mystique and will spend a lot of money trying to demonstrate that women really, truly have no other aspirations than being full time moms, which means full time wives, since your time spent as an active wife ideally lasts a lot longer than when your children are small and need attention 24/7.

Ah, no well-educated woman would choose to stay home and read The Sailor Dog to her snot-nosed children when she had the "free choice" to work the extraordinary hours necessary to be a professional, right? That's certainly the view I was given repeatedly when I pointed out that there were, in fact, well-educated women who didn't want someone else raising their children.

Guess what? I'm not the only one. Deborah R. Schwarzer had one of those high-powered legal careers. She made partner in a large firm, then left to work in a smaller firm and finally left that firm to--gasp!--stay home and raise her children.
It was the having kids that changed things the most. At first, I kept working. I was living in a medium sized city where fabulous nannies were available cheap. Heck, they brought the baby to me to breastfeed during the day. But when we moved back to the Bay Area during the dotcom boom, I had to make a hard choice. I spoke to my small firm, I spoke to friends at my old big firm. Everyone was working harder than they ever had. Part time wasn’t a choice; it was either full out or nothing. So I picked nothing. That nasty little voice in my head asked whether I was throwing away that fancy UofC education, whether I was confirming stereotypes of women abandoning their careers. But the saner little voice pointed out that I had practiced law very hard for 17 years. Many people change career paths in that time frame. I had used my fancy education very well. And there were lots and lots of really good corporate attorneys out there, but only one person who could meet my kids’ needs.

I haven’t regretted that, either, although the loss of the paycheck hurts. Actually, it’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was clear my oldest wasn’t suited to life in a regular school, so we decided to teach him and his brother at home. I’ve been doing that for 7 years, and it’s a kick. I’m of counsel with my small firm, doing bits and pieces here and there. I’m not doing anything cutting edge from a legal perspective. I’m not written up in law journals. I won’t impress the kind of folks at my upcoming 25th reunion who want to recite client lists or number of dollars involved in deals and cases. And I don’t care.

One of the things I dislike so much about liberalism generally and radical feminists in particular is the way life tends to be all about "the Cause," whether "the Cause" is feminism, environmentalism, racism, homosexual rights, or whatever. But when you get down to it, life is about how happy you are, not whether all of your actions advance a cause. It's wonderful to work for causes that matter to you, but, in the end, you have to make personal decisions that work for you, regardless of whether or not you advance the Cause.

This is why I laughed so hard at the Pandagonistas who were so worked up about me saying I liked being home with my children. It was obviously threatening for them to hear from someone who didn't feel she was forced to make a choice, but that she did, indeed, "choose freely."